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“Holy wanderlust”—it’s catchy this time of year.

The snow melts, the buds break and people naturally begin making vacation plans. Catholics often combine summer travels with a quick stop at a wayside shrine. A trip to the UP, for instance, might include a visit to Cross in the Woods in Indian River.

But holy wanderlust is something different.

Wanderlust is the deep desire to see new places and things. But holy wanderlust means being deeply drawn, over and again, to places of God’s special presence.

One way to satisfy this longing for the sacred is by making a spiritual retreat to a monastery, convent or retreat house. The reasons for taking quiet time away are many: to better discern God’s will for an important decision, for example, or to heal from a past hurt. Or simply to make a retreat, because God is calling you to make it, reasons to be revealed.

A weekend or weeklong retreat is also humanly satisfying, an intriguing break from the everyday. An adventure. How often do you get to climb a 192-feet bell tower, help build a casket, help feed the monastery goats, spend the night in a hermit’s hut or welcome the morning singing Gregorian chant with a chapel full of Trappist monks?

One option is to merge a retreat with a recreational vacation. (One of my best-remembered vacations: combining an architectural tour of Chicago with Holy Week with the Benedictines.) Another idea is to occasionally go on retreat in place of an often unrestful vacation as a peaceful change of pace.

St. Paul of the Cross Detroit retreat director Father Pat Brennan, CP, has this warm, to-the-point suggestion for would-be retreatants: “Please consider this invitation. Come and experience the wonder and grace and solitude of a retreat. It could change your life.”

To all holy wanderers eager to seek God’s face, here is a sampling of retreat destinations to consider. Go to retreatfinder.com to discover more.

Michigan Retreats:

Manresa Spirituality and Retreat Center

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

The Rouge River meanders through this exceptionally beautiful Jesuit retreat and spirituality center. Its 39 acres include a nature trail, Lourdes grotto and tucked-away shrines as havens for reflection.

The Jesuit fathers offer preached multi-day group conferences throughout the year, some with a special focus, such as 12-step spirituality and spirituality for married couples. They also provide one-on-one guided retreats patterned after St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. Guest rooms are in a Tudor-style former estate house.

“Manresa is my go-to place when I need to feel God’s presence,” says retreatant Dianne S. “It feels like home to me.”

What’s nearby?

Exploring a local cultural attraction often enhances a spiritual retreat. Cranbrook House and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in Bloomfield Hills, is such a place.

Augustine Center

Conway, Michigan

Here is an opportunity to combine your vacation “up north” with a vacation of prayerfulness — what is known quaintly as a praycation.

The Augustine Center retreat complex is located on the grounds of the Sacramentine Sisters convent in Conway. This is prime Michigan vacationland, a few miles north of Petoskey and a quick drive along Little Traverse Bay from Charlevoix.

The cloistered Sisters offer their facility as a “haven for the heart” for groups to host weekend retreats. Download the calendar on the Augustine website and choose the event that works for you. (Some themes: Ignatian spirituality for women, contemplative bicycling.) The Sisters also invite you to “walk, pray and ponder” on a private, self-directed retreat.

St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat & Conference Center

Detroit, Michigan

The Passionists have been presenting retreats to the people of the archdiocese since 1948. They offer programs that change lives: weekend men’s and women’s preached retreats; retreats for men and women in recovery; retreats for married couples. Their 2022-23 retreat season is themed “Becoming Peacemakers.”

Says retreatant Sandy, “Every single talk was speaking to me in some way.” Another guest says, “Once I step into this retreat center, it’s like a renewal experience each year.” And another testifies, with emphasis, “The pot roast — it is magnificent!”

What’s nearby?

St. Paul of the Cross is in far western Detroit. The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village are Dearborn is just a 15-minute drive away.

Maryville Retreat Center

Holly, Michigan

The Franciscan Felician Sisters oversee this 240-acre retreat facility nestled around picturesque Lake Elliot. Private rooms, tidy cottages and a secluded hermitage are choices of lodging. Choose a directed silent retreat of up to six days. Schedule a personal appointment with a certified spiritual director. Time your retreat with the Sister’s faith-building monthly programs.

What’s nearby?

Visit during the Michigan Renaissance Festival, August–October weekends, held near the village of Holly.

Capuchin Retreat Center

Washington, Michigan 48904

The Franciscan friars have chosen “Living the Lord’s Prayer” for the season’s preached retreat theme. Inspiring days of reflection are offered throughout the year.

