Craftsman Week: St. Joseph Abbey caskets add abiding spiritual presence to Louisiana

ST. BENEDICT, La. (WGNO) - It's been said that death is a part of life. It's the inevitable, the great equalizer among men.

But at St. Joseph Abbey, monks and volunteers are working side by side crafting a new meaning for mortality.

Death is not the end, they say.

“That's actually the beginning, and so there's hope in that. Our faith gives us the hope to know that yeah, we're going to die, but we're also going to rise," says St. Joseph Woodworks Director Deacon Mark Coudrain.

Historically, the Benedictine monks crafted their own caskets for hundreds of years, and today, it's a custom that's evolved over time, incorporating the final resting wishes of the community.

The St. Joseph Woodworks caskets are handcrafted out of Cypress in two different styles - monastic and traditional.

Monastic Cypress caskets cost $1,700, and traditional cypress caskets cost $2,250. Cremation cypress urns cost $350.

"Part of the reason why people buy them is because they are so simple. Because as our theology teaches us, death is not about the casket, it's about the person's soul," says Coudrain.

Benedictine monks follow the rule of St. Benedict, an ancient writing instructing them how to govern their lives while performing the will of God.

The monks pray for the dead, and a Benedictine medal, blessed by Father Michael, is inlaid on the side of each casket.

It's a symbol that's believed to ward off evil, making the journey into the afterlife one of both peace and harmony.

"There's hope in it, too, when you can tell your loved ones, 'I know I'm going to die, but I'm going to be ok. Don't worry about me. I'll be ok,'" says Coudrain.

For more information you can call St. Joseph Woodworks at (985) 867-5161.