Do you find yourself giving and giving to others only to find you have no time or energy to answer your own soul's deepest longings? Does it feel like something is dying inside of you for lack of nourishment? Or perhaps you wonder why, even though you are successful at what you do, you feel a growing emptiness inside. Or perhaps none of these apply and you simply want to feed your already healthy relationship with God. In any case, a retreat is for you!
A retreat is an invaluable part of our spiritual live. Most spiritual directors would encourage those under their direction to go on retreat at least once a year. It is a time set apart from the normal course of our daily lives when we can delve deeper into our spiritual life; a time to increase our self knowledge and to nurture our love affair with God. Since we cannot give what we do not have, a retreat is far from selfish. It is self-giving so that we might be better vehicles of God's love in the world. So take a retreat. You deserve it, and God desires it.
Frequently asked questions about retreats:
- I've never been on a retreat before. What can I expect? It is probably best to expect the unexpected! Because a retreat is an exploration into our relationship with God, every retreat will be unique, since every relationship is unique. Often people expect too much of themselves or their retreat. A retreat will not give us all the answers, but it may lead us to asking better questions. Most people find the experience of a retreat to be refreshing and rejuvenating, and that it gives them renewed strength and joy to enter back into the business of everyday life.
- How should I prepare for a retreat? The best preparation is to come with an open heart and an open mind, and let the Spirit lead where it will! It is good if, while you are on retreat, you can sever ties as much as possible with all of the things that occupy your ordinary life. This may even mean limiting contact with family and friends, and leaving your "business" at home. Jealously guard your right to withdraw for a time from the concerns that usually fill your time. (You may wish to leave your cell phone at home, or to use it only to check for messages.)
- How long do retreats last? Most people come for a week, but two weeks is ideal. You are welcome to stay for as long as a month. If you desire to stay longer please see below for our sabbatical program. At Holy Hill we also offer "A Day Away" program for those who can only come for a day retreat.
- What is a "non-directed retreat"? Many retreat centers offer an array of directed retreats. At these types of retreats you would generally have a number of topical conferences or talks, guided meditation periods, and a fairly structured schedule of your time. We offer a few of these types of retreats, but for the most part the retreats we offer are "non-directed." That is, you are free to schedule your time, your study, your prayer and so forth as your own soul needs. The Holy Spirit is your Retreat Director!
- Will I receive any direction in my non-directed retreat? Every guest who comes is assigned a monk as a host. This monk will meet with you when you arrive and discuss with you any questions you may have and offer sugestions as to how to make the most of your retreat. At Holy Hill regular spiritual direction is available to retreatants for a small additional fee. The sacrament of reconcilliation is always available to retreatants as long as a priest is in residence.
- What is a hermitage like? Each hermitage is a self contained "house" with a bedroom area, cooking facilities, refrigerator, bathroom, and sitting area. They vary in size from about 300 square feet to 400 square feet. We have designed them to be simple, beautiful, and homey--not institutional!
- Should I bring my own food? We provide the food for your retreat. Each hermitage is stocked with grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, bread and other items like coffee, tea, sugar, etc. There are also canned goods for those who have difficulty cooking from "scratch." You may also help yourself from our well-stocked communal kitchen. If you have special dietary needs you may want to bring some of your own food.
- What is your daily schedule? Our schedule varies slightly from week to week and between the two houses. Each month has three "regular weeks" and one "solitude week." During regular weeks we would have weekday masses at least three times, and of course Sunday mass. We would also have lauds or vespers (morning and evening prayer) on many days. Mondays of every week are "desert days" when we have no communal services. Tuesdays tend to be quiet days as well. On Saturday evenings we have compline, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and a time for adoration. During solitude weeks we have no communal prayer or liturgy between Sunday mass and compline the following Saturday. After Sunday mass we have a festive breakfast to which all retreatants are invited. This is the only meal we have in common during the week, and we want to enjoy it with you.
- Can I come during a solitude week? Certainly. But for your first time you may want to come during a regular week to ease into the routine of retreat.
- I'm not Catholic, can I still come on retreat? We welcome anyone of any faith, or no faith at all. The need for retreat is a basic human need regardless of religious affiliation. Many of our retreatants are not Catholic, and yet feel very much at home with us.
