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.

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  1. Wow, what a structure. Hard to imagine something like this being built today.

  2. My only interaction with nuns as a child, was as the teachers in my Catholic school. It pains me now to think that as we graduated and discerned our vocations, taking orders was never even considered. I enjoy reading articles like this, because it opens my eyes to other opportunities that exist for my children as they grow and discern their own futures.



Grace makes us bloom into who we are created to be.