If you’ve never taken a prayer retreat, you are missing a great opportunity to draw closer to God and experience blessing and breakthrough in your spiritual life. I’ve certainly experienced that in my own life, and so I am often on the lookout for new and welcoming places to take a prayer retreat. I’ve enjoyed the hospitality of several Catholic monasteries and retreat centers, thanks to the monastic tradition in Orthodox Christianity. Below is a list of some of the places I have visited and others I hope to visit someday (you don’t have to be Catholic or Orthodox to schedule a retreat at any of them):
1. The Abbey of the Genesee (Piffard, NY)
The Abbey of the Genesee is home to approximately 30 Trappist monks. It is located in the picturesque Genesee River Valley of western New York. The monastic enclosure encompasses about 1,200 acres of forest, ravines, rolling hills and a meandering creek. They provide three houses for retreats: Bethlehem retreat house is ideal for individual silent retreats, while the Bethany and Nazareth houses are used for group retreats.
2. Mepkin Abbey (Moncks Corner, SC)
This silent Cistercian monastery was established in 1949 on the historic Mepkin Plantation on the Cooper River, north of Charleston. It offers silent retreats both short (1-6 nights) and long (30 days). Vegetarian meals are provided. Retreats can be booked online.
3. The Abbey of Gethsemani (Trappist, KY)
Founded December 21, 1848, and made an abbey in 1851, Gethsemani is situated on more than 2000 acres of farmland and considered to be the "mother house" of all Trappist and Trappistine monasteries in the U.S. It is also the oldest monastery in this country that is still in use and is famous as the home of Thomas Merton. They schedule Friday-to-Monday retreats or Monday-to-Friday retreats in their air-conditioned guest house.
4. St. Meinrad Archabbey (St. Meinrad, IN)
St. Meinrad Archabbey in south-central Indiana (near Evansville) was founded in 1854 by monks from the 1000-year-old Swiss abbey of Einsiedeln, where St. Meinrad lived and died. Today, it is a thriving community of 90 or so monks which also includes a seminary (more than a 100 seminarians studying for the priesthood), theological school, publishing house (Abbey Press), gift shop and extensive grounds. The guest house at St. Meinrad is very comfortable and the meals are top notch.
5. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Conyers, GA)
This monastery, begun in 1944 by 21 Trappist monks from the Abbey of Gethsemani (above), offers weekend and Monday-to-Thursday retreats, for which they request a donation of $80-$100 per person, per night. Most rooms have a shared bath.
6. Saint John’s Abbey (Collegeville, MN)
Located in central Minnesota on 2,740 acres of woodlands and lakes, Saint John's Abbey welcomes guests of all faiths and accommodates 12-15 people. Single and double rooms are available ($70/$95 night), as well as suites ($120/night). Group rates are also available. Meals are provided (extra cost). You can also arrange to meet with a spiritual director regularly (usually once a day).
7. The Monastery of Christ in the Desert (Abiquiu, NM)
The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is located in the beautiful Chama Canyon wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, about 75 miles north of Santa Fe. The Benedictine monks there maintain a guesthouse for private retreats where men and women can stay for a minimum of two days and two nights (shorter stays would not help guests enter into the experience). Guests usually stay several days, a week, or even longer (stays of longer than a month require the approval of the abbot). There are nine single and three double rooms for a maximum of 17 people at the main guesthouse. A ranch house also offers three double rooms.
8. St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery (Florence, AZ)
This beautiful monastery, begun by six monks from Greece in 1995, can be enjoyed by non-Orthodox Christians. A dress code (long sleeves, long pants or skirt, head scarves for women) is observed. Separate quarters and meals are provided for men and women.
9. The Abbey of Our Lady of New Clairvaux (Vina, CA)
This monastery is a community of Cistercian monks living the Rule of Saint Benedict. They offer one-day, weekend and week-long retreats, as well as a long-term guest program. It is small, though—only six single guest rooms and two rooms for married couples (each guest room includes a private bathroom).
10. The Monastery of the Redwoods (Whitethorn, CA)
Begun in late 1962 by four Cistercian nuns, The Monastery of the Redwoods is located in a breathtakingly beautiful area of the Lost Coast of northern California. The sisters—not monks—offer their hospitality either from Thursday until Sunday or full week retreats from Monday until Sunday. The meals are vegetarian.
If none of these strikes close to home for you (literally or figuratively), there are many more that can be found using a quick online search. Chances are good that a welcome awaits at a monastery, convent or retreat center near you.