Monday, July 23, 2007

The Monastic Life

~from the Salt Lake Tribune

OUTSIDERS ARE GENERALLY FORBIDDEN to enter the walls of this cloistered monastery, but reporter Jessica Ravitz and photographer Paul Fraughton were invited inside. Though the monks spend most of their days, outside of Mass, in silence, this observance was lifted for the occasion.

CLARK, Wyo. -- The goodbye was bid not just to people he adored, but to a life he'd be leaving forever.

Nicholas Maroney embraced his weeping mother and grandmother, told them he loved them, then turned to his future. Three times he knocked on the wooden gate and listened as the small community assembled in the yard on the other side. As the gate opened, he stepped across the spiritual A rare visit with the Carmelite monks threshold.

Dressed in a dark suit and shiny black shoes, both of which he'd wear only once more in his lifetime, he knelt before his new family. Father Prior, as his superior would be known, handed Maroney a crucifix and offered a blessing: "May the passion of Christ strengthen you."

The young man kissed the Lord's feet, held tight to the crucifix and rose to follow the others in procession and praise, just as the gate shut behind him. As he walked across the lawn, awash in melody, joy and the Litany of Our Lady, his mother's sobs hung in the air.

"They knew I'd never leave these walls again," he explained recently, remembering that moment nearly three years ago. "But for me, this was an answer to so many prayers."

Brother Simon Mary, as the 23-year-old monk has been known ever since, had come home.

Beneath the Beartooth Mountains, off a dirt road only a few miles south of the Montana border, sits Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a monastery for The Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. The cloistered community, home to seven monks (as of early July), was founded in 2003 as an answer to young men's prayers.

"Because I'm on the younger side, I'm very in tune with what the young want. They're looking for what's authentic," says Father Prior, or Father Daniel Mary, 39, who conceived of the monastery (for entering monks between ages 18 and 30) with the support of Bishop David L. Ricken of the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne. "If you're going to follow Christ, you have to go over the top. They don't want to be half-worldly and half-monk."


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