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Mystic Monks Prepare to Build

Perhaps you've seen the rotating ads on CMR promoting the Mystic Monk coffee. Well, they do more than roast beans. They are a newly-founded energetic community of contemplative Carmelites known as the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who are serious about what they do: "strict monastic enclosure, two hours of contemplative prayer daily, study and spiritual reading, and manual labor." While the community is currently still small (under 20) they are being inundated with vocation inquiries and are planning to build a new monastery on a striking site in Wyoming to be known as the New Mount Carmel of America.
Their architect, James McCrery, has been working furiously to prepare initial drawings for their building complex (a once-in-a-lifetime dream commission), which has now been brought to the end of schematic design. (Schematic design means that it is only the initial, approved conception of the building. It will then go through design development to receive its final details. For that reason, many of the images shown are not highly detailed or use what are called "place holders" meant to give a general idea. In other words, if you are an architectural nit picker like I am, hold your nits for a few months.)
The Carmelites asked for a decidedly French Gothic design centered around a large chapel. Small hermitages are located to the east of the chapel since the monks live much of their day as hermits. The plan also provides for other needs: refectory, chapter house, infirmary, novitiate, offices, etc.
Here are more images sent by our friend Mr. McCrery. Enjoy! (click to enlarge).

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N. Trandem said...

If after seeing this amazing plan you still need another reason to buy their coffee, they are one of the few communities in the world to exclusively follow the traditional Carmelite liturgy. Plus their coffee is really, really good.

Wayne said...

This is spectacular! However, if they are being "inundated with new inquiries" and they already have 20 in the house, 30 hermitages seems to be a bit of a low number. Perhaps they will be expecting to set up a new house in a few years? I wonder how much this will cost.

Anonymous said...

They are not supposed to grow larger than about 30; but even with the many inquiries, few are called to this type of service. If, however, they do find that there are enough called to start another monastery elsewhere, that could be an eventual outcome.

Rick said...

Shouldn’t they go with a more contemporary design? I mean that castle looks like it fell right off the middle ages. ;)

Blackrep said...

Thirty guys in this grand castle? Carmelites too? It seems like its a bit early for such a young order to plan such an extravagant place... the great abbeys of Europe took hundreds and hundreds of years to afford such enclosures.

I am reminded a bit of the grand plans of the Society of St. John (remember them?) in Scranton, PA. Gorgeous. Slick. Only the best. And where are they now? Pffft! All those millions of donation dollars, gone. They too presented to the public the idea of a traditional, vibrant, Catholic, Latin Mass-loving wholesome crew.

Let time test this crew before Cathedrals are built. May they grow to be worthy of this and more.

Joe W. said...

A very good caveat, Blackrep. I wondered the same thing myself when I first heard about the project. From everyting I have heard, though, these monks have a quite stable community already and their coffee business is doing well. They are building a monastery based on their own needs which have clear precedent in the Carmelite tradition, not building a dreamy Catholic town like the Society of St. John.
And although the plans look quite grand, this project isn't realy much larger than some of the higher-end monasteries built in the 1920s. It's just rare to see them built today.

Dawn said...

Oh, this makes me very happy! We need more beauty back in the church again. I love their coffee, and I love buying their coffee because I know where the money is going. I wish all of my purchases were as rewarding. Thanks for sharing these pics! Do you know if we non-monks will be able to see/tour there when it is built?

God bless,

Early Riser said...

Blackrep - while I think your comments border on cynicism, I too share a skepticism in the wake of the St John scandal. I think the lesson is that predators can target any group, especially those who are already "beaten down" and looking for hope, so to speak. In the case of the Society of St John, I sincerely feel their founders saw an exploitable niche (remember, they came from the SSPX originally) within the greater Catholic community and saw them/us as easy prey, since traditional Catholics so eager to help out any order/society/church which appears to be championing orthodoxy and tradition.

I think it is great that these "new" Carmelites are aspiring to such displays ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. I also hope they will earn such accomodations which will glorify God and lead more faithful to prayer and contemplation. And like you, I am also in a wait and see mode.

FYI - I buy their coffee/collectibles for all my Christmas gifts. It couldn't be more convenient (and it really is good coffee). Another good Christmas gift idea is to buy soap/lotion products from the Dominican sisters of Summit, NJ

Dave Pawlak said...

I think these men are of a different caliber than the SSJ, for a variety of reasons...

1) They are planning for their community alone, and not some grandiose scheme

2) The founder, AFAIK, is of good reputation.

3) These men perform manual labor, something that could not be said of the SSJ...

Early Riser said...

Dave - I would agree that I am cautiously optimistic here, and your assessment of both groups is accurate.

