A Remnant of Medieval Europe in the Heartland of America: A Clear Creek Abbey Documentary, Part I

Success! The monks have heard the call, and many file in to the church just beyond the enclosure fence.

Welcome to the official beginning of my independent, mini-documentary on Clear Creek Abbey, a remnant of medieval Europe in the heartland of America.

If you like romantic settings, appreciate history, and love deep, reverent prayer of the ancient kind, save your airplane tickets abroad, because France has sent a little slice of its spectacular past straight to the foothills of Oklahoma.

Clear Creek Abbey is a rather new monastic foundation that has emerged directly from the historic French Abbey Notre Dame de Fontgombault, which in turn was a foundation formed by that of Saint Pierre de Solesmes, and thus Clear Creek Abbey is a genuine, verified member of the famous, and very ancient, Benedictine Solesmes Congreation.

As if such a distinguished pedigree was not impressive enough in itself, this new Abbey, nestled in the hills of the Ozarks, lives a life almost entirely unique to this country – and especially this time.

The monks, while dedicated to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, have also left behind the trappings of a modern world – and a modern, secularized, watered-down church.

With permission from their local Bishop, these men (who are surprisingly, for the most part, very young):

  • Celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in the forgotten tongue of Latin
  • Worship God at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the official language of the church
  • Incorporate ancient, neglected traditions into their daily lives and frequent, sacred rituals

In other words, they are the past that never died – a true remnant of medieval Europe hidden in the heart of the USA.

Catching Up Before the Documentation Begins

If you have not already read my last two posts, I strongly recommend doing so now, before proceeding any further.

While they are introductory, and not apart of the main body of documentation, they provide a bit of history on the monastery (click here), and help to set the scene for the remote environment that surrounds it (click here), which I feel is very important to understanding just how secluded these men have chosen to live.

(If you can only read one post, please read the second one here, because it will really help to wrap your mind around the physical remoteness of their private world.)

All caught up?

Great!

You now have all the basic information that you will need to appreciate this mini-documentary so much more.

Arriving at Clear Creek Abbey

You may recall that after our long journey through the Oklahoma countryside, down endless roads that took us farther and farther away from civilization itself, we could finally see just the slightest glimpse of our monastic destination just beyond the leafy sprawl of an aging, protective tree.

Let us pick up where we left off in that last post, and as our car rolls slowly over the gravel, kicking up the tiniest stones and sending dust scattering in its wake, let us now approach, set our feet on solid ground, and see what Clear Creek Abbey has to offer.

Welcome, and remember to click on the panoramic images to appreciate the full view.

~*~

Upon arriving at Clear Creek Abbey, this is one of the very first views of the church, monastery, gift shop, and gatehouse that one sees. (Once past the trees that somewhat hide the view at first. See the very last image in my last post.)

Upon arriving at Clear Creek Abbey, this is one of the very first views of the church, monastery, gift shop, and gatehouse that one sees (once past the trees that somewhat hide the view at first. See the very final image in my last post.)

~*~

Getting just a little closer to the cluster of religious buildings...

Getting just a little closer to the cluster of religious buildings…

~*~

Closer still...

Closer still…at last, we can park!

~*~

Once parked in the gravel lot, a short walk reveals the buildings from a different angle.

~*~

The scaffolding over the main entrance to the church is due to the fact that the church is still under construction. It will one day be much taller, and much larger than what it already is!

~*~

Above is an artist rendering of what the monks at Clear Creek envision their church will one day be. This image is from their official website - please click here to see the image there, and for more information on their project, as well as how you can donate to them.

Above is an artist rendering of what the monks at Clear Creek Abbey envision their church will one day be. This image is from their official website – please click here to see the image there, and for more information on their project, as well as how you can donate to them.

~*~

Hmmm...see that little open gate ahead? Let's go see what is over there...

Hmmm…see that little open gate ahead, at the end of the road? Let’s go see what is over there…

~*~

I guess that answers that! Back to the beaten path we go...

I guess that answers that! Back to the beaten path we go…

~*~

Once last look from the distance, and then lets head back towards the church!

One last look from the distance, and then lets head back towards the church!

~*~

While Clear Creek Abbey is a working monastery, it is also a massive project that is still under construction, and things are still very, very rustic - as shown by this sign.

While Clear Creek Abbey is a working monastery, it is also a massive project that is still under construction, and things are still very, very rustic – as shown by this sign. But do not be dissuaded – rustic can be quite welcoming!

