A Benedictine monk bottles beer at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

CNS PHOTO | MONASTERY OF CHRIST IN THE DESERT

A Benedictine monk bottles beer at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

June 18, 2012

A Benedictine monastic community has recorded a CD that has now climbed to the top of the classical sales charts of online retailer Amazon.com.

The same community, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, N.M., also has begun expanding the sales territory for the beer it brews based on Belgian Benedictine recipes that have survived over centuries.

But with both of these ventures being relatively new, that begs the question: How has a monastic community that's supposed to be self-sustaining been able to sustain itself in a remote part of New Mexico over nearly a half-century?

The answer: It hasn't always been easy.

"Our founder came from a fairly wealthy family and basically they lived off donations," said Abbot Philip Lawrence, who has led the community since 1978.

"They tried to start a cheese-making industry but the water here would have to be treated and they didn't have the money for a water purification plant."

The CD, Blessings, Peace & Harmony, was recorded in the monastery's dining hall.