For many of our readers, the Monks of Mt Carmel are known for their absolutely wonderful "Mystic Monk Coffee", one of the ways they support their sacrificial life for the Lord. I encourage all of our readers to order it, drink it, and with every sip pray for these mighty men of God. However, there is so much more to their way of life. That is why this article is only a "teaser". I was so moved by the Monks of Mt. Carmel, I have more articles to come.The monastic life is one of the greatest treasures of our Church. There is some very good news! The monastic life is undergoing a great resurgence in our day.
CODY, WY (Catholic Online) - As a budding theologian my favorite definition of a theologian was offered by a monk of the fourth century, Evagrius of Pontus. He wrote in his reflections entitled "Mirror for Monks": "The Knowledge of God is the breast of Christ and whoever rests on it will be a theologian". The Image evokes the beloved disciple John, the author of the fourth Gospel, depicted at the Institution of the Eucharist, the "Last Supper", with his head on the chest of Jesus the Christ. His Gospel narrative was the last to be written and is the most theologically reflective. Clearly, John was a theologian. He learned that theology in the school of prayer.
That has been proven by my own personal experience of monks. As a 'revert' to the Church, I had the privilege of spending 21 months in a monastery as a very young man. There, I began a lifelong journey of prayer. I also studied the early fathers of the Church. I was taught by a wonderful monk. He was the first of several monks who have graced my life with their gift of holy presence, making Christ so palpable by their interior life - one which overflows in a genuine transfigured humanity.
From my encounters with monks immersed in their unique and vital vocation, no matter how much formal theological study they have (and many are the greatest scholars the Church has produced), I have experienced that their depth of prayer makes them the best theologians. It is out of that storehouse of grace that they are able to help the faithful find the longing of every human heart, communion and intimacy with the God who has revealed Himself fully, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, as the "human face of God" in Jesus Christ.
That is precisely how I experienced Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the Prior of the burgeoning monastic community in Wyoming formally called "Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary". I had an absolutely delightful conversation with him recently. I hope it is only the first of many. His love for the Lord and the Church was contagious.
This is clearly a monk who "rests his head on the breast of Christ." As a result, he is filled with the very life of God. It was the Apostle Peter who reminded us that we have been are "partakers of the Divine Nature". (2 Peter 2:1) In a very special way, Monks have always enfleshed the truth which that profound biblical passage opens up for those who walk through life with the eyes of faith.
The great lay theologian of the Orthodox Church, Olivier Clement once reflected on a letter of Anthony the Great, one of the most celebrated among the first monks of the unified Church of the First Millennium. He wrote " the monk becomes aware of his resurrection in the Risen Christ. The Spirit brings to birth in him the glorified body. 'The whole body is transformed and comes under the power of the Holy Spirit, and something I reckon is already granted to it of that spiritual body it will become at the resurrection of the righteous' (Anthony the Great, Letter I, 4) By transfiguration the monk becomes the priest of the world, and the world regains around him its original lucidity and meaning."
Too often, people mistakenly believe that the monk retreats from the world because of its "corruption". In fact, the monk retreats (in differing ways in accordance with their particular monastic response) precisely in order to transform the world by his prophetic witness and powerful prayer. The dedicated monk is an essential part of the Lord's plan for the Church. The Church is what the early Fathers called the "New World", being recreated in Christ. We who have been baptized never again leave the Church. We actually live in the Church and go into the world to bring all men and women home.
The monastic life is one of the greatest treasures of our Church. There is some very good news! The monastic life is undergoing a great resurgence in our day. This is a new missionary age. The Holy Spirit is at work! We need monks and mystics to help us in the task of setting the Church on fire once again with a love for the Risen Savior, so that she can win the world.
Monasticism in the first millennium gave us the treasury of theological wisdom which still inspires the Church. Those who went into the desert became the great teachers, fathers, confessors and prophets. Their prayer and witness kept the Church in the Divine embrace so that she could effectively continue the redemptive mission of the Lord. That is, after all, the mission of the Church.
