The Resident Community of Desert House of Prayer strives for a balance between work and prayer and seeks to model for our guests the possibility of a liturgical, contemplative community thriving on silence and the grace of God. Since the primary purpose of Desert House of Prayer is to foster a life of contemplative prayer for the individual, we observe silence throughout each day except at the evening meal and in worship. Our guests may expect only a limited experience of community. Time spent at Desert House provides the following components:
The chapel at the Desert House of Prayer bears the title “Our Lady of Solitude” as a constant reminder that Mary could not have attained that most distinctive of all Christian vocations, Hearer of the Word, without silence.
“Only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear.” —Pieper
We gather for communal praying of the Psalms (Liturgy of the Hours) every day except Friday. We celebrate Community Eucharist (Mass) every day except Saturday. Much of the tone and spirit of Desert House of Prayer is conveyed in these settings. Sunday is particularly festive as it marks the Day of the Lord while remembering and anticipating the feast of Christ’s resurrection.
Each day except Friday and Sunday contains two periods of communal Centering Prayer, wherein the participants develop, through practice, an awareness of the presence of God. Each month, from September through June, there is a three-day Contemplative Prayer Retreat with four Centering Prayer periods per day. These retreats begin on the Monday after the second Sunday. There is one exception: Holy Week is the designated time for the retreat during the month in which Holy Week falls.
Reading and Personal Study
The Thomas Merton Library contains 7,000 volumes, mostly on Scripture, spirituality, biography, and theology. A considerable number of Merton’s works and associated writings are housed in the library’s east wing. Teachers of the contemplative life are also well represented in our video and audio collections. Contemplative writers, pastors, educators, and others find Desert House of Prayer and its library to be a supportive resource for their research and study.
“There is no one now living who sees with his/her own eyes the great illusion in which we walk and the blindness we suffer.” —St. Teresa of Avila
Two or three trained spiritual directors are available for individuals discerning the path or optimal perspective for their lives.
A variety of physical work on the premises, both indoors and outdoors, is available for those who desire it. As a means of contributing to the well-being of the community and to their own experience of integration, long-term guests often choose a personal work project on the grounds, in the kitchen, or in the library, or assume an active role at Liturgies. We try, as far as possible, to match our guests interests with our concrete need.
Each day’s schedule offers opportunities, but not obligations, for worship and prayer. Guests participate according to their interests and needs to whatever degree they find helpful.
• Centering Prayer
• Morning Prayer
• Community Eucharist (except on Fridays, when it is in the afternoon)
• Social Justice Forum (Tuesdays)
• Centering Prayer
• Evening Prayer
• Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Compline (Saturdays)
On Fridays, our “hermit day,” the only public worship is Community Eucharist.