Friday, April 07, 2017

Another 'New' Carmelite Group of Hermits?

Hermits used to find caves
to live in and earned their living
by the work of their hands.

Donation alert.

Fr. Z posted on a new group near Asheville, North Carolina, looking for donations to purchase property to establish a hermitage dedicated to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, following the primitive rule of St. Albert.
By a gift of Divine Providence, we have been led to a 400-acre mountain retreat property in the Blue Ridge Mountains about one hour from Asheville, North Carolina. The owners have desired for 35 years that this place be consecrated to God and have been waiting for religious to realize that. Now, they desire our community of traditional hermits to make this another Mount Carmel for Our Lord and Our Lady. - Hermits
Neither Fr. Z nor the hermit's website identifies any contact person, they say they are Catholic laymen seeking to establish a traditional contemplative community of hermits, and they are asking for a great deal of money to purchase the property.

Untried, untested vocations?

Before you jump on board, I would suggest getting some details.  Is this an offshoot of an existing group?  Are these men all laymen?  Is their no priest?  Are they experienced in religious life?  More importantly, are they authorized by the diocese to ask for donations?  They say they are seeking canonical recognition - which means they do not have it right now.  Is this their own initiative?  Normally a diocesan bishop invites a community to make a foundation, and or, gives permission to establish a group - the website gives no indication of any such approval.

Fr. Z offers no clue as to the identity or the legitimacy of the group save for revealing he received the news in an email.  There is not even a link to the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

There are groups of traditional Carmelite Hermits in the U.S. already: Minnesota, Wyoming and Texas.  They all have diocesan approval, each is asking for donations to build, and at least one is safely under the umbrella of O. Carm. authority.  Which means, a new Bishop is less likely to dissolve a contemplative community/association of the faithful of diocesan right because they are too traditional.

I recall a friend of mine who established a monastic group for men.  He had years of experience as a monk.  He is a priest.  He was invited by the Bishop of the diocese to form a traditional community - and he did so publicly.  He had everything in place.  His community is doing well.  He asks for donations, but he does so transparently and with the approval of the local ordinary.  Everything is in order.

Make sure you know who and what you are supporting.  Before donating, I would suggest contacting the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.




14 comments:

  1. I always find the topic of new communities interesting. It is always a struggle and often failure is the result. Many are fringe groups with more then a little concern as to orthodoxy. Some are cults which manipulate their members. Then again every once in a while a sincere, stable group emerges. I wonder why with all the struggling existing communities new ones are necessary. Anyway, like I said I find the process interesting.

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    1. Forming a group can happen and does happen - some even persevere and grow. This one seems to be putting the cart before the horse.

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  2. Very wise post Terry.

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    1. Hopefully just common sense.

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  3. I thought Pope Francis (or at least the appropriate office of the Vatican under him) issued some directives making it much more difficult to establish new local religious communities without Vatican approval?

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    1. That was my understanding as well.

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    2. I don't have the exact references off the top of my head, but there had already been a rule that bishops wanting to start local communities needed to consult the Holy See. I believe Pope Francis made it so that now there is a consequence if bishop fails to do this, namely that the community is not established validly. However, the requirement is (and had been) simply that the bishop "consult" Rome--not that he actually take their advice! So I wouldn't say the Pope Francis made it "much more difficult" to create new communities. He was basically just enforcing the laws we already had.

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  4. Terry, thank you for this post - I'm in the Charlotte Diocese. I have always wondered why these new orders don't start out renting a cheap old house or condo in town while they see how things go. Why do they always seem to want to start out with expensive and overly luxurious "resort" property? Who WOULDN'T want to live on 400 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains an hour from Asheville? (Maybe I should start an "order" of my own.)

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    1. I know. I looked up the property and surrounding area - beautiful! No record found for the Carmelite hermits however.

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  5. Good point Robin. Many a community did start in cheap rentals and even barns! It is not a good sign to desire such luxury. If the owner wanted the property to have a religious use why not donate? I am reminded of the Wisconsin White Trappists who got into printer ink refill business made lots a quick cash bought an air plane and went bankrupt. The three or four members went their separate ways. God does not always help these ventures to prosper.

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  6. I agree that this is suspicious. I reached out to a friend in Charlotte. He said he knows of the group and they are "good guys." My concern is, how does a group of laymen form themselves in carmelite spirituality? It seems to me that they should go live with a carmelite community for a long period to be imbued with an authentic Carmelite Spirituality, and then go and start their own community. This is what happened in Norcia. The ones who started it were monks already, formed in another monastery for many years. Then they went and founded a new monastery. It seems to me that a group of men going to the mountains to do "self formation" is a recipe for disaster.

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  7. So many great comments by all. Great post.

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  8. Perhaps in charity you should contact Fr. Z and ask him why he recommended the group. It's not his first rodeo, he's been a constant Catholic presence online for many years. Something he passes along is much more substantial, I should think, than a recommendation from the fringe (like Charlie Johnston).

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    1. He is usually aware of what I post from him when I link within the post.

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Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.