by Tom Farmer
Special to The Leaven
LEAVENWORTH — There’s nothing better than getting away for long hikes in open, quiet spaces to declutter your head and make room for more important things.
For the past 15 to 20 years, quality hiking experiences for me have meant lengthy journeys to campgrounds in Colorado or to the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas. The only problem with these beautiful locales is the requisite looooooong drive.
Soon after moving back to the KC metro about 2-1/2 years ago, my wife and I read about a hidden gem in Leavenworth County, a central location for nearly all residents of the archdiocese.
We learned that Christ’s Peace House of Prayer was a short jaunt from our home in south Olathe, and it offered all that we were seeking and then some, particularly in the spiritual realm.
In desperate need of a spring break getaway at the height of the pandemic early in 2021, Lisa and I reserved a cabin for two nights on a whim, not fully knowing what to expect.
What we discovered were options for a guided retreat, a silent retreat, a self-led retreat, spiritual direction or any combination thereof. We ended up going for a personalized combo, including spiritual direction that met and exceeded our needs.
A relatively short one-hour drive led us to a remote, 220-acre spread of timberland and pastures featuring a nondescript retreat house complete with an open kitchen-dining-library space, single and double guest rooms, a reading parlor, a eucharistic adoration chapel with a windowed wall overlooking hills and trees, and two hosts — Marie and Vince — who want only for visitors to experience the type of getaway they desire and need.
Then there are an additional eight cabins and hermitages spread across the property and connected by well-maintained trails ensuring easy access and plenty of privacy. All accommodations are super simple, sparsely furnished and clean with all basic needs covered.
Among the highlights of our stay were the reverent and beautiful eucharistic adoration experience in the chapel at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., and our long hikes/walks on the well-marked trails cut into the woods and pastures. Outdoor Stations of the Cross and the occasional simple shrine offered opportunities to reflect and dive deeper into thought and prayer. The longer we were there, the more locked into our faith we became.
And it’s only one hour away!
If you’ve been meaning to catch up on your reading — the Bible, saints’ biographies or even a couple back issues of The Leaven — there’s no better place than Christ’s Peace. If the weather’s nice, grab a glider on the deck that stretches out over the pond. If it’s cold or wet, snuggle up in your rustic room or cabin with a warm drink (always in good supply) and lose yourself in G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas and company.
If food is your pleasure — and you enjoy simpler culinary experiences — you won’t be disappointed. Neither Marie nor Vince is a five-star chef, but they are more than capable of turning out tasty, vegetarian meals ranging from homemade granola, bagels, yogurt and fresh fruit in the morning to hearty vegetable soups, salads, spreads and sandwiches for lunch and dinner.
By the way, the three meals are included in the amazingly low price that ranges from $50/night for a single room to $125/night for two in a cabin (less if you opt out of meals).
And it’s only one hour away!
Sharing a getaway with my wife is one of my favorite things to do, but after that first visit, I was determined to experience a night solo in a sparsely outfitted hermitage deeper into the woods.
That trip became a reality on a cold and quiet Thursday night in early November. I was the only visitor on the premises, which made the trails and facilities my own personal adventure. (Things pick up on the weekends, so if it’s a quieter experience you seek, consider a weeknight stay.)
Being the only visitor meant I had the pleasure of having Vince and Marie join me for lunch replete with casual conversation on a variety of topics. Keep in mind, though, you may choose to eat alone or with others. Marie and Vince are former members of religious orders and have continued their callings as ministers of faith at Christ’s Peace, creating an atmosphere where anyone can grow spiritually, regardless his or her station or phase in life.
If nature is your thing, the property is flush with wildlife, wildflowers, wide-open spaces, and fresh air you cannot breathe in urban and suburban areas. On both of our trips this past year, deer, rabbits and countless birds were in abundance, and we enjoyed the opportunity to pause and appreciate more deeply a few of God’s amazing creatures.
So, if you enjoy the outdoors and the quiet of a secluded cabin or retreat house, or you are simply in need of a spiritual boost (who isn’t?), look into Christ’s Peace House of Prayer (archkck.org/cpp/home) and make a reservation. You just might be surprised at what you discover.
By the way, have I mentioned it’s just an hour or so away?
Finding Peace of Soul
Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. — Feb. 6 at 4:30 p.m.
One of the most important works of Catholic spirituality, “The Spiritual Combat: Treatise on Peace of Soul” by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, will be used as a guide to discover how to live an interior life for and with God. There will be conferences, eucharistic adoration, Mass, confession, and time for private prayer, reflection and walking.
Unbound: Freedom in Christ Retreat
March 4 at 5 p.m. – March 6 at 4:30 p.m.
Start out the Lenten season encountering the Father’s blessing. We all have areas in our lives where we don’t experience freedom. These can be patterns of habitual sin, addictions, negative thoughts, resentments and other forms of spiritual difficulty. You will learn how to unlock your prison doors by using the “Five Keys to Freedom.” The conference involves times of prayer, insightful teaching and personal ministry from the Wichita Unbound ministry team.
The suggested donation for each retreat is $170/single or $250/couples for the cabins and courtyard rooms or $100 for the single guest rooms (meals included). To attend, sign up online at: christspeace.com; send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (913) 773-8255.