~*~

ClearCreekAbbeyFinalMonastery

While the rustic quaintness is charming now, it will not always be that way. Above is an artists rendering, taken from the official Clear Creek website, showing what they plan their entire complex will one day be. Beautiful! To see the image on their site, and for more information on their plans, click here.

~*~

Simplicity can sometimes be more welcoming than all the fancy signs in the world.

Simplicity can sometimes be more welcoming than all the fancy signs in the world.

~*~

Straight ahead is both the monastery gift shop and the gatehouse. If you have a question, and cannot find someone, just ring the bell there.

Straight ahead is both the monastery gift shop and the gatehouse. If you have a question, and cannot find someone, or if you have reservations to spend the night, just ring the bell there after following the sign here.

~*~

See that tiny little shed-like building over there, between the edge of the church and the tree? That is where they keep the bell that will one day sit atop the steeple that will one day be there. Let's go see if anyone rings it, to call the monks to prayer!

See that tiny little shed-like building over there, between the edge of the church and the tree? That is where they keep the bell that will one day sit atop the much larger church of the future. Let’s go see if anyone rings it, to call the monks to prayer!

~*~

A monk vigorously rings the very large bell, calling all of his brothers to prayer.

A monk vigorously rings the very large bell, calling all of his brothers to prayer.

~*~

The bell itself, hidden behind its temporary scaffolding.

The bell itself, hidden behind its temporary scaffolding.

~*~

Success! The monks have heard the call, and many file in to the church just beyond the enclosure fence.

Success! The monks have heard the call to prayer from the bell, and many file into the church just beyond the enclosure fence. Shall we go in too?

~*~

A simple sign inside the door greets us, reminding us that this is the house of God. A tribute to the fact that Clear Creek Abbey is still a very large work under continuing construction, the quaintness of the sign, taped to the brick wall, seems right at home.

A simple sign inside the door greets us, reminding us that this is the House of God. A tribute to the fact that Clear Creek Abbey is still a very large work under continuing construction, the quaintness of the sign, taped to the brick wall, seems right at home.

~*~

As we enter into the church, what else greets us but STACKS of 1962 missals! Latin Mass heaven, anyone?

As we enter into the church, what else greets us but STACKS of 1962 missals! Latin Mass heaven, anyone?

~*~

Keep in mind that the church is still in its very earliest stages. The roof that you see is temporary - one day, the church will be much higher, and longer too. There is also a lower church beneath this main church as well, which was used until this one was added on top of it.

Keep in mind that the church is still in its very earliest stages. The roof that you see is temporary – one day, the church will be much higher, and longer too. The wall at the very end of the church is also only temporary, and will one day be knocked down when the church is expanded. There is also a lower church beneath this main church, which was used more frequently until this one was added above. We will see more of that later!

~*~

Holiness is for men too! We often put so much focus on how beautiful the ladies look, covered in their mantillas, but holiness in a man is always a blessing to see.

As the people begin to file in for prayer, it must be commented that holiness is for men too! We often put so much focus on how beautiful the ladies look, covered in their mantillas, but holiness in a man is always a blessing to see.

~*~

A monk practices the organ, headphones on his ears so that no one else can hear his music but him.

A monk practices the organ, headphones on his ears, so that no one else can hear his music but him.

~*~

A side chapel dedicated to Mary saves a ray of light for any prayerful penitent that should come its way.

A side chapel dedicated to Mary saves a ray of light for any prayerful penitent that should come its way.

~*~

A monk prays alone in choir, before the altar and under the light.

A monk prays alone in the choir, before the altar and under the light of day.

~*~

Two sisters, visiting Clear Creek Abbey, sit together in prayer.

Two sisters, visiting Clear Creek Abbey, sit together in prayer. Notice the feet, shyly tucked together – so cute!

~*~

While his brothers prepare the external, a monk silently prepares the internal - his heart.

While his brothers prepare the external, a monk silently prepares the internal – his heart.

~*~

Is it almost time? Everyone seems prepared...

Is it almost time? Everyone seems prepared…

~*~

Clear Creek Abbey offers many opportunities for silent, private prayer, as can be seen in some of the images above.

But what is it like to attend communal prayer within these four growing walls, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Latin Mass?

That we will see more of next time, in Part II.

Until then, brush up on your Latin…and if you have never been to the Extraordinary Rite, hang onto your mantillas – it just might get very beautiful around here quite soon!

To be continued…

~*~

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16 Comments on “A Remnant of Medieval Europe in the Heartland of America: A Clear Creek Abbey Documentary, Part I”

  1. Gertrude Says:

    Wonderful photographs, thank you. In 2010 I wrote a piece on this lovely community:
    http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/living-the-liturgy-the-benedictine-monks-of-clear-creek/.
    I am not sure if the video is still available as I recieved it from Benedictine Oblate sources – but feel free to use it.

