On Saturday, October 22, I had the privilege of interviewing Fr. John Mary, O. Carm., founder of the Carmelite Hermitage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Earlier that morning he had celebrated a high Mass of the ancient Carmelite rite, in the chapel of the Infant of Prague Monastery, Traverse City, Michigan.
During the interview, Father explained to me that after the Holy Land had been conquered from the Muslims in 1099, the crusader priests celebrated a form of Mass which had developed into a fusion of mostly the Roman rite – about 70% – with the rest taken from the Gallican rite. This form came to be known as the rite of the Holy Sepulchre since it was celebrated in the church over which Emperor Constantine had enshrined the burial site of our Lord, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built in 326.
In the late 12th century, there was then living in Mt. Carmel in Palestine, a group of hermits who had placed themselves under the guidance of the crusader, St. Brocard. Between the years 1206-1214, Brocard asked St. Albert of Jerusalem to draw up for them a rule of religious life. This rule is the Carmelite Rule. Since it was the custom for newly formed religious Orders to use the rite of Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of the diocese in which they existed, the Carmelites adopted the rite celebrated in the Patriarchal church of Jerusalem, the rite of the Holy Sepulchre.
The rite of the Holy Sepulchre was the Mass celebrated by three Orders: the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights Templar, and the Carmelite hermits. With their suppression, this venerable and ancient rite of Mass was lost to the Knights Templar and eventually to the Knights Hospitaller which gradually became a lay association. Only the Carmelites have the grace of holding on to this treasured rite most commonly now known as the Carmelite rite.
The Prioress of the monastery explained to me that it fell to the “calced” Carmelites – more properly called Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, to retain this most venerable of rites. After the Council of Trent, the discalced Carmelites opted for the Westerm Roman rite as codified by the Council, much to the displeasure of St. John of the Cross who had voted against it.
This rite of the Holy Sepulchre was celebrated for the very first time in the Traverse City Carmel by Father John Mary, O.Carm. on October 22. On the 24rd, he celebrated a low Mass. Father made use of the motu propio Summorum Pontificum, issued by Pope Benedict in 2007, to teach himself the rite and to begin celebrating it. He said that with this rite he felt his soul to be “more spiritual fed” than with the New Mass.
Father John Mary has been a priest for 33 years, and is the founder of the Carmelite Hermitage of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. The community has two priests, one deacon, and five Brothers. Their life consists of the spiritual labor of 6-7 hours of prayer with 2 hours of mental prayer, plus manual labor which includes maintaining a garden. Each has his own cell conducive to living the hermitical life. The community is constructing a chapel which Father assured me will be most beautiful. The project is in the hands of the well-known architect, Duncan Stroik who has a reputation for the design of beauty and tradition as the standard for architecture worthy of God. The new chapel will most certainly be the perfect setting for offering the ancient rite of Carmel by future spiritual warrior priests, burning with holy zeal for the restoration of all things in Christ! Father said that it will be the younger generation that will “lift up the Church!”
This is a rendition of their future chapel:
Should you feel inspired to help the work of these Carmelites, your donation would be most appreciated! Here is a link to their donations page> Carmelite Hermits.
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8249 de Montreville Trail
Lake Elmo, MN 55042-9545
As the Carmelites say, “God reward your charity!
It was an inestimable grace to have been able to assist at the very first two Masses celebrated in the rite of the Holy Sepulchre at the Infant of Prague Monastery. At the beginning of the High Mass, I almost expected to hear the manly baritone chant of crusader monks, but instead we heard the angelic voices of the Sisters! Praise be Jesus Christ! It was beautiful!