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Beware of Monastery Icons

by Ian on September 21, 2009

Updated 11/21/2009:

Someone commented below that the website for the Sacred Art Foundation is, not The contact information for the group is in Missouri so I did a search for the Foundation on the MO Secretary of State website. The Foundation was dissolved in 2007. So where did they go? My guess is Cedar Crest, NM.

Several weeks ago I called Monastery Icons and asked for contact information for the Sacred Arts Foundation. They were unable to provide it so I sent a request through their website. I'm still waiting for a reply.

Updated 9/23:

We have had a visitor say that he called the Sacred Arts Foundation website owners and that they denied any connection with Monastery Icons. The strange thing is that the website doesn't provide any phone contact information, Monastery Icons won't provide contact information and both Sacred Arts Foundations, if separate entities, are located within two miles of each other in New Mexico.

While trying to prove concretely that is the website of the Sacred Arts Foundation that owns Monastery Icons, we ran across another interesting connection that directly ties the Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico (but not the website) to Monastery Icons.

When you do a Google maps search for Monastery Icons you get an address of 88 Snowline Rd, Cedar Crest, NM. This address is the same address as used by the Registered Agent, John Weber to register the Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico. Google maps also provides the phone number (505) 281-2555‎ which when called, goes to a Monastery Icon answering machine.

Original Post

Bear with me, this post is going to get a little convoluted.

I am sure that you are familiar with the work of Monastery Icons. They make the western / eastern looking "icons" of saints. They have been popular because they give a Byzantine flavor to a lot of western saints that have never been written in a real icon.

Back in the 70's an "Abbot Bishop" George Burke showed up in Oklahoma City and founded a Hindu community. That community became "Christian" and changed its name to "Holy Protection Old Catholic Benedictine Monastery of the Primitive Observance." In the early 80's the community "converted" to Orthodoxy and changed its name to Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery. A few years later they decided they were really Coptic Christians. Eventually they left Oklahoma, moved to Nebraska and then to California where they formed the Light of Christ Monastery at 1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA.  Light of Christ Monastery is the original organization behind Monastery Icons. (source)

On the Monastery Icons website you will find the following information:

Sacred Arts Foundation is a non-profit foundation created to strengthen faith and encourage Christian devotion in churches, schools, and individuals through a ministry of traditional Christian art. As the contemporary iconographer Photios Kontoglou expressed so well, "Icons raise the soul and mind to the realm of the spirit." Our foundation is a cooperative effort of artisans and craftsmen throughout the United States and the world who strive to make our Monastery Icons products the highest quality available.

The Sacred Arts Foundation acquired Monastery Icons in 2004. This wouldn't seem very odd except that the Sacred Arts Foundation had  the exact same California address as the Light of Christ Monastery, Monastery Icons and as you will see below, the Atma Jyoti Ashram.

If you look at the address on the Monastery Icons catalog you will find an Ohio address. This is the distribution center that handles fulfillment for their "icons." Doing a search of the Ohio Secretary of State website shows that Monastery Icons is actually the Sacred Arts Foundation, a foreign (out-of-state) non-profit located at 1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA. The Sacred Arts Foundation was dissolved in Ohio in August of 2008 for failing to update their records.

The Sacred Arts Foundation filed its 2007 annual registration report in Missouri with a primary business address of 1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA. The contact email at the bottom of the form is someone at Monastery Icons. The Sacred Arts Foundation was dissolved by the State of Missouri in December of 2008 for failing to file a current registration.

The California address at that time in 2007 was also the home to the Atma Jyoti Ashram, "a spiritual institution devoted to the practice and teaching of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, as found in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Sankhya Karika."

The same California address is also listed as the mailing address for Monastery Icons back in 1999.

Sometime between August and September of 2007 the Ashram moved to  PO Box 1370 Cedar Crest, NM.  If you look at the Q&A on the new Ashram site, the Swami bears a striking resemblance to Abbot George, the founder of the Hindu community and the Light of Christ Monastery back at the beginning of this post.

Remember the dissolved Sacred Arts Foundation from Missouri and Ohio? It pops up again in New Mexico, registered with the Secretary of State as a Missouri Non-Profit doing business in New Mexico at - wait for it - PO Box 1370 Cedar Crest, NM.

You can also see that the Sacred Arts Foundation is listed as a Corporation in California at the 1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs address with a headquarters in Missouri. This record is current as of 9/2009. The question should be asked, how is it that a corporation can be listed both in California and New Mexico with a headquarters in Missouri when the corporation in Missouri was dissolved in 2008 for failure to file updated records?

A quick perusal of the Sacred Arts Foundation website (the website is registered in the town of Tijeras, two miles from Cedar Crest) reveals:

  • Workshops in "Transformational Movement", Feng Shui, Yoga and Art of Aware Communication
  • Tutorials on Astrology, Tarot and Feng Shui

It is clear both from the origins of Monastery Icons, its tangled web of corporate arrangements and its ongoing ownership by a completely anti-Christian new-age group that no Christian organization should be giving any financial support to this company by buying its art.

