Monastery Candy Christmas Treat: Gift-giving with a higher purpose

We try to add a local flavor to our gifts. For Christmas, we found a local abbey in very Catholic Dubuque where the nuns make and sell caramels and chocolates. Aptly named, Monastery Candy. The sales support the Cistercian Trappist nuns’ contemplative lifestyle in the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. We ordered a case of twelve for pick-up at the Abbey. Figuring a trip over would be a day adventure and not much different in cost than shipping. And we’d be ready to share our Monastery Candy Christmas treat with friends and family.

Monastery Candy Christmas Treat assorted caramels and chocolates
The object of our day adventure to Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey and Monastery Candy. We picked up a case of these caramel and chocolate treats for Christmas gifts.

Dramatic Setting

The Abbey sits on bluffs above the Missississippi River Valley, just off the Great River Road (US HWY 52). It’s less than ten miles south of downtown Dubuque, Iowa, but it feels like a century. The entry road is a single lane through trees and rolling farm and pasture land. The scouring ice mass of the Wisconsin Glacier somehow missed flattening The Driftless Area of Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Southwest Wisconsin 25,000 years ago. Ancient rolling hills and towering bluffs are a contrast to the flat farm fields of most of the Midwest. The Driftless Area feels ancient and elemental. Like you dropped back in time. Fall colors lend even more beauty.

The Driftless Area missed by crushing ice sheet of the Wisconsin Glacier. Now home to Monastery Candy Christmas treats.
Map of the Driftless Area by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ancient Roots

Modern row crop farming is difficult here with small fields and steep terrain. Maybe that explains why dairy farming dominated in this region. The land is better suited to pasture. And maybe the milk explains the origins of Monastery Candy’s creamy caramels.

Upper Iowa River bluffs in the Driftless Area
The Driftless Area is the land that time forgot in the Upper Midwest. Untouched by the Wisconsin Glacier, ancient hills and bluffs survive on both sides of the Mississippi River Valley.

As an aside, The Driftless Area is also home to our favorite canoeing venue, the Upper Iowa River near Decorah, Iowa. Try the stretch from Kendallville to Bluffton. Another great day adventure.

Faith and Trust

The Cistercian nuns live a communal life of faithful contemplation. The candy business isn’t run to maximize volume or profits but rather to support the comparatively minimalist needs of the Abbey lifestyle. But Monastery Candy Christmas treats are popular. It’s only early November when we visited. Hundreds of cases await pickup and shipment. A UPS driver busily loads his brown delivery van. During the gift-giving season leading up to Christmas? Candy-making is an earthly priority. Make hay while the sun shines. The COVID pandemic forced the closure of the abbey’s gift shop. So, currently ordering is strictly online. You can choose shipment or pick-up. Pick-up is contactless. Even this seems somehow appropriate. Illustrating both the nuns’ faith and trust. Pick up your labeled case of Monastery Candy on the shelves. Shelves packed thousands of dollars of similarly labeled inventory. It felt right and just.

Ready for Christmas Giving

A Monastery Candy Christmas treat serves double duty for us. We’re ready for Christmas gift-giving. But we also support the faith mission of the Abbey. There the nuns are pursuing a higher purpose. And not self-aggrandizement. The ancient faith traditions atop the ancient Mississippi bluffs just feel right. The fulfillment of high purpose.

1 Comment

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  1. I love the idea of making an “errand” into an adventure. And the area that you describe used to be a favorite wandering place for John and me on our many journeys from Chicago to St. Paul and back. Thanks for the memories and for the motivation to get out and explore our new territory in Oregon rather than ordering all our gifts online. Jule
    Jule D. Ward recently posted…Make Them Pop Off the PageMy Profile

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