Monasteries have hosted and opened their doors to all types of travelers all over the world for centuries. Benedictine monks are known for their hospitality and are happy to welcome visitors to seek and encounter God in these holy places. In St. Benedict’s Rule, the source and guide for monastic life, St. Benedict writes, “Let all guests who present themselves be welcomed like Christ.”
Monasteries are the original bed and breakfasts. A monastery is a place of peace, joy, tranquility and rest for people of all ages, genders, and religions. Many invite visitors to participate in the monastic rule of life, awakening them to the thirst for God innate in all, but found only in the tiny, whispering voice, far from the chaos of modern life. There are hundreds of monasteries and convents in the United States that welcome visitors for a low (or sometimes no) charge, and plenty right within driving distance of Detroit.
Monastery of the Holy Cross, Chicago, IL
The Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago is one such place. It offers a quiet setting for a private or group retreat, or hosting a meeting, conference or workshop. They also offer lodging in their guest house to travelers visiting the area.
Located approximately four miles south of the Loop in the Bridgeport neighborhood, their guesthouse is managed by guestmaster Father Timothy Ferrell. Ferrell says that centuries before the advent of hoteliers in Europe, Benedictine monks offered warmth and hospitality to travelers and pilgrims who came to their door. This spirit lives on in Chicago.
They welcome all who desire to experience the peaceful, prayerful atmosphere of their monastery. Located in a mixed-use residential neighborhood with schools, museums, coffee shops and across the street from the L train, the monastery provides a peaceful oasis in a busy city. Individual guests may reserve a room, and families or other groups may reserve an entire apartment. When guests arrive, they check-in and are given a key.
Visitors will find their rooms or apartments immaculately clean and well-kept with a well equipped kitchen or kitchenette and stocked with plenty of fresh towels, sheets and blankets.
There are no obligations or expectations of guests. However, mass and prayer services at the monastery are open to the public. They ask that all visitors choose attire that is appropriate for a sacred place.
The real selling point of this unique cultural experience is the friendliness and helpfulness of the monks. They do not require payment for staying in the guesthouse and no one is ever turned away because of a lack of means. For those who wish to make a free-will offering or donation for the hospitality and comfort provided by the monks, they recommend $40 per night for retreats and $60 per night for individuals or $100 per night for families or groups for other stays. The generosity of guests who choose to offer more than the recommended amount helps them to cover the expenses of caring for their guesthouse and providing accommodations to all regardless of their current ability to contribute.
Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
If you’re looking to venture out a little further the Holy Cross Monastery, a much-loved, quiet retreat facility in West Park, New York, might be the perfect spot.
Located in a hamlet on the west side of the Hudson River, their property includes breathtaking scenery with walking trails and an outdoor labyrinth. Guestmaster Brother Ephrem Arcement says that inside their monastery, people can relax in their common room or their library or one of many nooks to shift from doing to being. Their daily cycle provides structured opportunities to connect with fellow seekers and monks creating a home away from home with a recently renovated area perfect for artists, writers, scholars and seekers who want to soak up the sacred for weeks at a time.“Extended stay housing includes a kitchenette with a small dining table, as well as a lounge area with a couch and chairs in addition to a private room and a shared bathroom,” says Arcement. “When other guests are in-house, meals will be shared with the community.”
They also provide access to laundry facilities. The suggested donation for extended stays is $500 per week or $1,850 per month.
Arcement says that the suggested donation amounts allow them to pay the monastery staff and their teachers fair wages as well as provide financial assistance to those who cannot afford the full suggested amount. However, everyone is also welcome at Holy Cross Monastery, regardless of ability to pay.
St. Bernard Abbey, Cullman, AL
Guests and visitors are also always welcome to experience the hospitality of the Benedictine monks at St. Bernard Abbey located in Cullman, Alabama. People of all ages and faiths are invited to find here a place of peace, joy and rest.
St. Bernard is a place to seek and encounter God, a mission the monks have committed themselves to for the last 125 years. Set on a sprawling campus surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens with artistic replicas of holy Christian sites, and home to the famous Ave Maria Grotto, visitors will find their time at the Abbey a balm of beauty. From their stunning marble chapel to the painstaking perfection sought in their baking, landscaping, farming, artwork every exposure on the trip will be what one visitor described as “one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
St. Bernard monks offer lodging to pilgrims who are visiting both the Ave Maria Grotto and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, and any pilgrim will soon discover why visitors call it Alabama’s “best kept secret.”
For centuries, monasteries have opened their gates for visitors from all over the world to find respite, peace — to find Christ. And as St. Benedict urged monks to do so many centuries ago, those religious opening their doors will seek to “welcome all guests as Christ himself.” Sounds like a pretty good BnB.