Whether it’s the crisp Colorado air or sipping a cool beverage by the poolside, there’s something special about summer.
Counting down the days until it’s safe to wear shorts is a yearly tradition here in Colorado, and though it sometimes comes later than expected, it doesn’t get much better than summers in the Rocky Mountains. Of course, with summer comes plans for vacations and relaxation, but as most Catholics know (or ought to, anyways), it can also be a great time for prayer and contemplation.
Denver Catholics are very fortunate in that Colorado is home to a number of beautiful and holy retreat sites that are, relatively speaking, just a stone’s throw away. Going on a spiritual retreat is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend time in gratitude for God’s many blessings, as well as in prayerful reflection and discernment of his plan for our individual lives.
Consider escaping to one of these retreat sites for a day or two this summer, either alone or with a group, and experience the peace and clarity only a spiritual retreat can bring.
Jesus Our Hope Hermitage
Located on South Dear Creek Road in Littleton, Jesus Our Hope Hermitage serves as an escape for those who find God’s solace in nature.
Founded in the early ‘90s by Father Roger Mollision, Jesus Our Hope started as a few prayer huts located on a plot of land purchased by Father Mollison. However, through the years and under the care of several religious orders, Jesus Our Hope is now 62 acres of rugged woodland with a quaint cabin nestled in the midst of it.
The four bedroom, three-bathroom cabin features a full kitchen, and is able to accommodate up to 10 people overnight. Additionally, there is a conference room that can hold up to 20 people for a day retreat. Both individual and group retreats are welcome. The location is devoid from all modern technological distractions, making it an ideal setting to be alone with the Lord; literally so, as the cabin also has an adoration chapel within it.
“What makes the place so precious is that there is a chapel with the presence of the Blessed Sacrament,” said Father Nathanael Pujos, superior for the Community of the Beatitudes. Father Pujos and the Community of the Beatitudes are the current caretakers of Jesus Our Hope Hermitage.
There is also a prayer garden located on the grounds, and the Community of the Beatitudes are able to offer private Masses, confession and spiritual guidance to retreatants. Jesus Our Hope also offers guided day retreats, called Come and Rest, which is a day of silence organized by the Community of the Beatitudes.
Mother Cabrini Shrine
Overlooking the entrance to the I-70 corridor, Mother Cabrini Shrine is one of Colorado’s most beloved and popular retreat sites.
St. Frances Cabrini, more commonly known as Mother Cabrini. frequented Colorado in the early 1900s. She would visit Italian workers and their families in several of the mining districts of the Rocky Mountains. During her stays, she became fond of a property on the east slope of Lookout Mountain owned by the town of Golden. In 1910, she purchased the property and planted the seed for what is now Mother Cabrini Shrine.
What started as a summer camp for girls of Queen of Heaven Orphanage has become the fulfillment of Mother Cabrini’s vision for the property when she wrote, “I can envision many small chapels here where many pilgrims will come to pray.”
Mother Cabrini Shrine is home to a variety of facilities that make it a great retreat spot for the summer, including a beautiful chapel and the famous Stone House. The site can comfortably accommodate up to 28 people overnight and twice that for a day retreat.
It also boasts a number of famous landmarks, such as the 22-foot Sacred Heart of Jesus statue that was carved and erected in 1954, the 373-step Stairway of Prayer leading up to the statue, or the seemingly endless running spring of fresh, Rocky Mountain water, which retreatants are welcome to drink from.
Ignatian Spiritual Retreat
The Ignatian Spiritual Retreat program was started in 2004 by Father Stephen Yavorsky as an outreach of Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colo. Their mission is to make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola available to all and help to guide people through them.
“The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises grew out of St. Ignatius’ own conversion experience, and their purpose is to lead a person to true spiritual freedom in Christ,” said Paul Sapienza, Director of the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver.
These retreats are now an official ministry of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, though they maintain a close relationship with the retreat directors at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House and see their work as complementary.
Ignatian Spiritual Retreats are offered from September to May. Though some of the retreats take place in various locations in the Denver area, Sapienza said going away to a different location is not a requirement for these particular retreats.
“A retreat is simply a focused period of withdrawal for prayer, usually, but not always, under a director,” she said. “Our program serves people in the course of their daily lives, which means our retreatants pray while living at home and engaging in their everyday work and family commitments.”
There are several different types of retreats the program offers that differ in intensity: mornings and evenings of prayer, days of prayer, five-week retreats and spiritual exercises in everyday life.
Mornings and Evenings of Prayer serve as an introduction to the Ignatian spiritual exercises, and are recommended for people who are new to the idea. These retreats offer guided prayer experiences utilizing the Ignatian spiritual exercises and generally last one to two hours.
Days of Prayer is a day-long retreat that invite retreatants to pray, reflect and share with others how God is living and playing an active role in their own individual lives. Retreat directors give presentations and offer suggestions for prayer based on the Ignatian spiritual exercises.
Five-Week Retreats consist of daily prayer and reflection grounded in the spiritual exercises. Retreatants attend weekly group meetings and are encouraged to share their prayer experiences with others, while retreat directors offer spiritual direction and prayer exercises for the following week.
Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) is the most comprehensive and intense retreat experience the program offers. Retreatants are given spiritual exercises to practice in their ongoing, everyday lives in a regimented manner. They are asked to devote on hour to prayer daily, have daily periods of reflection, keep a journal documenting their prayer experiences and meet weekly with a spiritual director.
This retreat takes place over the course of seven to nine months, and because of its intensity, retreatants are required to fill out an application and must have had prior experience in spiritual direction.