Sorry, Dreher, no cheese

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Noella.jpgOver at the blog formerly known as Crunchy Con, Rod Dreher has discovered Mother Noella Marcellino, the famous cheese nun of Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, CT. Impressed with an account of her rap analogizing cheese maturation to the contemplative life, Dreher asks if there’s anywhere he can buy some of the cheese she makes:

Because I’d sure like to support these holy women and their good work.
And I’d like to eat some good cheese, too.

As it happens, I was having lunch (yep, including some of that tasty Bethlehem cheese) with Mother Noella last Saturday, and I’m sorry to have to report that there’s none for sale. At this point they’re making just six cheeses a week, all for the consumption of themselves and their guests. Mother Noella, a microbiologist as well as Abbey choir-mistress, is spending much of her time these days writing articles on artisanal cheese-making in America and the history of cheese itself. She figures it originated with some Bedouin transporting milk across the desert in a dried calf’s stomach.

regina laudis.jpgHoly the Benedictine nuns of Regina Laudis no doubt are. They’re also 37 of the smartest, hard-working, Ph.D.-carrying, organic-farming, Gregorian-chanting women you’re ever likely to meet. Each year, they welcome the students in Trinity’s program on Guided Studies in Western Civilization to day of work and (at least vicarious) prayer, beginning with morning Mass and ending with Vespers in their fabulous wooden church. 

For the students, it’s an unforgettable opportunity to experience for themselves something of the life of those cloistered medieval people they’ve studied. (Probably the closest thing to Regina Laudis in the Middle Ages was the community of learned nuns Heloise presided over at the Paraclete.) It’s also a reminder of the central place of the vita contemplativa through most of the history of Catholicism. Amidst all the sturm und drang these days over the Church’s public actions and responsibilities, it’s worth bearing in mind that it was contemplative Mary, not active Martha, whom Jesus praised as having the better part

  • R. A. Bannon-Guasp

    The experience was amazing. As a Benedictine Abbey, they follow the rule of St. Benedict. One of the things that Benedict mandated for his monastic followers was hospitality. Monasteries and abbeys were to be welcoming to anyone that arrived at their door. The nuns of Regina Laudis were exceptional in that respect, allowing us to experience a day of their way of life. They allowed us to work with them in their fields, planting seeds, tilling soil, hauling rocks, piling compost and rolling the seed beds with large metal rollers. Additionally, they fed us home made bread, butter, apple and blueberry jams and, of course, Mother Noella’s Bethlehem cheese for breakfast. For lunch, the made steamed broccoli, homemade macaroni and cheese and a light pastry like dessert. The cheese for the macaroni was also made at the abbey.
    In church, too, they extended warm welcome in remembering Trinity College and its staff, faculty and students.