It might seem a strange combination, Benedictine monks and Beeswax Beauty products, but it is what the hidden Catholic monastery of St Augustine's Abbey, Chilworth near Guildford in Surrey is becoming renowned for.
Benedictine monk Fr John Seddon OSB is the mastermind behind the enterprise known as 'Sanctuary Products', which sees hundreds of the different flavoured skin creams and lip balms fly off the shelves to be sent all over the UK and across the world, including the USA and Australia. The centre of the production process is a small and modest room found deep in the Victorian basement of the monastery building and a far cry from a modern, impersonal factory. Like every room in the building, it has a crucifix on the wall.
Fr John personally and prayerfully makes skin creams in five flavours: vanilla; natural; lavender; honey & rose; coconut. Each is 50ml and costs £7.50 plus postage and packing. His lip balms come in seven flavours: lemon; peppermint; orange; aniseed; lemon & aniseed; natural; frankincense & cinnamon. Each is 25 ml and costs £3.95 plus postage and packing. He also makes beeswax furniture polish.
Meanwhile, the monastery's newest monk, Br Simon, makes 'Chilworth Rosary Beads' from cord in different colours; he has sold almost 1,000 of them in two years and is "delighted to be helping people pray this way."
But why is the monastery doing this, many ask? Monks and nuns of many religious orders have made products for centuries, not only to help pay for their way of life but also because it adds focus and creativity away from the formal prayer structure of the monastic day. And it helps get the place known.
The Financial Times is the latest to show an interest in what's going on in this hidden part of Surrey, along with BBC TV featuring the monastery in the three recent episodes of 'Heaven Made'. It's also a must see for anyone wanting to learn about monastic life.
Visit the Benedictine Abbey's Online Shop HERE
St Augustine's Abbey, Chilworth GU4 8QR is open 365 days a year for public prayer. All faiths and none are welcome. Daily Mass is at 9am, Sunday Mass is at 10am and daily Divine Office is seven times throughout each day. The monks often sing in Gregorian Chant. Men thinking of becoming a monk are welcome to stay for a few days in the monastic guesthouse. Read more about St Augustine's Abbey: www.chilworthbenedictines.com