Creating a New Mt. Carmel… in America

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the “Last Carmelite Monks in America.” At the time, the eight Carmelites and their novices were overflowing their four-bedroom rectory in the mountains of northwest Wyoming.
Since then, the monks’ numbers have grown quickly. By the end of the year, there will be as many as 18 members of the community, making already cramped living quarters completely inadequate.
Rev. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the prior, told me, “We are getting inquiries all the time, from all over the world, including Germany, England, and the Philippines. Men hear about us by word of mouth and through the Internet. If you type in ‘Carmelite monks,’ our name pops up.”
I told Father Daniel that his comment last year that his community contained the “last Carmelite monks” provoked some letters disputing the claim.
“Well, I may have overstated it a bit,” Father Daniel said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure we are the only community living the strictly cloistered way of life, but there are some new communities of Carmelite hermits in Texas.” The Carmelite monks of Wyoming are committed to reviving the original tradition of St. John of the Cross. They do not take over parishes or offer retreat ministry. “We probably are the only monks, in the strictest sense of the word,” reiterates Father Daniel.
Father Daniel is 41 years old, but the rest range from 18 to 31. “A few older guys have tried this out, but it is very hard for them when they have to be obedient to younger monks who are only 19 or 20. Older guys are set in their ways.” Thus, they look for men who are younger and have sound character and a strong faith. The monks run a background check in addition to creating a psychological profile and family history.
The monastery is looking to buy the Irma Lake Ranch, once owned as a hunting lodge by Buffalo Bill Cody. There have been four owners since then, and the present owner is willing to sell for $9.75 million.
Father Daniel explains that the price tag sounds high, but the property can be made into a new Mt. Carmel immediately. The ranch “already has a monastery on it, a 16,000-square-foot lodge with a big industrial kitchen and 20 rooms, along with a guesthouse, and a caretaker’s house.”
“This is the perfect set-up,” says Father Daniel, “with a road, electricity, and water all in place.”
This new Mt. Carmel in America will be a place where pilgrims can come on retreat and hear the preaching and conferences of the monks, while not disturbing their community life. The monks chant the divine office eight times a day; their whole life is given over to the liturgy.
Bishop David Ricken helped with the founding of the community. Before he left Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Green Bay, Wisconsin, he inspected Irma Lake and blessed the monks’ efforts in seeking to purchase it. The bishop told them, “From this place you will be sending priests and monks all over the world to re-found monasteries, just as Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross did in 16th-century Spain. You are filling a void in the Carmelite order.”
A foundation has been formed to receive donations for Irma Lake Ranch. Their coffee business — the delicious Mystic Monk Coffee — helps to cover day-to-day expenses, but the monks rely entirely on donations.
As we got off the phone, Father Daniel said, “The ranch is an incredible place for our charism. The view of Carter Mountain is breathtaking, looking out over all the white-capped mountains of Yellowstone Park. Moose, elk, antelope, and a few black bears roam the property.”
I hope this time next year I can spend a few days in the guesthouse of the new Mt. Carmel monastery and listen to the monks chant their liturgy against the backdrop of Carter Mountain.
To contact Father Daniel directly, or Brother Simon Mary, write or call (there is no Internet connection at the monastery):
Carmelite Monastery
P.O. Box 2747
Cody, WY 82414-2747
307-645-3320

Deal W. Hudson

By

Deal W. Hudson is president of Catholic Advocate, an organization which engages and encourages faithful Catholics to actively participate in the political process to support elected officials and policies that remain consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah, 21, and Cyprian, 13, who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • epb

    St. John of the Cross, O.C.D. was not a monk, but a mendicant – a friar … as was the intention of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila).

  • Deal W. Hudson

    Yes, I know. I think Fr. Daniel meant “tradition” in a different sense.

  • Kevin J. Symonds

    I worked for Fr. Daniel’s father about 4 miles down the road at Mt. Carmel Youth Ranch. It is an absolutely beautiful area.

    These Carmelites mean business and I am serious when I say this. They do not fool around.

    When I expressed a desire to donate some books (courtesy of information I received from Deal’s previous article), I was promptly told not to donate any books by a certain popular theologian. I am not of liberty to discuss which theologian that is.

