Sunday, October 31, 2021

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Carmelite Monks

Carmelite Monks? I thought there were only friars and nuns. Not in Wyoming. In 2003, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the direction of the bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne, two Carmelite priests founded the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery here in Wyoming. I first got to know these boys in 2009 and we've remained close ever since.

Their charism is unique because they've returned to the what the Discalced reformer St. John of the Cross original had in mind. Mainly, that the men of Carmel would be cloistered contemplatives much like their sister counter parts.

It took years of praying and perseverance, but about 10 years after their founding they were able to purchase a substantial amount of land at the base of Carter Mountain near Meeteese WY. I love Carmelite spirituality, but what attracts me most to these boys' way of life is their work ethic. I'm not the only one drawn to the New Mount Carmel though. The Monastery now has 28 members, which is near their constitutional capacity. 

Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified M.Carm, the prior and primary founder of the Monastery, is originally from Wyoming. He grew up on a ranch north of Cody and joined a Carmelite order shortly there after. That community eventually decided to go in the direction of the O.Carms, which is an observance of Carmel that is pre-16th century reform. He felt very much called to incorporate the the spiritual wealth of the O.C.D. reformers Ss. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, while still living the eremitical life. I guess providence has agreed with him.

Today the Monastery is a growing concern. Hard hats are not optional around this Kingdom of God construction site. One can hardly imagine the progress that has been made in such a short amount of time. I personally would be surprised if there is anything of this magnitude going on elsewhere in the world.

What's most impressive is that it is the Monks themselves doing most of the work.

In years past, it was the monasteries that were master artisans of the trades. Well the past is back. These young men are master level stone craftsmen. They have been featured in world renown publications for their ability to carve and shape rock using the highest tech computer guided equipment. What I've always loved about visiting the Monks is their joy. Like Dad has said, they are truly happy.

All of the rock they cut is hauled in and is mainly Kansas limestone and Colorado sandstone.

Here, a bandsaw makes an initial pass through the raw material. The boys have to be around to knock wedges in its swath so the weight doesn't bind the blade.

This industrial circular saw cuts the rock down to an even more fitted size. Cuts like this are often used for exterior molding.

Most impressive is this CNC milling machine. This bad boy will work night and day bringing out of the stone whatever the boys drew up and sent to it from the computer.

This mantel is a taste of the detail they are able to produce. Programing the machines is what takes the most skill. Here you can see the faces of happy monks that adorns the fireplace in their recreation room.

Their imagination and ability knows no limits. The Monks are responsible for carving and installing all the rock on all the buildings inside and out.

Here is the finished wall of one of the hermitages. About 25 or 30 of these monastic cells circle the other three main buildings.

The granddaddy of them all though, will be the main chapel. Well underway, she still has a ways to go. Employing gothic architecture, they are able to use steel reenforced concrete girts to replace the need for flying buttresses, while still allowing for massive stained glass windows. I can't even imagine all the stops the boys will pull out for this holy house of God.

Most people know the Carmelite Monks for their Mystic Monk Coffee. This enterprise began in a garage with a single roaster. Today, the boys have erected this roasting house that is closer to the size of a football field than it's not. This time of year it is all hands on deck as they get ready to fill Christmas coffee orders. If you're interested in some check out

To many people the cloister wall is the least attractive part of the Monastery. However, it is the most important. St. Paul calls the Church the Body of Christ, and we are all His members. Most of us are more like the exterior members of the Body; hands and feet so-to-speak. The contemplative monasteries are like the heart of the Church; super important and super protected. I can't see my heart, but I know it's wellness is vital to the rest of my being. It is the same way with the Body of Christ. Contemplative monasteries are vital to the life of the Church. Equally important is that they are hidden and protected from the rest of the world. This is mainly so they are able to progress in holiness in order that their prayers on our behalf may receive a rapid response. I call these boys all the time with prayer requests and you can do the same. That's why they exist.

We were told in seminary that a priest should want to run to the monastery. I believe it to be true. I love this Carmelite monastery of monks hidden in the Rocky Mountains. Their prayer and work is something I can get behind. But, the Lord has called me to be on the front lines in the parish. However, on my first visit all those years ago, Fr. Daniel Mary enrolled me in the Brown Scapular, which is a spiritual participation in the Carmelite charism. So I am a Carmelite at heart.

When Bishop David L. Ricken helped establish Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he prophesied that from here would come the founding of many monasteries throughout he world. I have little doubt that the results of these monks' labor will bear the fruit of monastic renewal for the Church at large. When you see vocations authentically lived out it's attractive. It inspires one to be the best little toe they can be. If we all stay in our lane and be the fullest member of the Body of Christ possible, through God's grace and holiness of life, imagine how healthy the Church would be.

For more information check out

Friday, October 22, 2021

Tom Sawyer

Sometimes I think the Lord orchestrates natural disasters just so Dad and I can have fun. Like this dead tree that fell across West Tensleep Creek up at the cabin. What better way to spend the feast of Pope St. John Paul II than in the mountains playing in the water.

She fell within the past few weeks. Nature can take care of herself, but we thought we better get it out of there before the spring runoff turned the cabin into an island.

She would have looked just like this ole girl. About a 100 footer. 