Much of the material for this post was mined from the Byzantine Forum.

If you are interested in purchasing icons from good sources (apart from the icons our site), here are some alternatives:

St. Isaac Skete

Conception Abbey

Lumen Mundi

Alexandra International

At Aquinas and More we are committed to educating our customers not only about the treasures that are offered by our suppliers but also about items that we don't carry and the reasons why.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill September 21, 2009 at 10:37 am

Oh, great.

I have several icons that I bought from Monastery Icons. I wish I had known about this.

Are you going to spread the word to other weblogs about these people?


Mack September 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Thank you for that good info!


Sr Petra September 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Want an alternative? Try We are Roman Catholics!


Adam J September 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Have you notified other bookstores of this? I know our Franciscan University bookstore carries their items, and would pull them if they knew about this problem.


John September 22, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Franciscan University OF STEUBENVILLE does NOT carry their products. Perhaps another Franciscan University does???


Paul B September 22, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I’ve bought Monastery Icons for years and I plan to continue buying them. Why? Because quite simply, they have the best artwork and the best selection of any icons available. And amidst all this brouhaha about who they are, let’s remember: “By their FRUITS ye shall know them.” Wherever I find these icons in parishes and homes, I see Monastery Icons has done Catholic America a world of good. If that’s “anti-Christian,” then I’m a duck.


Ian September 23, 2009 at 10:04 am

According to the Monastery Icon website:

Sacred Arts Foundation is a non-profit foundation created to strengthen faith and encourage Christian devotion in churches, schools, and individuals through a ministry of traditional Christian art.

Since the Sacred Arts Foundation is actually tangled with Tarot, Astrology and Hindu mysticism this statement is actually a lie. Monastery Icons is really dedicated to deceiving Christians into buying its products to fund its new-age operations.

I guess you are a duck.


Old Coot (James D) September 22, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I am old enough to remember the days before Monastery Icons. After the second Vatican Council it became very difficult to find beautiful sacred art, both in Catholic stores and in the newly “renovated” churches. It seemed that the iconoclasts were in ascendance. Then Monastery Icons began producing their wonderful, traditional sacred art, and reminded clergy, laity, and Catholic goods stores what sacred beauty should be. To me it seems that they should get a lions-share of the credit for the revival of traditional sacred art in the Catholic Church. I, for one will continue patronizing Monastery Icons.

By the way, the group calling itself the Sacred Arts Foundation Community linked to in your article is in no wise connected the the group producing Monastery Icons. I checked. Did you??


Ian September 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

Let’s do a little information comparison:

  • The head of Light of Christ Monastery, which produces the icons is also the Swami who runs the Ashram that shares the address of the Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico.
  • The Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico and in California both claim offices in Missouri.
  • The Sacred Arts Foundation registration in Missouri shares a home office address with the Light of Christ Monastery in California.
  • All registrations for the different locations show the same principle officer, William Burke.
  • The California, Missouri and New Mexico registrations have same registering agent, John Weber and the same Vice President, John Davis.
  • John Weber is also listed as the Secretary for both the Missouri and New Mexico registrations.

If they aren’t connected this is the most curious set of coincidences I have ever seen.


Mike September 23, 2009 at 10:48 am

Dear Paul B. and James D.,

If you think buying these ghastly fake icons is OK, then you really do not understand your Catholic faith. According to the Code of Canon Law of the Church, see the canons on Sacramentals, they must always be treated reverently and are never to be employed for profane or inappropriate purposes. Clearly they can not be validly produced by a New Age group or a Hindu ashram, or whatever guise they tend to use. Can you not see that by practicing Deception, this “Monastery Icons” company exists in opposition to Christian Truth? Furthermore, according to Holy Tradition in the Eastern churches, only a consecrated person, or one specifically approved by ecclesiastical authorities, is able to write (paint) holy icons. Icons have a history in the Church of being a sort of super-sacramental, and in fact in the East some saints have gone so far as to say they are perhaps a Holy Mystery (Sacrament) in themselves.

Perhaps a little study and prayer will lead you two to understand and appreciate these truths of the Christian faith.

For my part, I say that buying one of those “Monastery Icons” monstrosities or abominations is like buying a crucifix from the church of Satan!

“Monastery Icons” are spirtually dangerous, plain and simple as that. I pray that they completely disappear from the marketplace and from all Christian homes.

St. John of Damascus, pray for us!


