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4 Catholic retreats in Europe to recharge your soul

Mount St Joseph Abbey

Mount St Joseph Abbey, Roscrea | Facebook | Fair Use

Christin Parcerisa - published on 12/04/19

Make a spiritual getaway to Europe and stay at an ancient monastery or retreat center.

Having a moment of solitude, an opportunity to recharge the soul, or a time apart to reflect and pray can go hand in hand with discovering a new destination. Europe has multiple options to enjoy a retreat and experience something completely different. Many of these opportunities happen in active monasteries, which adds an exciting and different element to the experience. 

Monasteries are particularly convenient for a retreat — some offer retreat activities and others only offer the space so you can create your own experience — because of the quiet and restful spaces that can be found here, which create the ideal environment to take a break, listen to God, pray and think. On top of this, several of these places are rich in history, which can inspire any visitor looking for a different perspective.

Europe is also a continent with a wealth of churches that travelers can visit during their time before or after the retreat. So a fully-rounded experience of prayer, contemplation and spirituality can be guaranteed in a trip like this one. 

Manresa, the Jesuit Centre of Spirituality

Located in Clontarf, Dublin, this place is close to Dublin’s city center, so visitors are only a few minutes away from restaurants, shops, parks, and other attractions. However, it’s far enough for it to be a sanctuary dedicated to tranquility. The center offers different retreat programs, including one-to-one opportunities for solo travelers. Among their activities you can find spiritual accompaniment and programs dedicated to deepen your faith, courses about spirituality in the workplace, and varied seminars. These retreats can be as long as 30 days or as short as one day. The one-day “Oasis Days” offer an incredible opportunity if you have planned a long trip through Europe and would like to have a quick spiritual getaway to recharge and reconnect through prayer.

Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality

The labyrinth at Manresa

The community house where retreats happen is a destination in and of itself, since it is charged with history that goes back to the 19th century, when it was a house known as Granby Hall, and later as Baymount Castle. In 1948 the Archbishop of Dublin asked the Jesuits to establish a retreat house and this was the place they chose. Retreats began a year afterwards and continue today. Nowadays, the prayer room has an impressive stained glass window, and there is an outdoor labyrinth that visitors are free to use. These two special spaces are ideal for spending some time in solitude to reconnect with your thoughts and emotions, to slow down and to take advantage of the center, away from everyday distractions. 

Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes

This beautiful and historic place in Solesmes, France, is an ancient monastery — more than 1,000 years old — in a privileged location. Set right along the Sarthe River, it has impressive walkways putting visitors in contact with nature, as well as with spectacular sights. The place is only 160 miles from Paris, which makes it a very convenient spot if you’d like to visit the City of Light. 

Abbey of Saint Pierre de Solesmes

The monastery is home to about 80 Benedictine monks known for their beautiful Gregorian chants, which are part of the experience visitors can have. It’s possible to attend the daily prayer where the community joins in the inspiring chant. Aside from the moments of chanting, silence is key in this monastic retreat, which gives visitors a chance to fully step away from distractions and focus on prayer, reflection, and peace. Guests are invited to join the daily schedule, which includes reading, reflection, personal prayer, physical activities, liturgical prayer and Mass attendance. 

Hospitality is a core value for Benedictine monks. The monastery has a guesthouse where each male guest is provided a single room with a sink, sheets and towels. There’s also a chance for men to stay within the monastic enclosure. The guesthouse has a library, a reading room and a small garden; meals are taken with the monks. For women and families there are small houses in Solesmes village, very near the abbey, which include several bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. Guests can stay here from one to seven days and during this time they can organize their own retreat path or they can have the help of a monk to achieve their objectives. Confession can also be requested. 

Mount Saint Joseph Abbey

Medieval ruins surround this impressive abbey in Roscrea, Ireland, which is 45 miles outside of Limerick. Solitude, peace, and quiet are enjoyed in this location, which is in walking distance from woodland areas, waterfalls and large fields, providing visitors with a chance to reconnect with nature. The abbey functions as a dairy farm and as a boarding school for boys, and has a separate guesthouse that accommodates up to 40 people. This place has received guests for over 135 years with the characteristic hospitality of monks who are committed to make their guests welcome.

MOUNT Saint Joseph Abbey
Sean Curtin | Mount Saint Joseph Abbey

Visitors can use their time at the abbey to reflect, far away from the stresses of daily life, and to connect with nature. Those who are looking for an in-depth religious experience can join the community’s prayer activities or have talks with one of the monks of the community. Surrounding the guesthouse, you can find walkways to enjoy the landscape. Inside, all bedrooms are en-suite and there’s an elevator to each floor. Meals are served here, with a self-service breakfast, and set menus for lunch and dinner. For prayer opportunities, all visitors can participate in the Divine Office when monks celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in the Abbey Church, and there’s an optional schedule of prayers displayed in each bedroom, as well as daily community Masses and confessions.     

Monastery of the Virgin of the Olive Grove

Known as the “Monasterio de La Oliva” in Teruel, Spain, this beautiful place was founded in a restored 18th-century building and is still an active monastery with available guest rooms for visitors who are allowed to stay up to eight days. The monastery is in a very tranquil town, but for those looking to discover a little bit more of Spain, the city of Zaragoza is only 80 miles away, a place famous for its architecture, including spectacular churches. Nearby, there’s also the town of Pamplona, and several historic landmarks, such as the town of Sos del Rey Católico. The monastery has become a very popular retreat destination. It has 20 guestrooms and a campsite for those interested in being in contact with nature during their stay. 

Monastery of the Virgin of the Olive Grove

Their objective is providing a space for silence, calm and simplicity so visitors can find themselves, and find God. For those who are interested, it’s possible to participate in the monks’ liturgy, and for in-depth experiences it’s also possible to have the spiritual accompaniment of a monk during the time spent in this place.

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