So we chained up White Horse and strung out as much chain and cable as we could.

The first 1/3 was already broke and came right out.

But the last section had to be cut in half and took a little more encouragement.

No match for these mountain sawyers though.

There's two ways of looking at life, through your good eye or your bad eye. I choose the former. Nothing can happen outside of God's will. That doesn't mean everything is easy. But any disaster can become good if we turn to Him in faith and trust. Experience has taught me that every obstacle is an opportunity. An opportunity for God to bring good out of evil and even make life fun. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Pitchfork Ranch

I was telling Dad the other day that I think I've regressed in my feeding technologies. I went from little square bales to a pitchfork. 

Believe it or not, I've spent many hours behind a pitchfork; cleaning pens, strawing beds, and feeding hay. A pitchfork is standard equipment on any ranch. Guys that get good at them can switch hands so they don't wear out their backs. This also allows them to work next to each other in the same truck. Before balers came along, a pitchfork is the only way hay got put up and fed.

I'm not a purist though, I use mechanized muscle when I can. 

The girls don't care how it gets to them as long as it's in front of them. We're now on the down hill slope, only five to go before the first of the year. Then we can go snowmobiling! 

Zoom Out

Patience is more attainable if we think less about immediate results.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Father Jacob

Jake and I had been planning an October hangout since June. To welcome his arrival from Kansas, our Lord blessed us with a fresh blanket of snow. What a gift. Not what were expecting, but we wouldn't have had it any other way. 

Fr. Jacob and I go way back to seminary in Denver. In fact, I still remember the first time I met him. You might say he has an impressionable personality. About the only person I can think to compare him to is Matt Dillion. Both hail from Dodge City. And both are a force to be reckoned with. Both seek true justice and both know how to work hard and have fun. I appreciated Jake's friendship and encouragement in school. There was no storm he wouldn't endure to help a guy out. Guess some things never change.

He's no stranger to a butcher shop so we spent quite a bit of time at the trailer trading stories. You can tell a lot about a man by how sharp his knives are. Fr. Jacob's are never dull to say the least.

Part of our mission was to process a cow we hung up for him. In no time we had her steaked out and burgered.

With a little extra time on our hands we decided to go frolic in the snow. We had gotten hit with quite a shot, so we thought it might be a good time to get the cows out of the Black Hills. Getting up the hill to Joe's place is a ride Jake will probably never forget. I was impressed White Horse broke trail as good as she did. Once on the hill though, she took a set of tire chains to get backed up to the chute. After that, the three girls walked right in and we brought them home.

While we were at it, we thought we'd trade some slaughtering tips as well.

After so much fun, a cheers was in store. Thanks for popping the top on this new lucky 7s. Just Ledoux It partner.

Wear that hat with pride Jake. You inspired me back then and you continue to do so today. Few people can weather a storm with a smile the way you do. Keep it up. The Church could use a few more cowboys like Father Jacob Schneider.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

All In

Is there anything that prevents us from following Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength? If so, it's time to call Big Iron.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Diggin' Beets

Raising sugar beets runs deep in our family. My great grandparents came over from the Russia/Germany area in the late 1800's and migrated around the US working in the beet fields. In 1942 Grandpa Adam bought a farm south of Worland and started growing his own sugar beets. Four generations later, the legacy continues.

Growing sugar beets in the Big Horn Basin has been around since 1905. But at the turn of the millennium  the Worland factory was about to call it quits. So in 2002 the farmers banded together, along with local investors, to buy the factory and form Wyoming Sugar Company. Today, WSC is a 100% grower owned cooperative. 

In the early days, digging beets was a chore. Back then, the measure of a man was how many tons of beets you could shovel.

Over the years tractors replaced shovels. A three row digger was the norm in the 60’s and 70's.

In the 80's, six row pullers were the most common and Lungren's would run two in a field.

It was always a family affair: Dad and Uncle Vance.

During the 90's, us cousins would spend every Saturday we could in the beet field. Even the boys from Rawlins would come up.

Clint and I logged plenty of hours picking up loose beets and throwing them in the trucks.

Today the family digs on. 

And they're still running two old six rows.

Keep on farmin' in a free world partner.

I'm forever thankful for the farmers who have persevered through thick and thin to help sweeten our lives. The sugar is great, but the flavor they bring to the world is irreplaceable. Little draws a man's heart closer to his Creator than dirt. It's where we came from. If we forget that, we loose touch with reality Himself. Life is a beet field, all we have to do is dig it.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Bull Fight

Chuck Tweedy had an ornery bull that had put more than one cowboy on the fence. It was time for it to go to town so he called ol' Fr. Bryce to take care of it. Beings today was the feast of our Guardian Angels, I thought this would be a good opportunity to teach the boys that our angels aren't wimpy. They are here to help us take care of business. 

I ain't scared.

Weighting in at about 1750 lbs. I called Dagen Geis to bring in the big guns.

Couldn't have done it without my right hand man Shane. Thought this might make a nice Wyoming postcard for the folks back east.

Just Ranchin. 

Courage is not the absence of fear, it's bravery in the face of fear. If there's a job to be done, our Lord has given us a guardian angel to help accomplish it. Mine doesn't get a lot of rest.


Jesus is THE means to THE end, which is the Father.