Old Coot (James D) September 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm


You falsely associate Monastery Icons with the New Age Sacred Arts Foundation Community. As I mentioned earlier, I checked, and this is not the same Sacred Arts Foundation which produces Monastery Icons. To continue to make this sloppy assumption of identity in the face of the facts which you have not investigated is to deceive yourself and your readers. An ethical person would simply call this Community to discover the truth. When you find out as I did that they are not connected, you owe it to your readers and to you blogging network, and to truth itself to correct the record. We’ll see what you do.


Ian September 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm

How did you manage to call the Sacred Arts Foundation? They don’t have a phone number on their website and Monastery Icons won’t provide any contact information for them.

The Sacred Arts Foundation in Missouri, California and New Mexico all have the same principal officers and registering agent.

The Ashram run by the head of the Light of Christ monastery shared the address in California and currently shares the address of the Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico.

The website for the Sacred Arts Foundation in New Mexico was registered to an address in a town two miles from the physical address of the Sacred Arts Foundation.

I suppose that in spite of all this they are two separate organizations with the same name only two miles apart from each other but I doubt it.

Even if they were, the only thing that changes is that the website doesn’t belong to the Monastery Icon Sacred Arts Foundation which is also a Hindu Ashram selling icons created by a monastery run by a swami.


A different James D September 24, 2009 at 4:39 am

Old Coot: Did you do anything more than call one of the numbers at the links Ian provided and accept whatever story someone dished out over the telephone? If not, then please tell us how you came by this information to which only you are, to date, privy?

But if so, then you might also be interested to learn that I am in contact with a cousin of the former Oil Minister of Nigeria. If you’ll provide your bank account number so that we can store his money for a few days while he sets up new accounts, I can wire you approximately $25,000,000, of which you’ll be able to keep 10% just for helping us…


Mike September 24, 2009 at 7:02 pm

As the investigation of “Monastery Icons” continues . . . it has been proven that the very same Sacred Arts Foundation which (James D – Old Coot) claims is not affiliated with Monastery Icons is in fact the very organization which registered the domain some years before the same “Foundation” was supposed to have even purchased “Monastery Icons.” Wow! Oh, what a tangled web you have woven “Abbot George” and “Fr. Seraphim” or “Seraphin Weber” and “Br. John” – these are the three men who keep changing their names (and non-proft organization names) and who are behind the whole elaborate scheme, from way back in the glory days of Oklahoma in the 70′s. Yep, we are tracing and mapping your whole sordid history.

Its just amazing, and terribly convenient, what one can discover online these days. All the non-profit organization records are right there to see. It doesn’t cost a dime, it just takes time. I love the internet.

What you have done, you three unwise men, is to anger orthodox Christians with your elaborate deception and we will not stop. We are going to expose your whole history and then what will you do without the $2 million in annual sales you lose from your array of holding companies and ashrams when the gravy train dries up? Oh, I guess you’ll retire comfortably in your newer digs in Cedar Crest, New Mexico – the Atma Jyoti ashram cum monastery cum Sacred Arts Foundation.

Everyone of your customers that I can find online, especially the ones you mention in your catalog, will know the truth.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I know some people in Albuquerque pretty well. You can expect visitors in Cedar Crest one of these days soon.

St. John of Damascus, pray for us!


Angelina Gonzales September 25, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Having served as a lay Catholic missionary volunteer, I can tell you from experience that there are a lot of organizations out there calling themselves Catholic religious institutions when they in fact behave in a manner that tells me they are not even Catholic. Under this guise, they prey on the faithful for the purpose of acquiring personal wealth.

I want to thank you for the trouble you took to look into this.

I would like to suggest that someone start a database on all these renegade priests and nuns and organizations that infringe upon the good name of the Roman Catholic Church. These are really dangerous people.


Leslie September 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for the info. I was completely unaware. Though our church has never ordered from them, I did have their catalogs. I threw them away.


Kim October 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Has anyone shared this info with Leaflet Missal ( They sell Monastery Icons and Incense while promoting their 80 years of serving Catholics. Sadly, I bought a small icon and a home incense kit from Leaflet that are both from these New Age con men.


Jon October 25, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I know someone working at Leaflet and I plan to point this out.


Bob November 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm

For what it’s worth, the website for Sacred Arts Foundation is below, note .ORG, not .com:

I make no claim to the legitimacy of the group, just wanted to provide what I believe is the correct site.


Anne March 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

As I understand, there are two groups going by the name Sacred Arts Foundation.

1. – affiliated with and owns collection of Monastery Icons
2. – a New Age community following the transformational movement

I contacted both of these foundations via their websites. Here are the responses I got.

1. responded to my email and said they were in no way affiliated with – in their own words “Definitely not!”

2. responded to my email and said “It’s just a coincidence” that they share the same name of the group which owns the Monastery Icons collection.


Ian March 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm

It’s also funny that both are within a couple of miles of each other and that the registering agent for both is the same and that I never received a reply from either as to their affiliation.

