This is an opinion editorial by Andy Flattery, a certified financial planner.
An observer of modern culture paying even the slightest attention might aptly compare today’s world to the Roman Empire in the sixth and seventh centuries. This was a period of cultural decline, where barbarian invasions destroyed cities, libraries, laws and even governments. During this time, it was medieval monks, such as St. Benedict, who preserved and built up Western civilization. The monks did this by preserving ancient texts, saving agriculture in Europe and preaching the Gospel.
Today, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, are doing their part to build up a civilization in the midst of cultural rot. And they are doing it with the help of bitcoin. These traditional Catholic nuns are a monastic order who follow St. Benedict’s rule and buy, receive and hold bitcoin in cold storage on behalf of their monastery. They survive on self-sufficiency and financial support from around the world — they have nuns from Mexico, England, Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania — making bitcoin their ideal money.
While driving through the hills north of Kansas City, Missouri, en route to the monastery, I wondered, “What could possibly be the connection these nuns have to bitcoin?” Father Matthew Bartulica, chaplain of the monastery put it to me this way:
“The monastic life is probably the greatest example of low time preference! It’s all about passing on the traditions to future generations … This also has a huge impact on the culture, because it’s not all about satisfying one’s immediate desires, but building a better future. Today’s world doesn’t offer much hope because nothing is valued, partially because the money is broken — just like it was in Ancient Rome. The Benedictines helped rebuild civilization 1,500 years ago and I believe that the life of the Abbey is like a citadel, a popular term with bitcoiners, that will help to rebuild civilization in the 21st century.”
Father Bartulica is the orange-pilled, Catholic priest at the monastery. He ably references Dr. Saifedean Ammous, author of “The Bitcoin Standard,” on issues such as fiat architecture and fiat food. I was introduced to the priest by a mutual friend. “You’re a Catholic who is into bitcoin … you have to meet this priest!”
It was Father Bartulica who set up the sisters with hardware wallets and taught them how to send, receive and get on the path toward financial sovereignty. He is on a mission to convert local Catholic parishes to a bitcoin standard. So far, the Benedictines of Mary have been most ready and able.
You can see some parallels between the bitcoin ethos and the way these nuns live. The sisters walk the walk by dedicating their lives to the long term, even into the eternal. Following the model of “ora et labora,” which means work and pray in Latin, they demonstrate low time preference by praying eight times a day, growing their own produce and raising their own cattle and chickens. These nuns even release award-winning and soul-lifting chant and hymn music.
Mother Abbess Cecilia is the young and vibrant abbess of the monastery, and put it this way:
“What we are doing is building up civilization. We are hanging onto the traditions of the Church and the traditions that built up Western culture. We are stable, we have order, we know what we’re supposed to do and we do it every day. We do it with love, with diligence.”
One thing I was immediately struck by when visiting the monastery is the brand new, awe-inspiring church that dominates the grounds. I expected to drive up to a modern, utilitarian building, as (disappointingly) can be expected from any average suburban church today. Instead, the sisters built an architecturally beautiful structure that includes hand-painted murals, Italian marble, vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows.
This was possible thanks to generous bitcoin donations made in 2017. These donations allowed the Benedictines to build a church for the ages without the burden of debt financing. Mother Cecilia described her first encounter with bitcoin in 2017:
“They [their bitcoin benefactors] knew we had a need to build the Church and, boy, did that help us! I mean, wow, what a blessing. Without it, I don’t know if we’d still be paying off a loan on this beautiful building.”
So despite the reputation that Bitcoiners may have as miserly hoarders, generosity shone through and the nuns were able to sell proceeds (tax-free) for the purpose of building their Church.
“We have had such beautiful success with several very large bitcoin donations to help build this house of prayer. If I were someone who had means, I would want to assist in making tangible goods, not something that is slapped up to last for 50 years; something that’s going to last, something that will be passed down from generation to generation, to last a thousand years, this beautiful monument to God’s glory. — Mother Cecilia
At first glance, it may seem incongruous to see traditional Catholic nuns embracing bitcoin — these are nuns who wear the full habit — but technology has assisted them in seeing significant growth in their order of religious sisters.
Many young women have discovered the Benedictines of Mary by searching for Catholic monasteries online, and traditional Latin mass ones in particular. The internet, and now the Bitcoin network, have also made it possible for generous benefactors around the world to easily play a role in building a monastery. Their music has now been streamed over 3.5 million times on platforms such as Spotify; the sisters’ prudent embrace of technology has paid off.
My favorite part of the trip, beyond the spiritual benefits, was witnessing the number of things the nuns do to prepare their own food. The sisters treated me to a lunch of vegetable and beef soup, homemade rolls and butter, all produced on site. The conversation was over ideas on honest money, how the Church could benefit by adopting bitcoin and the health benefits of raw milk.
“Who knows how to farm anymore? This is one thing we do and are hopefully getting better at every year, just self sustaining. So we can work closely with the ground, the soil and God’s creation, and produce our own food right here. It’s really a beautiful thing.” — Mother Cecilia
While admittedly foreign to many of us living in the clown world, myself included, the desire to join traditional religious life is growing. Every year the Benedictine sisters host over 150 visiting women from around the world to discern the process of joining their order. Out of these women, around 10 will take permanent vows. As a result, their space is bursting at the seams and plans are in the works for another new monastery to be constructed in southern Missouri.
It may be the case that the importance of traditional religious organizations, such as the Benedictines of Mary, adopting bitcoin will become more essential as the creeds they profess grow more deplorable among the mainstream. The sisters are familiar with their unpopularity in the eyes of our conformist culture and have even been the target of shootings in recent years. One can imagine this sort of animosity being used as justification to impede an organization’s use of their own bank account, as in the Canadian truckers’ situation in early 2022 — even for a group of unassuming religious sisters.
While churches and monasteries exist to stand as a refuge against a declining culture, their own finances are still at the whim of artificial inflation and the traditional financial system. The permissionless nature of bitcoin ensures that these spiritual citadels can be immune to financial censors while simultaneously interacting with the global monetary network. So long as they choose to adopt bitcoin.
The sisters accept bitcoin donations on their website.
This is a guest post by Andy Flattery. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
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