- Can I come to the communal prayer and liturgy of the monastery? Except on very rare occasions all of our communal liturgies and times of prayer are open to retreatants.
- Do I have to come? We encourage anyone so inclined to join us in prayer and liturgy, but you are absolutely free to do as you wish.
- What other facilities are available? In addition to your hermitage and the chapel, each center has a well stocked library, a common community building, beautiful hiking areas, and especially in Ireland, beautifully landscaped gardens. See each house's retreat section for additional information, and for a brief description of amenities in the local area.
- Is there a phone I can use? Yes. While there are no phones in the hermitages, each retreat center has a phone you are welcome to use. If you are calling long distance you may wish to use a calling card or leave a small donation. Cell phone coverage is good in Ireland, but can be spotty in Crestone. You may use the main telephone number listed in the contact information for each house as a contact number in case people need to reach you while you are on retreat.
- Is there internet access? At Nada we have recently installed broadband internet access and wireless internet is now available in our main community building, Agape. You are welcome to bring your laptop to check e-mail via the wireless internet, or you may plug it into an available ethernet cable. Because broadband is not yet available at Holy Hill Hermitage we are, unfortunately, not able at this time to offer internet access as our computers are in "cloistered" areas. If you have a laptop you may plug it into the common phone jack to check e-mail. (Because these also serve as our main phone lines, we would ask that you keep internet use to a minimum.)
- How about handicapped accessibility? Unfortunately neither of our retreat centers are well adapted for accessibility. We hope to remedy this in the future. Let us know what difficulties you may anticipate and we will make every effort to accomodate you.
- Can I bring my pet? On rare occasions this may be possible. But we strongly discourage it as we have our own pets and there are often conflicts with "newcomers." Please do check with us before bringing your pet.
- How do I schedule a retreat? Please check the retreat section of each center's home page as the process varies a bit between the houses.
- How much does it cost? The suggested rate for Holy Hill is 65 euros per night, 375 euros per week, 1200 euros per month for sabbaticals. Nada is $60 for the first night, $55 for each additional night. Costs for married couples sharing a hermitage are less.
- Why do you require a non-refundable deposit? Because people usually plan a retreat well in advance, it is nearly impossible for us to fill a hermitage on short notice should there be a last minute cancellation. The deposit ensures a bit of income for us, as the running of the retreat center is a major source of our funding.
- If I cannot afford a retreat is there something we can work out? We never wish for anyone to miss out on the experience of a retreat for lack of funds. If you cannot afford the fee, or only part of it, let us know and we will try to work out a "working retreat" for you. We ask work retreatants to contribute 3-4 hours a day to the work of the monastery during their stay. Because retreat income is one of the main ways we support ourselves, space for working retreatants is limited. Please contact us about availability.
- I would like to share a hermitage with my spouse, is that possible? Each center has at least one hermitage set up for couples. The cost per night is less than for two hermitages.
- I want to come but I'm a little scared.... Perhaps the least helpful thing on a retreat is anxiety! When you come we want you to relax, and to make our home your home. If there is anything we can do to help relieve your fears, please let us know.
A sabbatical differs from a retreat in several ways. While a retreat is something a person might take once or twice a year, a sabbatical is far less frequent, but of much longer duration. Sabbaticals are wonderful opportunities to really plumb the depths of one's spiritual life in a way that a shorter retreat cannot provide. Sabbaticals are especially important for those people who spend most of their personal or professional lives serving others and seldom are given the time or opportunity for their own spiritual development. Left unchecked this can quickly lead to "burn-out."
Both Holy Hill Hermitage and Nada Hermitage are uniquely suited for those who want sabbatical time which they can structure themselves to suit their soul's deepest needs. Whether you are looking for a place to rekindle your spiritual life, or write a book, or simply to rest, a sabbatical experience in one of our hermitages may be just what you need.
Sabbaticals generally last a minimum of one month and a maximum of six. If you have not been on retreat with us before, we would request a letter of referral from your professional or religious superior. Special financial considerations are made for those who come on sabbaticals. Please contact either Holy Hill or Nada directly if you would like to come on sabbatical.