Either way, Monastery Icons is a front for a new age cult that uses the money raised from unsuspecting people to support their ashram.


Carlos April 30, 2011 at 3:47 am

Great, I have a Monastery Icon of St Cecilia that my aunt from California gave to me a long time ago. Obviously I had no idea about all of this and neither my aunt does. Do I really have to burn it or something if this “icon” is sacrilegious to us Catholics? even though it looks nice to me


Ian April 30, 2011 at 10:18 am

No, but you probably should have it exorcised and blessed.


Norma J Skjold March 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

What a shocker! I also purchased, unwittingly, several images of Our Lady of Guadelupe (which I will have exorcised and blessed now that I know of their contaminated origins) and I’d never have even gone back online to get more answers except that one of the “plaques” which looked like painting on wood has now begun to peel off! It’s clearly just paper on wood, and was sold to this simpleton for $37. When I sent an email about this problem to the Monastery Icons which was listed on my receipt it came back as undeliverable. Please please keep doing your excellent and necessary research. We need help against the devil.


joanna (noel) meyer October 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Norma Jane, is that you? Who used to live in so woodbury, VT? If so, write me. I just reread the article you wrote about your husband’s death and was seized with wondering where and how you are…Joanna


Norma J Skjold October 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Yes, it’s me! This is amazing, to be found so far off that old road. I’m in hometown Nebraska now, dealing with MS, or else Lyme disease, or maybe both. Doctors disagree. But I am still writing. So okay, now get me caught up on you and Vermont.


Joseph March 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm

The “President” is a person named Seraphim Weber and he is or was associated with an Ashram and some “Gnostic Orthodox Church.” Very dubious!

Here’s my experience with them…

In 2005, I purchased an icon of St. Ignatius of Loyola and it arrived damaged. I called Monastery Icons, and they sent a replacement and were supposed to send a return label so I could return the damaged icon, but they never did. The second icon sent was damaged as well. The icon was supposed to be a gift. My account was credited and I returned the icons at MY COST. However, they claim they never received the icon(s) back. So, they basically accused me of keeping the goods. When I tried to place an order in 2010, my order NEVER arrived after several weeks after the order. When I called to inquire about the order I got the same run-around when dealing with them about the two damaged icons in 2005. Why didn’t I get my order in 2010? They had blocked me as a “bad customer” and simply didn’t ship my order. Getting nowhere with customer service, I finally got a hold of the President, (Fr.) Seraphim Weber. He’s was a bit brash, abrasive and arrogant, but he wound up sending the 2010 order, saying that the issue in 2005 was a misunderstanding. However, the 2010 order arrived with a broken hinge (but was able to be fixed). We took pictures of the icon and sent it to Fr. Seraphim, but still thanked him for straightening out the 2005 issue. So we thought…

Today, two years later, I tried placing and order for a Confirmation student. Guess what? Yup…blocked again! So, I called the toll-free number and got the same run-around as in 2005 and 2010. I finally asked to speak with a Supervisor and was questioned why. I said, “Because I am asking to speak with a Supervisor and that is reason enough.” I was transferred to someone named Roderick McQueen, who said he was a Supervisor. He said that the didn’t see a block on my account, but would call back. He called back, saying there was a block on my account in 2005, but saw the order placed and released in 2010. He said I needed to speak with Fr. Seraphim about this matter. This is where I spoke with Fr. Seraphim (again) after getting nowhere with the manager in Customer Service (who didn’t even know his own company email address…) today.

I called and spoke to Fr. Seraphim and he said he vaguely remembered the 2010 incident, but then sent a dismissive email saying that I would be blocked from buying from Monastery Icons because of my “abusive” interaction with their Customer Service “in the past and recent.” Was I abusive in 2005, 2010 and 2012? Absolutely not. Forecful? You bet!

Monastery icon makes about $1.5 in sales per year. They are a business. And as such, they need to act like a business by demonstrating professionalism and customer relation skills. They failed to send a return label for the return of the item and then to accuse me of not returning it? Are you for real? Also, I’m not going to be 3rd degreed as to why I want to speak with a Supervisor, but I want my order to be handled expeditiously and courteously. If my student didn’t want a St. Nicholas icon from these people I wouldn’t have even ordered – they are not worthy of my business.

In 7 years, I’ve only placed 3 orders with them. Why? There icons aren’t really icons but “pretty pictures.” I order them when someone really wants one of their icons as in the case of my confirmation student.

So guys, don’t complain to Customer Service or you can be tagged as a “bad customer” and be blocked. If my student didn’t want one of their icons, I would NEVER buy from them. Now, that I see that Seraphim Weber, is associated with Ashrams, Gnostic Orthodox Churches, and runs a pretty bad call center staff, I’m (and others) are better off without their goods. I am going to ask my parish to remove their icons from our church and replace them with REAL icons and sacred images worthy of veneration.


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