Contemplare Foundation. Showing the richness of the contemplative life

They were dedicated to the world of business, chemistry or entrepreneurship, but they were united by a fascination for the contemplative life and, above all, by a common idea of helping, in whatever way necessary, one of the 725 monasteries of contemplative life that still exist in Spain.

Maria José Atienza-December 4, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Photo: One of the nativity scenes that can be purchased at Contemplare.

Spain is one of the world's "first powers" in contemplative life with more than 8,000 monks and nuns of contemplative life. They, with their prayer, support the world and this group of lay people decided, through the foundation Contemplareto help the monasteries that they could in the needs that they presented.

Alejandra Salinas, director of the foundation Contemplareis one of those businesswomen who "threw her hat in the ring" and put her professional knowledge at the service of this cause.

Today, the foundation Contemplare collaborates with more than a hundred of these monasteries helping, on the one hand, in their different needs and, above all, being a current, online and universal showcase of products made by nuns and monks from all over Spain.

Alejandra Salinas, director of the Contemplare foundation
Alejandra Salinas, director of the Contemplare Foundation,

How did they come to create what some have called "the Amazon of the monasteries"? Alejandra Salinas points out that "the idea was not to cold call the monasteries saying 'we are a foundation based in Madrid to help you', because that is cold and, in addition, they have been deceived many times. So we decided to trust everything to Providence.

The contact with each monastery is personal: through a priest, because they give us the reference from another monastery, by someone who knows them and, of course, also through the federations".

Thus they have been weaving a relationship that "is a slow burner, explaining to them what we do, seeing how we can help them, etc. They are very perplexed that there are lay people, with high heels, who want to help them... although those who take care of us are these monasteries that pray for the world," Alejandra Salinas points out with conviction. 

Sisters, what do you need?

The question they are addressing, from Contemplare to each of the monasteries they contact is always the same: "Sisters, brothers, what do you need?

As Salinas points out, "the needs are many, but we realized that what they asked for most was help in selling the handicraft products made in each of these communities. These products, the fruit of their ora et labora, are what help pay the bills.

The expenses of the monasteries are high, in spite of the poverty and austerity with which they live. Contemplare He points out that "it is not only the electricity bill, which is always very high in a monastery, but also the social security expenses, because they are self-employed, or important repairs to the buildings... But, as Salinas also points out, it is not only a question of covering a need but also of honoring this life of prayer and work by making it known". 

An antechamber to the monasteries 

Contemplare is not only a way of selling some products, but it is a prelude to the monastery: "We want everyone to know what contemplative life is and what it means, the life of a monastery, of these men and women who enclose themselves and pray for us. We invite people to come to the monasteries because that is our objective: to show the richness of the contemplative life".

That is why its physical store "la casita", located in Aravaca (Madrid), is a small oasis of silence and austerity in the middle of the city. There, as in the webIn the monasteries, you can see everything that these monasteries produce: jams, Christmas pastries, religious imagery, but also liqueurs, cheeses, pâtés or baby clothes. 

The online store developed tremendously during the pandemic period, recalls Alejandra Salinas: "We created a marketplace with the products of these monasteries that had been directly affected by the impossibility of moving and were in a desperate situation". 

It's personal, not just business

Unlike the famous phrase "It's not personal, It's strictly business" from the film of The Godfatherthe work of the foundation Contemplare always goes beyond the mere professional level. This is also a vocational issue for the members of the foundation and those who collaborate with it.

Salinas states that "those of us who work in Contemplare we are personally enriched. We know we have extraordinary suppliers. You never have a superficial conversation with a cloistered nun, even for two minutes. Those of us who are there are ecstatic at every moment because it's circumstances, conversations, stories that come up ... Being around these people makes you look at life differently."

In fact, as she herself, a businesswoman by profession, points out, "the fact that their mission on earth is not to 'make mantecados', changes everything. They always comply and are concerned about complying, but there is something that is above all that. We, who are in the world, live 'on deadlines' and, really, we are out of our minds. The fact that they situate you, that they tell you, 'Alejandra, sit down and remember what you are here for', as a nun told me, changes everything". 

With this product, you support a monastery

Thanks to the foundation Contemplare there are many and varied companies and individuals who, for example, at Christmas time, help one or more monasteries by purchasing their Christmas baskets or by including a product from a monastery in the company's basket.

The foundation acts as a "bridge": "One of our tasks is to make contact with large companies that, for example, make Christmas hampers, and we offer them a product from a monastery in those hampers. We have done this for some time with Inditex. Or we make the complete basket, which can be standard or, in the case of companies with a high volume, there is the possibility for them to order their own baskets from us, with a specific budget, etc." 

On the one hand, says Alejandra Salinas, "anything that is handcrafted, handmade in a monastery, is very attractive, because they are things of quality and, in addition, many people feel the desire to help the monasteries, even if they are not practicing or convinced Catholics. It is also a way of letting them know that these people who pray for us still exist". 

Christmas is always a time of high sales volume, but the foundation also helps them to "deseasonalize" income. In this endeavor, they have organized cooking courses together with the Cordon Bleu The program also offers them advice on trends in baby clothes sold at flea markets or through the web. 

The key is summarized in the phrase that accompanies each of the products "with this product you help a monastery", although perhaps, as Salinas repeats, "you understand that, although you are saying 'Here I am to help', in reality, it is the other way around".

Monastic products fair

fair contemplare

Among the foundation's initiatives ContemplareThe first edition of the I Monastic FairThe event will bring together, in the central Casa de la Panadería in Madrid, almost a thousand products from 80 convents.

In this space you will be able to buy up to 650 different types of Christmas sweets, directly from the bakery.

In addition to this gastronomic showcase, there will also be cribs, Christmas figures, carvings and icons for sale: 300 different artistic objects molded and painted by the contemplatives. But also baby clothes, natural cosmetics and table linen embroidered in the old style.

In addition, each evening there will be a time for listening and dialogue with nuns and monks from the monasteries that Contemplare supports, surprise concerts of sacred music, and opportunities for personal dialogue.

Read more
La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.
Banner advertising
Banner advertising