Get away to pray: Encounter God at one of these retreat places near Denver this summer

Beyond the never-ending debate of whether summer is better than winter or vice versa, there is no doubt that the green, flowers and fauna of the warmer days of the year provide a unique experience for family time, outdoor activities and prayer.

Fortunately, the Archdiocese of Denver has been blessed with numerous retreat sites surrounded by silence and beauty that are available to Denver Catholics. So, consider going on an individual or group retreat to one of these sites and encounter the Creator through the beauty of creation.

Regina Caeli Hermitage

“Soaked with a monastic spirit” and located in a silent valley of western Littleton, the Regina Caeli Hermitage sits amidst the beauty of the Rocky Mountains — and at a convenient distance for Denver residents.

This property welcomes both individuals and groups throughout the year for retreats. Run by the community of the Brothers of Saint John, who follow the footsteps of the Beloved Disciple through prayer, study fraternal charity, and teaching and preaching, the hermitage counts with a big retreat center and two cabins.

The Dome House has 20 beds, eight rooms and a bathroom on each of the three floors, a spacious library that can be used as a conference hall, kitchen, refectory and chapel.

The other two individual cabins, named “Patience” and “Faithfulness,” are for “brave souls,” since, due to their rustic nature, they provide a unique experience for those who wish to “go to the desert” like the first Christian monks. They are equipped with a bed, desk, chapel and wood stove to stay warm during the winter months. Bathrooms and a kitchen are available in the Dome House.

The Brothers of Saint John acquired the property from Father Roger Mollison in 2002, a priest from the Archdiocese of Denver, in order to have a place of retreat for their novices during their required two months of “desert” or silent retreat.

For a calendar of availability and to stay tuned on future retreats organized by the Brothers, visit rchermitage.org.

Mother Cabrini Shrine

Not many dioceses can offer a place where the faithful can walk and reflect in the footsteps of a saint. Here in Denver, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parish offers that and more.

This popular retreat site offers opportunities for group and individual retreats and for overnight or day retreats. The historic three-story Stone House that was commissioned to be built by St. Frances Xavier is available for overnight group retreats. It features 10 bedrooms, 28 twin beds, chapel, sunroom and great room for presentations.

The Hermitage is available for overnight individual retreats or one- to three-people retreats. It gives an experience that is “remote” and “isolated.” It features a great view of the Statue of the Sacred Heart, living room with kitchenette, one bedroom and one bathroom. For people seeking an individual or group day retreat, the shrine also offers opportunities. Groups can book a conference room, a chapel, the Hermitage or the Stone House, and order meals. Individuals can enjoy their self-guided retreat in the quiet and beautiful places, including the prayer garden and the stations of the cross leading up to the 22-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

To book your next retreat, visit mothercabrinishrine.org.

Jesus Our Hope Hermitage

Located on South Creek Road in Littleton, Jesus Our Hope Hermitage is a great place for those looking to find God in silence and nature near the Mile-High City.

The hermitage is directed by the Community of the Beatitudes of Denver, and features four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a full kitchen, a meeting room that can fit up to 20 people and a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament.

Devoid from all modern technological distractions, the hermitage’s 62 acres of rugged woodland allow for a restful and prayerful stay for individuals or groups.

The piece of land on which the hermitage rests was purchased by Father Roger Mollison in the early ‘90s, who dreamed of providing a safe place away from the distractions of daily life where people could encounter God.

The Community of the Beatitudes continues that mission by providing spiritual guidance or private Mass if requested with anticipation and “Come and Rest” days for groups seeking guided reflection.

As the site’s website suggests, “Whether you walk the trails, sit quietly in the gazebo or find a spot [you discovered], the solitude and beauty of nature is a constant reminder of the love God has for this earth, for each of us, and for you in particular. God will speak to you there and you will return to your daily life blessed and renewed.”

Visit jesus-our-hope.org for more information.

Annunciation Heights

Providing one of the most beautiful views of Longs Peak, the Archdiocese of Denver’s new adventure camp, located 10 miles south of Estes Park, rightfully carries the mission of providing a place where people can encounter the Creator through the beauty of creation.

The fun activities and programs offered for kids, families and schools year-round are all directed to this goal. The Summer Camp programs for 4th to 12th graders include activities such as hiking, climbing and zip-lining, along with daily Mass, formation and prayer. While Annunciation Heights is not available for individual retreats, it is possible to book for group retreats for adults or young men, women and other Catholic groups.

Even more, the staff continuously strives to be witnesses of what Christian hospitality should look like. And for those who truly seek to get away, there is no cellphone coverage, which helps to enter into the experience, instead of checking social media or work emails. Wi-Fi, we must say, is available for retreat leaders and emergencies.

Whether you want to send your kid to summer camp or go on retreat with your parish group or your family, Annunciation Heights is a great option. The archdiocese invested in a place to make it available to the faithful — use it!

For more info visit annunciationheights.org

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.