Get away to pray this summer

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

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Jesus Our Hope Hermitage was established in the early ’90s by Father Roger Mollision. The cabin is located on 62 acres of land in Littleton and is perfect for the individual who finds clarity by being in God’s creation. (Photo provided)

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.

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Jesus Our Hope features an adoration chapel in the cabin, making it possible for retreatants to be alone with the Lord. (Photo provided)

“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.

Website: http://jesus-our-hope.org
Registration: Request dates at 303-697-7539 or jesusourhoperetreat@gmail.com

Mother Cabrini Shrine

The Sacred Heart of Jesus statues that overlooks I-70 is one of the most iconic landmarks located at Mother Cabrini Shrine. (Photo provided)

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.”

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The Stone House at Mother Cabrini Shrine is perfect for accommodating group retreats. (Photo provided)

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.

Website: http://mothercabrinishrine.org
Registration: 303-526-0758 or visit http://mothercabrinishrine.org/retreat-request

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.

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Ignatian Spiritual Retreats use the spiritual exercises developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola as the basis for their retreats. The exercises are intended to be used in the daily lives of retreatants as a way to draw nearer to the Lord and grow a more fruitful spiritual life. (Photo from Wikicommons)

“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.

Website: http://ignatianspiritualitydenver.org
Registration: 303-320-9995 or ignatianspiritualitydenver@hotmail.com

COMING UP: Spiritual lit for the poolside

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Summer is a time for absorbing—the sun’s rays, the laughter of friends at a barbecue and even a book as you lounge by the poolside. Father Jim Thermos, director of the Spirituality Year of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, encourages people to include spiritual reading in the poolside stack of books.

“Spiritual reading is important because it feeds the soul. The world pushes in on us, but when we do spiritual reading we become reminded again of our relationship with God,” he said.

Not all reading has to be spiritual. However, being sure to include a few spiritual texts can help us to keep our minds and hearts set on things that matter.

“That will naturally lead us to prayer, which is a relationship with our Lord,” Father Thermos said.

Father Thermos recommended the following books for summer reading. He chose a variety of topics and writing styles, in the hopes that everyone can find a title that will interest them.

Photo from Wikicommons.

Photo from Wikicommons.


On the Incarnation
by St. Athanasius

Public domain, available free online or through various publishers

Father Thermos said that this short text is the most theologically dense of the books he’s recommended, but thinks readers will find it worth the effort.

“It’s for someone who wants something to sink their teeth into. You don’t have to have a theology degree to read it,” he said.

St. Athanasius wrote On the Incarnation during the Arian heresy, when many people did not believe that Jesus was truly God and truly man. Instead, they viewed him as a man who had received the spirit of God very well.

“He wrote on why God came, on the Incarnation, in such a brilliant way that it couldn’t be disputed. That’s important for us today because the whole world wants to turn away from the true nature of Jesus as God and Man,” Father Thermos said.

He said that today, it can be easy to assume we “know the story”. St. Athanasius draws out the Trinity’s desire to save humanity.

“It’s refreshing because he’s so clear in his thought, and yet he’s able to speak in the most profound way of Jesus’ saving action,” Father Thermos said. “It’s 80 pages very well-spent.”

Photo from wikicommons.

Photo from wikicommons.


Joan of Arc
by Mark Twain

Public domain, available free online and through various publishers

Mark Twain himself said this was the best thing he ever wrote. Father Thermos said that dedication shines through the novel.

“He was fascinated with Joan of Arc because he thinks she was the most authentic person who ever lived,” Thermos said. “I think his view of the world was sort of jaded, and in his opinion, she was the only person in the world who didn’t do things for selfish reasons.”

Twain spent 12 years researching and writing the novel, even travelling to France to look through her court records. However, the result is not a dry historical tome.

“It’s several hundred pages, but the stories that he tells just have you laugh out loud,” Thermos said. “True to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he’s a true storyteller.”

The book follows Joan from her childhood in a tiny village to her death at the hands of the English. Despite her complete lack of education, after a summons from the Lord, she convinced the king of France to let her lead his armies.

“It’s a completely unrealistic call in every respect,” Father Thermos said. “In the simplicity of one who trusts in God, she moved forward.”

Father Thermos said that he knew nothing of the history of the time, and yet did not find this to be a barrier to enjoying the story.

“It’s beautifully written, tragic, and you just don’t want it to end. By the end of it, Joan will be your friend” Father Thermos said.

Photo from Simon and Schuster.

Photo from Simon and Schuster.


Tattoos on the Heart
by Father Gregory Boyle

Simon & Schuster, $15.00

Father Boyle is a Jesuit from the suburbs. He was sent to projects of Los Angeles to serve gang members. This book is a collection of stories from this ministry.

“He’ll take a theme or a topic, like how God loves us unconditionally, then he’ll go on to describe how in his interaction with one of these young persons, they came to understand their dignity or God’s love for them,” Father Thermos said.

The book is gritty, at times using street language and vulgarity to communicate the nature of lives of the men in the stories.

“He shows their struggles, the fear and brokenness, and how he’s right there with them, not knowing what’s going to happen next. Sometimes the hero of the story will die because of the violent world in which they live, but it’s still laced with hope,” Father Thermos said.

Father Thermos said that this is one of the more emotional books on the list, but thinks his brother priests and anyone who works in ministry could learn from it.

“He’s a priest with his sleeves rolled up. I’m always interested because he’ll start to tell the story and I’ll realize I’d have no idea of what to do,” Father Thermos said. “It’s ironic, because the first book I said was On the Incarnation, and this is God’s incarnational love in action.”

Photo from Beacon Press.

Photo from Beacon Press.


Man’s Search for Meaning
by Victor Frankl

Beacon Press, $19.95

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and a survivor of the Nazi death camps. His book is a treatise on the need for hope.

“He’s undergoing the hardship of being in a concentration camp, and he’s noticing that it’s not the strongest, or even the smartest, who are surviving in the concentration camp. The ones who are surviving are the ones who have found a reason to live,” Father Thermos said.

Frankl concludes that others died less from lack of food or medicine than from a lack of hope. Father Thermos said he often recommends the book to men in the Spirituality Year of the Seminary.

“It just keeps impacting them and how they understand how our life has to have meaning or it has nothing. We have to work to articulate that meaning, otherwise we’re working blindly,” Father Thermos said.

He said that Frankl’s Jewish faith allows the faith perspective to shine through.

“At the center of it is a belief in God,” he said. “He captures it—our search for meaning, our struggle and the remedy for our struggle, which leads us back to the Incarnation.”

Photo from Scepter Publishers.

Photo from Scepter Publishing.


In the School of the Holy Spirit
by Father Jacques Philippe

Scepter Publishing, $9.95

Father Thermos recommended this book as a way to be introduced to the person of the Holy Spirit.

“As the Holy Spirit dwells in us, he brings us many gifts. It’s an awareness—we have to be on the lookout for them, or we miss them,” Father Thermos said.

He said Father Philippe helps show that the greatest thing a Christian can do is be receptive to the divine.

“We like to think it’s doing things, but it’s receiving,” Father Thermos said.

He said that God has planned to pour his Holy Spirit, and for mankind to receive him, since the beginning.

“So this is Father Jacques Philippe explaining how to receive the Holy Spirit, how to receive it in peace and love, and how to receive it well,” Father Thermos said.

He said that this will ultimately lead people into deeper relationship with the Trinity.

“The Holy Spirit wants to bring us to the fullness of life, so that our joy may be complete,” Thermos said. “That’s the delight of welcoming the Holy Spirit as our guest, and joins us to Christ and puts us into deeper relationship with God the father.”