If you’re interested in making a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, you have two options. One is to stay at the abbey itself (see here for more information). Another is to stay a mile from the abbey at Bethany Spring, also known as the Merton Institute Retreat Center.
The center offers a variety of programs, most notably Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, which is a tool for spiritual development based on Merton’s writings. While the program is best suited for small groups, it can also be done by individuals. Another popular offering is Thomas Merton and Mary Oliver: Poets of the Sacred. Guests are also welcome to come for a private, self-directed retreat. Even if you stay at Bethany Spring, you can still attend services at the Abbey of Gethsemani and walk its public paths.
The center is set in a lovely landscape of rolling fields and wooded hills. Accommodations are in three private cabins or in a white clapboard house that sleeps nine people.
When I stayed at Bethany Spring, I loved my cozy little cabin overlooking the lake and hills. During my visit, I came across the following passage that was left in its guest book by a previous occupant. It sums up very well what a place like Bethany Spring can do for a person’s soul:
“To all who come here, to anyone reading these words: settle in in your heart and thoughts and allow the peace of this place to touch you. This place has been a sanctuary of prayer, reflection and seeking for those, like me, who have come before you. Now all this, for a time, is entrusted to you—to dwell in your heart and abide with you, then it will be your sacred obligation to pass this love forward to whomever comes next, and to everyone you meet. So I, we, bless you to discover that your true self is what you are seeking, that love and compassion, generosity and joy, are your true nature and lasting gift. Love, A rabbi July 2009
Bethany Spring is at 115 Dee Head Road, New Haven, Kentucky, (800) 886-7275.