Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Region Secular Franciscans
covering most of Upstate New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania
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Walt Chura, SFO

Retreat center is on lake front with canoeing and swimming available.

Thomas Merton in the Mountains
10th Annual Retreat in the Adirondacks in September

The 10th Annual Thomas Merton contemplative retreat at Pyramid Life Center in the Adirondack town of Paradox, NY will be held from Friday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Sept. 11 under the direction of Walt Chura, SFO, chair of the Retreats Committee of the International Thomas Merton Society and formation director for St. Bernardine of Siena Fraternity in Loudonville.

The cost of the retreat is $120.00, including room, meals, materials, conferences and full use of PLC facilities.

Information about registration or accommodations for the 10th annual Merton in the Mountains Retreat at Pyramid Life Center is available from Sr. Monica Murphy at 518-585-7545, by e-mail or visit

“This weekend will once again include not only conferences on Merton’s contemplative spirituality, instruction in meditation techniques and intervals of common prayer,” Chura explained, “but we will be guided by Merton’s suggestion of leaving retreatants extended silent periods without organized activity.” He added, “Merton pointed out that we need time ‘simply to get oneself back into one’s right mind.’” For those who are uncomfortable with extended quiet, Chura remarked, Merton taught that “even for those who find silence and solitude oppressive, there is a certain value in just disciplining oneself to be ‘empty’ and to spend time doing nothing . . .”

Surrounded by the wonder of nature, the retreat center is
conducive to prayer and meditation.

Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk who died of accidental electrocution in Bangkok, Thailand in 1968, was a prolific and influential author of works on peace and justice, inter-faith dialogue and literature, as well as on spirituality. “We’ll use him sort of as our ‘Adirondack guide’ to the inner heights and depths of silence and solitude in the wilderness,” he added.

Chura cautioned, however, that the purpose this time of silence and solitude, is, in Merton’s words “not to escape others but to learn how to love and serve them best.” Chura, who co-ordinates a local chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, explained that for Merton, contemplative practice moves one toward a sense of solidarity with others, especially the poor and oppressed. Merton also insisted that fruitful work for peace and justice had to be grounded, as it was, for example for Mahatma Gandhi, in times of silence and solitude. “Without those times,”

Chura said, “peace and justice activism can become frenzied, a kind of inner violence that destroys the very peace one wishes to help create.”

 Stanley Hadsell, a member of the Merton Society, has attended all but two of the previous nine annual retreats and directed the 2004 retreat. Hadsell considers the Adirondack setting of these retreats to be ideal for their purposes. “There is nothing that can prepare you for the power and beauty and the calming effect of Pyramid Lake,” he says. “That long winding driveway into Pyramid Life Center truly is a ‘centering’ experience. The world of distractions is behind you and you can feel the presence of God.”

One of his favorite activities is to take a canoe, a kayak, or a rowboat to the island in the center of the lake. “It’s like the center of the center, like some primeval mystical refuge, thick with its own forest,” Hadsell said, adding, “But even for those who would rather stay ashore, there’s a nice airy porch, a spacious dock, and a path in the woods along the shore that each offer special views of the lake, the island and the mountains. You can also pick up several New York State trails into the woods from the Center.” The early morning fog comes like a prayer, he says. “I guess I love it all,” he concludes with a laugh, “There’s a log chapel, a labyrinth for walking meditation, a waterfall deep in the woods.” Hadsell says the wilderness opens up “your inner land where you can rest and be renewed.”

The “Merton in the Mountains Retreat” is sponsored each year by the Thomas Merton Society of the Capital Region and is open to all. Information of the Merton Society is available from Walt Chura at 518-456-3201 or via email.