All 47 rooms of the retreat center have been refurbished yet still maintain their Franciscan simplicity. Private retreats with spiritual direction are especially fruitful for guests who lodge in the secluded Hermitage. Retreatants enjoy wandering the wooded grounds past scenic ponds and peaceful prayer niches. The mission of the center encapsulated: “Enter the silence. Free yourself from the clutter of life. Embrace God’s spiritual healing.”

What’s nearby?

Westview Orchards has a sweet-treat bakery and a winery with a tasting bar in its Cider Barn.

The Hermitage

Three Rivers, Michigan

This ecumenical retreat house offers directed and private retreats in the Christian Reformed tradition for those of all faiths. Retreatants lodge in St. Joseph’s Barn, creatively converted into private rooms. Looking for a hermit-like experience? Co-directors Troy and Faith Bierma provide three rustic cabins without electricity or running water. Guests come together in Christian unity for Morning Prayer in the chapel.

What’s nearby?

Visit the galleries and beaches of the eight resort villages of Lake Michigan’s Harbor Country.

Out-of-State Retreats:

St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The monastery and meditation garden, dating from 1854, are perched on a steep bluff overlooking the Monongahela River and Pittsburgh skyline. The view is outstanding. The Passionist brothers lead men’s and women’s retreats throughout the year and assist with spiritual direction. The brothers have a long tradition of hearing the “fifth step” of recovering addicts.

What’s nearby?

Ride an incline down the bluff to the revitalized Southside neighborhood and light rail transit across the river to downtown’s “Golden Triangle.”

Monastery of the Holy Cross

Chicago, Illinois

This oasis-like monastery is in Bridgeport, a shady residential area within the nation’s third-largest city. Two guest options: Individuals and groups can reserve one of three fully-equipped apartments and take on the city or retreatants can stay in the monastery’s guesthouse and participate in the Benedictines’ daily work and prayer schedule (morning Vigil 3:30 AM!). The monks welcome visitors to the showroom of Abbey Caskets. They are an exclusive distributor.

What’s nearby?

Schedule your retreat when the Tigers are in town to play the White Sox at walking-distance US Cellular Field.

Holy Hill Basilica and National Shrine

Hubertus, Wisconsin

A half-million visitors per year come to the hilltop Marian shrine for day pilgrimages or overnight retreats. The shrine is a spiritual and visual treasure: guests can worship in the basilica with its iconic bell towers, Our Lady’s shrine chapel, the chapel of St. Therese or the chapel in the Old Monastery Inn, an historic fifteen-room guesthouse. Discalced Carmelites friars provide daily Masses, confession, and Eucharistic adoration. 435 serene, wooded acres to wander.

What’s nearby?

Take the auto ferry across Lake Michigan, between Muskegon and Milwaukee, which is only 30 miles from Holy Hill. Relax and avoid the traffic and hassle.

New Melleray Abbey

Peosta, Iowa

Rolling fields of corn and a sky filled with blackbirds. Upon entering the monastery grounds on my own retreat a few years back, I felt like I had entered a van Gogh landscape painting. The 1875 Gothic Revival abbey added to the dream-like impression.

The Trappist monks live a cloistered life of silence and simplicity, work and prayer. As such, they offer mostly self-directed retreats. Guests are welcome to join the monks for Liturgy of the Hours and daily Mass and have full access to the grounds — as long as respectful silence is maintained. Men can choose a more challenging silent retreat in the Monastic Center, participating in the monks’ strict liturgical and work schedules. (They support themselves by making caskets.)

What’s nearby?

The Field of Dreams Movie Site is just down the road. Bring a ball glove, a camera, and a giddy love of movie and sports history.

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Is there a more ruggedly beautiful — and isolated — place to really get away from it all? The Benedictine monks await guests at the end of a 13-mile gravel road that winds along a river canyon. Twisting juniper trees and soaring rock formations surround the adobe abbey filled with Byzantine-style icons. Guests share silent meals with the monks and daily prayers in Gregorian chant. Bring sturdy hiking shoes and a love of starlight and silence.

What’s nearby?

Ojo Caliente, a secluded destination spa, has seven thermal mineral pools framed by red rock cliffs and a restored 1917 hotel.

In closing, another gentle suggestion from Father Brennan.

“Say yes to a retreat. Say yes to the Lord. Let him touch your heart and fill you with hope and new life.”