    My point, however, is that these guys mean business. Go and visit them if you can. Their liturgies are absolutely enthralling. Tell Fr. Daniel I said hello.

  • Teri

    Deal,

    Thank you. I’m so glad you are continuing to follow this story. It is gratifying to see men trying to live the consecrated life under the sign of contradiction. These guys are the real thing. Solid. Men acting like the best kind of people, in the best sense of the word is rare indeed in these times.

    So many people want to use others to get what they want. This life is spiritually, physically and intellectually rigorous, and extraordinarily simple, not easy. Many in the West hunger for that; that’s why the Eastern religions hold so much appeal.

    Though temporal problems continue in the World I’m glad that these men forgo answering those particularly thorny problems and focus on the transcendant where heaven reaches to earth and earth reaches back counting all else as none of their particular concern.

    Many of us are called not to this life but see its incredible value and will support the efforts of these men. I’m glad they are responding to a need in others to visit and recharge their spiritual life and go back into the world. That is a great charity, love for the human family.

  • Criffton

    They are inspiring to us younger ones (I am 21). I have sent a letter to them asking for vocational information. It is quite a lifestyle, and one that is inspiring.

  • ebs

    Interesting how Father Daniel Mary neglects to mention the Carmelite hermits in Minnesota, the same community which he formerly belonged to, the community where he received his habit and formation, before setting out on his own in Wyoming. They also live an eremetical life and are fully incorporated into the Carmelite Order, as are the monks in Texas. His community in Wyoming has yet to do so.

  • Mary a daughter of Saint Theresa

    It’s not the place that would make them good monks but the way they live their monastic lives…It seem that they are on the good way, cutting off from the world and at the same time praying for it…not having internet and retreats is a good idea…when we look at the Eztern orthodox moanteries…they do not allow women to wear indecent clothes at the monateries..they even have clothes available for women there..you cannot take pictures inside the monateries..women sit on one side and men on the other…you cannot talk loud, laugh inside the church or on monastery grounds…

    Our catholic monasteries have been too relaxed in the last 40 years…It’s refreshing to have carmelite monasteries like that, wanting to follow into the footsteps of Saint John of rge Cross and Saint Theresa of Avila…It will not be the 9 million dollar ranch and all its earthly pleasures that will make it a good monatery but the spiritual ascent of the monks to the Mount Carmel..In a world seeking comfort and luxuries…we need simplicity and the ability to rely solely on God as our main source of comfort,strength..After all we are just mere travelers on this earth seeking to go to our everlasting home with God and our Lord Jesus..We all have to climb the same ladder and renounce the world…Not everyone will ver reach the top but what matters is how we make efforts to go up, no matter on what step of the latter we are…God bless you all…

  • paul

    a monk is one who lives a cloistered, yet COMMUNAL life. this is what sets the monks apart from the hermits. and yes, monastic life, not the mendicant life was the original intent of st john of the cross, and unforfnately he was prevented from living this life.

  • Grazia

    I attended a Carmelite girl school in Mexico as a child, and there was a nunnery there, of cloistered nuns. Sometimes we would watch them through the grill as they glided silently by, seemingly constantly in prayer. They were otherworldly, and awe-inspiring.

    Contrast that with our visit last year to a Benedictine monastery in Colorado. We attended a Holy Week mass there. It was wierdly informal, no kneeling or even standing. And the monks during mass, kissed women on the lips. I kid you not. We were scandalized. I still haven’t been able to digest that properly. The were dressed like monks but acted more like new age yogis.
    Oh well, its a big Church…

  • Angela
  • Paulina
  • Klara
  • Onuphrius
  • Ludwik
  • susie

    I’ve been searching for caretaker job opportunities, for my husband and myself. I see that there are caretaker quarters at many retreat centers/monasteries but I’ve no idea how to go about contacting or who to contact about such a position. We are in Omaha but open to possibly moving. Does one write the diocese or archdiocese and if so, to whom? If anyone has any information, please let me know at susiefromomaha@gmail.com

  • Benedictine

    I have to say that there are other carmelite hermits in America. The oldest one I believe is in PA. It’s great to have big ambitions and ideas but one must be careful and realize that most all of this was tried or done before.
    Pax,

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