Silently, Solemnly, Bakers at Langhorne’s Franciscan Monastery of St. Claire Produce Altar Breads

woman baking
Image via Monastery of St. Clare at YouTube,
Baked altar breads are removed from the iron to go to the humidifier.

The Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Langhorne is, as expected, a place of solitude and prayer. But it’s also a workplace, where a unique crew crafts a specialty item: altar breads. Carol Zimmermann explained the site’s dual role for Crux.

Each day, the resident Sisters of St. Clare, bake the small, thin, wafers that, when consecrated during Mass, become Holy Communion for Catholic Christians.

For more than a century, they’ve been making these breads five days a week and shipping them nationwide.

The equipment they use bear names with spiritual underpinnings: Raphael, Maddalena, Vincent, Benny, Archangel.

Sister Anne is the manager of the altar bread operation. She is well-suited to this aspect of the business, having earned a finance degree and MBA before taking her vows.

She explained that while the business venture involves an important task, it does not overshadow her order’s contemplative foundation.

Her staff, therefore, works in silence, honoring a vow that goes back to St. Clare herself. She advocated in 1215 to speak only in praise of God.

The bakers, therefore, pass the time at work in quiet communication with God.

“Our main work is always prayer,” Sister Anne said.

Even the baker’s marketing material seeks to uplift. A card in every shipment reads: “Lord, give bread to the hungry and hunger for You to those who have bread.”

More on the local production of altar breads is at Crux.