Personally, I am wary of ANYONE, lay or cleric, who comes from the SSPX. Not saying they can't have a Pauline change of heart, but we must remember that at some point they DID make the conscious decision to leave the church, regardless of their reasoning. So, from the fact that their reasoning was flawed on a MAJOR issue to begin with gives us somewhat of a baseline to their decision-making, character and what we might have to expect/look-out for moving forward.

Sam Williams said...

Whether the monks "deserve" this or not I'll leae others to decide. But what an awesome design! Could any of us have imagined 50, 30, or even 10 years ago that this sort of commission could be real? Something more than wishful thinking in an architectural history class? Bravo to the architects and the monks!

Early Riser said...

Sam - do you ever wonder if the period between 1970 and 2007 will be seen as the "2nd Dark-Ages" ecclesially speaking?

Paul said...

Early Riser,
How then do you feel about the FSSP? Many of the priests in that group were also Pius X...

Lee Gilbert said...

This sounds much more like a Benedictine or Carthusian endeavor, since Carmelites are contemplatives at home, but go out to preach the gospel. What exactly is the relation of these men to the Carmelite order?

My understanding is that this site is so remote and high that the monks have to learn how to ride horses in order to be able to get to it. If that is the case, how realistic is this project?

Secondly, in a more or less robust economy selling Mystic Monk coffee makes sense, since people would buy luxuries. But in a depression? We do not have, and are not likely to have for decades the kind of economy necessary to support this endeavor as robustly as the plan requires.

When Boniface Wimmer, OSB came to this country circa 1875, he spent the next 25 yrs setting up 25 monasteries- now the American Cassinese Congregation. There was no talk of building one monastery to last a 1000 yrs. He had vocations and set up monasteries. If they've had 500 inquiries, that sounds like they could do something similar, but not if they are locked into building anything so grand.

At one point their master plan showed space for a Carmelite convent of nuns on one corner of their property. Sounds great! But Carmelite nuns are a mendicant order and need a nearby community of faithful Catholics to support them with donations.

WrinnMom said...

I think it's wonderful. I know a young man who just entered this past July. God always hears the Carmelites because of their devotion to His Mother. I have no fears that this will be successful. Deo Gratias!

Early Riser said...

Paul, that's a bit tricky. I suppose I should have qualified my statement, saying I am wary and look on with initial suspicion of anyone who was part of SSPX POST schism. The SSPX PRE schism was formed under the best of intentions. IMHO, had its founder been a bigger man with a lesser ego, things would not have turned out the way they did (then again, nor would the majority of the SSPX adherents be so vicious and choleric). Most of the FSSP I know (and I know many; we even attend a chapel) left the SSPX before or immediately after Lefevre's excommunication in 1988. And also IMHO these people exercised the BEST of judgement and had the BEST of intentions (may God reward them for their trials).

I would like to add one thing; it's extremely telling and laughible to me that Lefevre was excomunicated IMMEDIATELY for ordaining bishops, while ultra-modernist Milingo MARRIED in a MOONIE ceremony and yet JP II still kept him on. What does this say about the last pope?

Anonymous said...

It's about time we see this type of building being built. When I think of religious orders that are faithful to Rome, I think of this type of architecture they should live in. Plus, it shows the glory of the Church.

nazareth priest said...

Lee Gilbert: I'm with you.
God will make this endeavour prosper, according to His Will.
But the Carmelite charism (St. Teresa of Avila was adverse to this kind of schema) seems to be of the opposite (according to my understanding, which, may, in fact, be wrong)...time will tell.
We need contemplatives in the Church, of all ranks, of all kinds, of all sizes.
God bless them.

maryclare said...

Dear Lee et al,
Carmelite nuns are not mendicant but contemplative and strictly enclosed. There are some sisters with an active apostolate (Corpus Christi Carmelites and those for the Aged and infirm to name but two).
Like nazareth priest says we need the contemplatives ... love the monastery design but it needs toning down a bit...see Carthusians in Vermont for example. Just as holy but not as expesive to build. Just a thought.
Maryclare :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Be. To. God.

SarahL said...

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous and fitting.

Greg said...

It's exciting to hear of this community's growth and what they are about to do. It's also wonderful to hear about all of the vocation inquiries. However, as we should all know, when it comes to religious life, many are called but few are chosen.

Roderick Alvernaz said...

To Blackrep, Early Riser, Dave, and others,
You've all made valid points, and with Christian charity!

What is it they say about the test of time?

I have reread the article and made mental note of the word "schematic". In my own words I take this to mean 'a pipe dream' or 'if we had all the funding we would need to build whatever we would like...'. It is good to have an idea in place, a point from which to start. This schematic is their starting point.

