Friday, December 05, 2008

Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

I was very pleased to see in this month's issue of Columbia a rather large write-up praising the Carmelite monastery of Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wyoming, Diocese of Cheyenne. The article also had a brief discussion about the Rite of the Holy Sepluchre, which to my knowledge is only used by this particular group of monks and is also known as the Carmelite Rite.

If St. Louis is known as the Rome of the Midwest, perhaps Wyoming needs to be known as the Rome of the Wild West. The establishment of the monastery can be traced to Bishop David Ricken, a bishop personally ordained by John Paul II who wanted to be on the forefront of the "new evangelization." While we may have unhappy associations with that favored JP2 term, Bishop Ricken thankfully interpreted it in a very practical and orthodox way. Instead of closing parishes and appointing more lay ministers, Bishop Ricken rightfully saw that the key to true renewal began with prayer, and he set out to establish a monastery in his diocese. He says, "I knew I wanted a contemplative monastery of monks or nuns- or both - in daily prayer for the support of the diocese."

The diocese at large has enthusiastically embraced the monks and has received many blessings from them -- Father Daniel Mary, founder of the monastery, says that many people write letters testifying to answered prayers through the monks' intercession.

The constitution of the foundation is based upon the guidelines of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. The monks are divided up into choir monks and lay brothers. There is daily Mass, along with the traditional eight hours of the Divine Office, and as mentioned above, the liturgy used is the Carmelite Rite (Rite of the Holy Sepulchre). The Rite was once used by the Hospitallers, Templars, and orders associated with the patriarchate of Jerusalem during the Crusades. The Carmelite Rite has many unique aspects to it: the absence of liturgical colours, the sparing use of altar candles (one at low Mass, none on the altar itself at high Mass but only acolytes' torches, even these being extinguished during part of the Mass, four torches and one candle in choir for Tenebræ); incense is also used rarely and with noteworthy restrictions; the Blessing at the end of the Mass is only permitted where the custom of the country requires it; passing before the tabernacle, the brethren must make a profound inclination, not a genuflexion. The calendar retains many feasts proper to the Holy Land, like some early bishops of Jerusalem, and feasts of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even Lazarus.

Further elements: The altar remains covered until the priest and ministers are ready to begin, when the acolytes then roll back the cover; likewise before the end of the Mass they cover the altar again. On great feasts the Introit is said three times, i.e. it is repeated both before and after the Gloria Patri; besides the Epistle and Gospel there is a lesson or prophecy to be recited by an acolyte. At the Lavabo the priest leaves the altar for the piscina where he says that psalm, or else Veni Creator Spiritus or Deus misereatur. Likewise after the first ablution he goes to the piscina to wash his fingers. During the Canon of the Mass the deacon moves a fan to keep the flies away, a custom still in use in Sicily and elsewhere. At the word fregit in the form of consecration, the priest, according to the Ordinal of 1312 and later rubrics, makes a movement as if breaking the host.

One aspect of the Rite I particularly like is that after the Pater Noster, a Deus venerunt genies is sung for the restoration of the Holy Land. Reminds me of the old prayers for the Holy Roman Emperor in the Canon of the Mass.

It is no wonder that the Diocese of Cheyenne is being blessed by the presence of this community! Of course, as you can imagine, vocations are blossoming. Father Daniel says that the community has a large waiting list due to lack of space. Currently there are 40 men waiting to discern entry into the community, and he receives 150 new inquiries every year. The monastery is seeking to purchase more land on nearby Carter Mountain, which was once owned by the famous convert Buffalo Bill Cody.

Of course, this is the same diocese that brought in Wyoming Catholic College, also as part of Bishop Ricken's plan for evangelization in his diocese. Though Bishop Ricken is no longer there (he has been moved to Green Bay), good things continue to come out of Cheyenne. We should keep an eye on this place!

Check out their website at

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