Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
The Carmelite Monks or Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is a cloistered contemplative religious community of diocesan right dedicated to a humble, joy-filled life of prayer. They are known for their loyalty to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and to the ancient traditions of Carmel. Their life includes strict separation from the world and the living of the cloistered Carmelite spirituality and way of life established by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Jesus. In accord with the Carmelite Rule, they engage in manual labor and the study of Carmelite spirituality in the solitude of the mountains, with the firm hope of attaining to Union with God.
Role of Cloistered Monks in Carmel
Pope Francis has recognized the role and importance of cloistered contemplative religious who intercede for the Church in humble prayer. He said, "The contemplative monastic life . . . is rooted in the silence of the cloister; it produces a rich harvest of grace and mercy."
The Carmelite Monks are cloistered Carmelite men who dedicate their lives to prayer and and the pursuit of virtue so as to be a hidden leaven of grace for the Church's mission in the world. Their priests are called choir monks since their entire hidden priesthood is devoted to the following: offering daily the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the chanting of the Divine Office in the choir and pursuing the heights of the mystical life through personal holiness and contemplative prayer. Though they are completely cloistered, they also share the fruits of their solitary lives by hearing confessions and giving spiritual direction to people who may come to the monastery.
As cloistered Carmelites, they are not active friars, but pray for their fellow Carmelites who have that mission. For this reason they do not belong to either the Ancient Observance or Discalced branches of the Carmelite Order. All Carmelites originated as hermit monks, but the main branches of the order have been mendicant friars since the 13th century.
In one of the first works of the Carmelite Order, The Institutions of the First Monks, written near the beginning of the order,  the charism of the Carmelites was laid out as a hidden life of contemplative prayer carried out in the solitary wilderness by a monk. The Carmelite monks follow this same solitary monastic Carmelite charism.
Cloistered Carmelite nuns also consider themselves to be cloistered monastic hermits. Their life and the life of the Carmelite Monks' are similar in that both are cloistered Carmelite contemplatives and follow many of the same customs.
Background of the Community
The Carmelite Monks were founded in 2003 by the authority of Bishop David Ricken, D.D., J.C.L. in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, with Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, M. Carm. as the first and founding Prior of the community.
Fr. Daniel Mary was trained for eleven years in a hermitage of the Ancient Observance and through a close relationship with several houses of cloistered discalced Carmelite Nuns. Fr. Daniel Mary was clothed as a Carmelite by members of the order and lived in vows in a house of the order for many years.
The Carmelite Monks use the suffix M.Carm. to designate membership in their order, which is the abbreviation of the Latin words Monachi Carmeli. This means "Monks of Carmel" in English.
The Carmelite Monks' spirituality and life are based on four pillars that are essential to their identity. The first pillar is filial union with the Blessed Virgin; the second, the Rule of St. Albert; the third, the traditional Carmelite Liturgy, and the fourth, the Carmelite spirituality and monastic inspiration of the way of life of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross.
A young Carmelite Monk, Br. Simon Mary, described his community's charism in this way in a 2008 interview:
Carmelite monks are consecrated to God through the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. Our time is spent in prayer and penance for the salvation of souls, interceding for the Church and the world, as well as in the study of Scripture and the fathers and doctors of the Church . . . Our monks live strict constitutional enclosure -- we don't leave the monastery at all, . . . with[out] permission from the Bishop.
The Carmelite Monks of Wyoming use the traditional Latin liturgy of the Carmelite Rite, which is similar to the Tridentine Mass. The Carmelite Rite, based on the Rite of the Holy Sepulchre, was used by the Ancient Observance branch of the Carmelite Order from the time of the first hermits on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land in the late 12th century, until Vatican II at which time the Carmelites began to celebrate the ordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass. The first Rule of Carmel was given to the Carmelites by Saint Albert of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who in that time was exiled in the city of Acre, Israel, from which place Mount Carmel was visible to the south.
New Mount Carmel
Separation from the world for contemplative prayer is essential to the life of the Carmelite Monks, their monasteries are founded in the mountains to ensure geographical enclosure. In modern times where noise abounds, the monks desire true silence and an atmosphere of natural solitude. The monks explain how the mountains provide this: "In the mountains, often wild and remote, the soul can make a swift journey towards union with God; the beauty of the wilderness alone raises the mind and heart to the Eternal Father who created the things of this world. In the mountains the Carmelite monks will at last be in a place conducive to their life and in keeping with their Holy Rule."
Thus Carmelite Monks have founded the New Mount Carmel, where the original Carmelite charism is being lived in the mountains of Wyoming. This reflects the continual effort of Carmelites throughout the centuries to return to the eremitical life of a hermit in the mountains in imitation of Elijah from the Book of Kings in the Old Testament. The Carmelite Monks are nearing completion of their Gothic monastery in the Rocky Mountains.
Mystic Monk Coffee
The Carmelite Monks are often best known for roasting and selling gourmet coffee under the name Mystic Monk Coffee. Their coffee has won awards from famous coffee reviewers and is known for its small batch quality and freshness.
The Carmelite Monks' Mystic Monk Coffee was established for founding and maintaining the Carmelite Monks' monastery in the mountains of Wyoming. The symbol of Mystic Monk Coffee shows the monk drinking coffee at the New Mount Carmel where the monks are currently building their permanent monastery.
References and notes
- Gregory Cleary, Friar in Catholic Encyclopedia
- Fr. Daniel Mary Schneider
- Dale Vree. An Interview With A Carmelite August 29, 2008. Blog Post. -- Interview with Brother Simon Mary, 24 years old, about his life story and vocation, his thoughts about the monastic life, the nature and goals of the Carmelite Monks, etc.
- The Carmelite Monks use the full Carmelite Rite liturgy according to the printed books existent in 1962. They do not simply use elements taken from the Carmelite Rite, as do the Carmelite Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who experiment with the liturgy according to the needs of their hermits.
- Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
- Book of the First Monks
- Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
- Enclosed religious orders