By Virginia Vollmer
Rest, Rejuvenate, Retreat, and Relax: my favorite “R” words, especially during the heat of the summer monsoon season. Another favorite ‘R’ word is Renewal- as in the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale. It is the place I go to for spiritual renewal, mindful rest, and bodily relaxation.
Have you been on the retreat at The Casa (as the Franciscan Renewal Center is lovingly known)? Perhaps you’ve attended Mass there or a class or meeting? No? Let me introduce you to a hidden gem in the Diocese of Phoenix. The Casa de Paz y Bien (The House of Peace and all Good) was founded on a former sheep station in 1951 by the Franciscan Friars specifically as a retreat center. The land of The Casa is nestled in between Camelback and Mummy Mountain. It has expanded from a handful of overnight rooms, meeting rooms, and dining hall to 100 overnight rooms, class rooms, auditorium, pool, and meditation and adoration chapels. The Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in 2017. The design of the church is completely integrated, each element complementing the others: from the bell tower to the brick to the wood carvings to the stained-glass windows. You can take a docent tour to become immersed in the story of the building, and then stay for some prayer time in front of the San Damiano Cross. Within the desert acreage you will find a healing garden, labyrinth, walking paths, and various hidden nooks for prayer and meditation. Don’t miss Our Lady of Guadalupe by the pool with a statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha nearby! How many statues of St. Francis can you find on The Casa grounds?
I’ve been on retreat at The Franciscan Renewal Center many times over the years. Some retreats have deepened my understanding of the Bible. Others have brought me spiritually closer to God. Other retreats have introduced me to Thomas Merton, St. Bonaventure, and of course St. Francis and St. Clare. Did you know the phrase “Peace and All Good” is a greeting of St. Francis? This greeting has been repeated down the centuries by the Franciscan family of priests, nuns, and seculars.
You don’t need to be a retreatant to experience peace and relaxation at The Casa. You can spend an afternoon roaming the grounds. Or discover an inspiring book in the Books and Blessings shop, find a comfortable bench under a tree in the Healing Garden, and, while listening to the birds and fountain, open your new book to the first page. You will also find in the store many different crosses and rosaries, books on saints, the writings of Pope Francis, Bibles, and children’s gifts. They also carry artwork, jewelry, and books by local artisans and authors.
The Casa has become known throughout the Valley as a source for spiritual direction. Spiritual directors are listeners for the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. There are currently 20 spiritual directors participating in this Casa ministry. They give of their time to people who are on retreat. And they also are available to meet with people on a regular basis. They can give you inspiration on your life’s journey with God.