Father William McNamara, Controversial “Earthy Mysticism” Hermit
William McNamara is one of the most influential spiritual writers and mystics of the 21st century. The founder of the Spiritual Life Institute in Crestone, Colorado and Sligo, Ireland, and the author of more than a dozen books on Christian mysticism, McNamara is an elusive, mysterious, controversial figure who has touched the lives of millions, over more than 50 years as a Catholic priest, through retreats, spiritual conferences, personal counseling, books and tapes…..
After an audience with Pope John XXIII in 1960, Abba William McNamara, received permission to risk founding such an institute of spirituality, a “new wineskin” that is at once a return to primitive Carmelite eremitical life and a creative contemporary response to the needs of what he calls a “waist- high culture” whose contemplative vision has atrophied….
Renowned preacher and author of “The Art of Being Human” (1962), “The Human Adventure” (1974) “Mystical Passion” (1977) and “Earthy Mysticism” (1982), Fr. William celebrated 50 years of priesthood at his Holy Hill Hermitage in Skreen, Co. Sligo, Ireland in July 2001. A second Jubilee was celebrated at Nada Hermitage in Crestone, Colorado October 5-7….
In 2001, after celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest at the community’s fourth foundation in Sligo, Ireland, McNamara collapsed and was rushed to the hospital with massive internal bleeding. He received seven units of blood yet the Irish doctors were unable to stop the bleeding. As a result, McNamara was transferred to a hospital in California where doctors were able to insert a shunt and perform what they termed a minor miracle to keep him alive. They gave him less than two years to live.
Two years after McNamara’s prolonged convalescence in the hospital, catastrophe occurred: the spiritual community he founded nearly 40 years earlier began to disintegrate. Factions developed. A new prior took over. Some members, including ordained priests, left the community. McNamara himself resigned as abbot, was allegedly laicized and is no longer publicly associated with the Spiritual Life Institute, which now has only a handful of members (although he still considers himself a member of the order he founded in 1960, the Community of Apostolic Hermits). Long-time members, such as co-founder Mother Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny, also left, founding a new “circle of friends,” the Desert Foundation, to maintain the original Carmelite spirit and ideals. At this writing, McNamara himself — known simply as Abba Willie — lives alone as a hermit in a rugged mountain wilderness in southern Oregon.
Now in his mid-80s and afflicted with numerous life-threatening ailments, he is struggling, alone, to build a new foundation to carry on his unique vision of Christian spiritual life.