I think there are some excellent examples of newly built (or soon to be built) structures that draw on the past, while also making it just a little contemporary. They are the recently completed chapel at Thomas Aquinas College in California. And the finalized plans (and current fund raising drive) of the Norbertine Canons, of St. Michael's, for a new Abbey, church, and school, also in California. (now these are guys who have stood the test of time, have grown by leaps and bounds, and are solid and orthodox!).

I wish these Carmelites every blessing in all their endeavors. We should always support, prayerfully and financially, our religious -but not blindly (SSJs a case in point). The Carmelites have shown good business sense in their coffee products, and the endeavor seems to be pulling in a profit -this should encourage us to invest in them financially, but prudently. They have a fine beginning.

Early Riser said...

Roderick - that was a really great post. I actually chuckled from your schematic = pipe-dream commentary. As someone who has worked in software for 10+ years I can say you really aren't far from the truth : )

And yes, I think it's a nice goal for them to work for. And thanks for mentioning the Norbertines. I'd never heard of them before, but will look them up next time I'm in Southern California.

Martin said...

Just a note: schematic design does not equal pipe dream. It is the standard procedure for any architectural design project. It's phase one of the design process. It would be the same terminology for anything an architect designs, be it a store or house or school. The monks are serious about starting construction soon.

Roderick Alvernaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gosh, now even Carmelite Friars can be called "monks". Monachus: one, single, alone. how's about we get those designations correct? These are friars...not monks. Yes, it's that important.

Roderick Alvernaz said...

Early Riser, Do visit the Norbertines the next time you are in Southern California -the liturgy (Office and Mass) is beautiful.

I just took a look at their website and was sad to read that Fr. Szanto had died last month. I had not seen him in about 20 years. He was one of the original 7 founders from Hungary, and he had been a dear friend. Even without seeing him for so many years, this news still hurts.
Fr. Hubert S. Szanto

Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord,
And let perpetual Light shine upon him,
May he rest in peace.
A friend,

Roderick Alvernaz said...

Martin, I reread my earlier post (8:54) and I am sorry; I did not mean to sound so flippant. The schematic is the first part of the standard procedures in any architectural design project; The rendition of an idea, capturing it and translating it to paper.

And I have no doubt as to the earnest desire of the Carmelites to move forward through the next phases in the design process, and then, finally, on to construction as soon as possible.

I have followed this foundation with interest since I first heard of them a couple of years ago. I, again, wish them every blessing in all their endeavors.

Elli Davis said...

The schematic drawings of the planed monastery building complex look really interesting. The idea seems to be truly daring considering that there is only 20 monks trying to raise many for such a big project. Who knows, sometimes dreams come true.

Irenaeus said...

Seems to me that if people live the monastic life, they should be called monks (or nuns). These people, from what I've read, seem to qualify. And no, they are not anchorites (hermits), living alone, but cenobites, living in community in the tradition of Pachomius, Basil and Benedict. So they are monks and should be identified by their lifestyle, not their name.

anonymous ' said...

Monk - monastic
Friar - mendicant
Wyoming Carmeilte Monks - Monastic, not mendicant, monks, not friars

Anonymous said...

Being a former Disclaced Carmelite nun and now Carmelite hermit nun. It is true that Father Daniel is reproducing a male version of the cloistered Teresian Carmelite nuns which would make them monks given their strict enclosure.

How ever St Teresa explicitly said to her nuns is that if they ever were to build grandiose houses, she prayed it would fall on them and kill them all! LOL.

This schematic looks like a Carthusian Charterhouse from Europe and is not at all typical of Carmelite monasteries which tend to be much more simple.

I hope Father Daniel has the wisdom to heed Our Holy Mothers words.

PattyinCT said...

We have a wonderful group of Franciscan Friars (ha! I didn't have to use "monks';) who have been established in our Diocese for about 15 years now. They started their community here in a rental house (which has an estimated 3 bedrooms in it?) and then, through much prayer, they were donated land. They built their chapel and their living quarters through CT potatoes...Rocks dug right from the property. It's beautiful, and many of the local families were involved in volunteer work through the process. I just think that if God wants a Castle to dwell, He will give whatever means necessary to get Her done! It's akin to the Sidney Poitier film "Lillies of the Field"..."Build me a chapel!" from the German Mother Superior (I highly recommend it for those who might enjoy a light movie:)

Blue Franciscan said...

Mother Teresa had it right - never live above the standards of the people you are serving. If you live among the poor, you are to live in a similar dwelling. Who else in Wyoming lives in a castle? Kinda reminds me of the lavish trappings in Hanceville, built around the cult of Mother A. Thankfully, the monks do not have a superior with such a public profile. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And then, sadly, like the Society of St. John, many are scandalized. Someone in an earlier post made a valid point - Carmelites are not mendicants. However, they should still avoid the outward appearance of wanting for nothing. "True Poverty isn't poverty unless you feel it..."

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