Written and photographed by Ann Hattes
A twenty minute drive from Ogden, Utah, and just east of Eden in Huntsville, population 649, I discovered the Trappist-Cistercian monastery, the Abbey of the Holy Trinity. Here twenty-two monks, ranging in age from 59 to 82, lead a dedicated life of prayer for this desperately needy world, following the injunction of Apostle Paul: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:18).
Monastic life is built around seven daily religious services beginning at 3:30 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m. The reception room and chapel are open to the public with visitors invited to attend any of the services of worship. For men wishing to spend a day or two or three at this spiritual oasis high in the Wasatch mountains the monastery operates a retreat house open to anyone over twenty, Catholic or not. There is no set fee but a free will offering according to one’s means is requested. Women wishing to make retreats may use the family guest house when it is not in use by relatives of the monks.
For income this community of monks has raised beef cattle and hay on their 1800 acres but their main industry is producing creamed honey for sale to visitors. “The decrees of the Lord are…sweeter…than honey from the comb….” (Psalm 19:10).
I found this soft, smooth spread of finely crystallized honey irresistible because it doesn’t run everywhere like liquid honey (though that is sold here too). Expecting only natural, I was overwhelmed by the choice of 14 flavors made by blending pure honey with nuts, dried fruit, fresh spice and natural flavorings. I mentally went over my gift list for special occasions as I picked out fruit flavors like apricot, orange, raspberry and strawberry, plus a toasted almond and even a maple and brandy. I understand why the Christmas rush here begins in September when they begin filling mail orders from all over the country.
In 1947 Trappist monks from Kentucky erected this Quonset hut monastery as a temporary solution until a permanent structure could be built. Now after 58 years, architectural plans have been prepared for a new monastery and guesthouse to replace the aging Quonsets and a campaign has begun to raise the necessary 8.5 million dollars.
By their labor on the farm and in the monastery workplaces, the monks strive to earn a living and to help the needy, “so that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11).
Huntsville remains its sleepy self, little changed since the main events of the 2002 Olympics, the Men’s and Women’s downhill and super G competitions were held here at Snowbasin, a 33-mile drive from Salt Lake City. A Sun Valley Resort, Snowbasin receives 400 inches of snow a year. Hiking and mountain biking are popular in non-snow season.
I found Huntsville an undiscovered mountain haven, a Utah Shangri-la, and an inspiring way to reinvigorate my faith. The Trappist monks set an example through their life of community with each other and life of personal commitment to God. With 70% of the nutrients in hay in the leaf, they can lose $5,000 in an afternoon shower so, as the adage goes, they make hay while the sun shines! And whereas 40 years ago they hand loaded some 50,000 bales of hay by hand, they now have a $100,000 machine that lets one man replicate all that physical labor.
They are aging now and no young prospective members have joined their community in recent years. How then can they take on a campaign to raise $8.5 million for new buildings? Trusting to God’s providential care that He wants them to be in Utah, a source of blessings for all the people in the area, they take their inspiration from St. Francis.
Brother Leo asked Brother Francis when he was well on his way to sainthood, “Francis, what is the way?”
Francis, a saint to be, answered simply, “There is no way. Jump!”
Abbey of the Holy Trinity
1250 South 9500 East
Huntsville, Utah 84317
3925 East Snowbasin Road
Huntsville, UT 84317
Although the monks no longer sell their fabulous Monastery Whole Wheat Bread the monk who was the baker has developed a recipe for homemakers who wish to bake their own wheat bread from the monastery recipe. Sweetened with Holy Trinity Abbey liquid honey, this wheat bread is delicious.
Here is the recipe (makes two large loaves). The ratio of whole wheat and white flour may adjusted somewhat to suit individual preferences.
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
* 3 cups water
* 2 packages active dry yeast
* ¼ cup Trinity Abbey liquid honey (or light brown sugar or molasses)
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 cups white bread flour or all purpose white flour
* 6 cups unsifted whole wheat flour (more or less)
1. In saucepan, heat water to 100°F. Stir in honey. Pour into mixer bowl; sprinkle yeast over warm water/honey and stir in. Wait for bubbles to appear.
2. Thoroughly mix in 2 cups white flour with spoon until smooth. Let mixture rest for half hour in warm place; mixture will foam.
3. Using mixer or spoon, slowly mix in 1 cup whole wheat flour. Add olive oil and salt. Continue adding whole wheat flour until dough reaches right consistency (just slightly sticky). Check consistency with clean, dry hands. If too dry, add a few drops of water. If too wet, add a little more whole wheat flour.
4. Knead dough for ten minutes on floured surface. Place dough in large greased bowl. Turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place (85°F) until doubled in size (about an hour).
5. Knock down dough by pushing fist into center. Fold outer edges into the hole and push fist into center again. Repeat this knock down two times more. Turn dough upside down and shape into round ball. Divide in two loaves and place in greased pans, 9¼ x 5¼ x 2¾”. (Optional:) Brush top with oil or soft butter for darker crust.
6. Final rise and baking. Cover pans and return them to a warm place for second rise. Preheat oven to 350°F. Let loaves rise until pans are almost entirely filled with dough (less than one hour). Bake in middle of oven at 350 for 35–40 minutes.
Turn baked loaves out of pans onto cooling rack. Enjoy!
I was lucky to live in SLC for three years in the middle nineties, and even luckier to have discovered the Abbey after running in a 5K nearby. Their creamed honey became a staple, and after I’d moved away I continued the habit with a poor substitute from Trader Joe’s. When TJ’s recently discontinued this item, I again sought out the monks, this time online, only to find them retired and the Abbey closed. But not forgotten!