    Reply

    • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

      Thank you! Yes, their community is beautiful. I went over and read your article, and took a brief look at the video. I have seen that video a few times before on the internet – that is what I would really like to be able to do – something to film and music (with my own approach). Maybe one day – right now I cannot cover the cost to license a two minute trailer. :-) Thank you for sharing that though! God bless you!

      Reply

  2. Me Says:

    Wonderful! It reminds me a bit of the hermitage out this way. This is like our local place but much, much larger! Out Carmelite Monks have a 50 seater chapel. A larger chapel is being funded so 250 can sit in on Mass.

    Reply

    • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

      Thank you! I think I saw that on your site. Small is good too – anything that can be conducive to prayer. :-) There is a small monastery near my home town like that, and it can still make a lovely escape. The only great thing about having a lot of property, like how Clear Creek Abbey does, is that people like me have lots and lots of places to wonder around and get lost, while reading our books and contemplating. :-) God bless you!

      Reply

      • Me Says:

        True, very true! I don’t think I could get lost at the hermitage here, but I didn’t even see half of it, I am sure. They are self sufficient (even raise their own bees), so there must be large bits tucked away in the hills. What I did see was peaceful and I could just wander and pray there all day.

        Reply

        • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

          Wow, bee keepers! Um…yum! :-) Have you ever eaten honey comb? It is the best! Just be careful on your walks…don’t get stung!

          Reply

          • Me Says:

            No, I haven’t but will try it sometime!

            The next I go out there is next month, more frequent visits are not feasible, unfortunately. I hope the group I am taking will want to wander around the massive Stations of the Cross.

          • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

            I hope that you like it if you do!

            Outdoor stations are great. Hopefully they will be willing to spend some time at them, that would be nice for sure!

  3. 8kidsandabusiness Says:

    This makes me sigh. It’s lovely. Thanks,Isabella Rose.

    Reply

    • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

      You are welcome Terry, and thank you. Spending so many hours with these photos, going through them and trying to sort out which to use, brings back the memories – it is something of a “sigh” experience for me too, as I remember what it was like to be there. God bless you!

      Reply

  4. Marc Says:

    That bell must’ve been REALLY loud for the monk to have earmuffs on.

    The picture of the two girls reminds me of my two oldest daughters as recent as this evening at adoration :)

    Reply

    • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

      Yes, that it is. :-) Awww @ the two girls reminding you of your daughters. If they do, your daughters must be very into their faith, as those two girls (who were visiting Clear Creek from another place) seemed really devout. :-)

      Reply

      • Marc Says:

        Put it this way….they’re getting started (rather they got started) FAR better and FAR earlier in this than I did. They really do love it…going to adoration, singing there too, with the choir and other devotions. They are old enough to barely remember the days before we “went Trad” but they (and their younger siblings, of course) don’t know anything but Trad. I just need to stay out of the way.

        Now if you were to insert my youngest daughter into this mix, she would be turned around looking right back at you. She’s got a little work to do on facing forward and would be “hamming it up” for the photographer. :)

        Reply

        • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

          LOL @ the little one hamming it up for the camera. Too cute! She will eventually get the hang of it…at least she is not 80 and turning and staring. :-) I had a much older lady do that at church one day – and she wouldn’t stop staring! I finally couldn’t help it…I pointed to the altar and mouthed, “up there.” I think it is great though that they are able to be introduced to tradition at a young age. I wish I had been!

          Reply

          • Marc Says:

            Your mantilla probably offended her. “We were liberated from that thing in our hair and YOU have the nerve to bring it back!” :)

            Ditto on wishes to have been brought up with Tradition. But all part of the plan for some reason. I look forward to learning, on the other side of eternity, a lot of why’s. Like, what would have happened in my family had we not had a miscarriage or had we not been introduced to the old Mass or this person or that person. Just one friend of ours expanded our friendship to probably at least 6 families. Stuff like that.

          • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

            LOL – you might be right about the mantilla! One never knows. I have certainly had people do worse because I had one on, that is for sure.

            Wow – an answer to the why’s. That is an incredibly perplexing thing. Like a web. One little thing could have led to a million others, and each one of those could have led to a million others, and each one of those could have led to a million others…its mind boggling! It is amazing to think of. :-)

I am glad that you are here, and I would love to know your thoughts! Please leave a comment, and politely join the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you! :)

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