In the second millennium, their work and witness continued. Sadly, the Church had been torn in two with the first split, East and West. In the East, the Monks continued to be a resource for the kind of theology which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven. From their ranks the great Bishops of the Church were chosen and the Church was continually renewed. In the West, the great Monasteries of Europe became the beating heart of the emergence of Christendom. The extraordinary intellect exhibited in the emerging theological tradition birthed in the monasteries enabled the Church to contend with daunting challenges, welcome them without fear, contend for the faith and offer the claims of Truth Incarnate.
The "father" of western monasticism Saint Benedict is a great example of the patrimony of western monasticism. He was born around the year 480 in Umbria, Italy. He is the co-patron of Europe (along with Saints Cyril and Methodius). As a young man, Benedict fled a decadent and declining Rome for further studies and deep prayer and reflection. He gave his life entirely to God as a son of the Catholic Church. He traveled to Subiaco, the cave that became his dwelling and the place where he communed deeply with God. It is now a shrine called "Sacro Speco" (The Holy Cave).
It is still a beautiful sanctuary for pilgrims. Among them was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI. Just before his election to the Chair of Peter he visited that very place to entrust his priestly ministry to the Lord. It is NO ACCIDENT that he took the name Benedict when he said "yes" to the call to the Chair of Peter thereafter. He signaled his vision for the Re-Christianization of the West.
St. Benedict lived a life of prayer and solitude for three years and studied under a monk named Romanus. His holiness drew other men and women and soon, twelve small monasteries were founded. He later traveled to Monte Cassino, where he completed his "Rule for Monks." From those Benedictine monasteries, an entire monastic movement was birthed which led to the evangelization of Europe and the emergence of an authentically Christian culture. This led to the birth and flourishing of the academy, the arts and the emergence of what later became known as Christendom.
It is in this trajectory of God's loving plan for His Church that the Monks of "Carmel of the Immaculate heart of Mary" come to us at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium. These are real monks and real men, passionately and courageously in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and dedicated to renewing in our day the great treasury of monasticism. As I spoke with Father Prior Daniel Mary, the bell rung in the background calling the brothers to prayer, one of the many times of prayer which animate and inspire their life. He continued speaking with me, sharing with enthusiasm the beginning of their community, obviously filled with the joy which is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Prior Daniel Mary grew up on a ranch in Cody, Wyoming, only six miles away from the new property the monks are hoping to purchase. There they will build the "New Mount Carmel for America" on 2,500 acres. He dreamed of establishing a monastery in Wyoming as a younger man. He knew that the beauty of the land, the rugged simplicity and faith of the people, and the challenge of the times required such a place.
He was quick to tell me that, contrary to the naysayers, vocations are not a problem for these monks. They receive 200 inquiries a year. However, they know that their calling to live the radical monastic life, in fidelity to the original vision of the Carmelites, is a specific calling. The monks who are living there are happy, healthy and courageously eager to live that vision. I will be writing much more about the elements of that vision in future articles.
For many of our readers, the Monks of Mt Carmel are known for their absolutely wonderful "Mystic Monk Coffee" which is one of the ways they support their sacrificial life for the Lord. I encourage all of our readers to order it, drink it, and with every sip pray for these mighty men of God. Buy it HERE. However, there is so much more to their way of life. That is why this article is only a "teaser". I was so moved by the Monks of Mt. Carmel, I have more articles to come.
We will examine their way of life, their vision for the future, their worship and the implications of their role as a prophetic sign of God's unfolding work for the Church. Stay Tuned! Visit their virtual place of peace and worship on the world wide web. While there, read of their wonderful vocation and mission. Listen to their chant, order their coffee. Oh, and visit the "New Mount Carmel Foundation" site. Look around. Mark my words, when the history of the Third Millennium is written, this monastery will be one of many where historians recount the rebirth of Christendom.
Now, picture that absolutely beautiful monastery, built and filled with holy men chanting the Divine Office, offering the Holy sacrifice of the Mass and bringing earth to heaven and heaven to earth by their life, for the sake of the Church and the world. Then reach deep within and make it a reality by giving. These men are what my dear part Irish mother called "the real McCoy". We need them. We need to help them!
Finally, pray for Fr. Daniel Mary. You will soon be reading some of the stories this wonderful holy man shared with me because I want you to be encouraged in an age of despair. The Church of Jesus Christ is in the beginning of a New Springtime. This wonderful order of monks are seeds of a genuine renewal which has only just begun.
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