It may be to deal with the grief of losing a loved one, reflect in prayer or to just get away from the maddening rush of our busy society -- silent retreats offer a solace that can only be found in long periods of quiet.
"We have such a noisy culture," says Sister Margaret Rohde, director of Cenacle Retreat Center in Ronkonkoma. "Silence is a way to connect with our deepest self."
The places to go for silent reflection range from a magnificent mansion run by Jesuit priests to a small but homey residence in Mount Sinai hosted by friars.It is best for beginners to do a short-term silent program -- perhaps a few hours -- before a three-day retreat, Sister Margaret advises. While most of the retreats are based in a particular religion, they are open to all.
Huntington resident Jean Kelly, a regular retreat-goer, agrees that a short program at first is best. Kelly has done retreats for as long as three weeks, but more often three or four days. "It's a very blissful state," she says.
Many retreat houses allow anyone on the property to walk the grounds, but to stay overnight or participate in other programs, reservations are required. Silent retreats are often "directed," meaning there is interaction with a spiritual adviser. But most of the day, including meals, are spent in silence.If you're ready to enter a world of no chatter, here are three options:
251 Searingtown Rd., Manhasset
INFO 516-621-8300, inisfada.net
THE SETTING Built in 1916 as a summer home for Nicholas and Genevieve Brady, the 87-room sprawling mansion can be likened to the manor in the PBS show "Downton Abbey." Inside, the stone walls climb to 16-foot fresco ceilings. There are 37 chimneys and three sweeping, ornate stairways. Although the house is up for sale, Evrard says retreats will be offered until June.
ACCOMMODATIONS Guests can stay in a private room with its own bath or a shared bath. Homemade meals are eaten together.
WHAT IT COSTS $250-$330 for weekend retreats
310 Cenacle Rd., Ronkonkoma
INFO 631-588-8366, cenaclesisters.org
THE SETTING The center, which opened its new building in 2011, has 18 nuns living on the property, including one who lives in solitude. The sisters serve as "spiritual directors" for the retreats. There are four hermitages where people can go to pray in solitude.
The feeling of quiet comes upon visitors as they drive up to the retreat house. Among its unique characteristics is a chapel with stunning stained glass windows. The grounds are perfect for a long contemplative walk.
ACCOMMODATIONS Clean and modestly appointed rooms have private baths. Meals (eaten together in silence) are heart-healthy and homemade, such as soups, grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and fruit or homemade pie.
WHAT IT COSTS $210 for two-night retreats (includes meals). Most day retreat programs run from $35 to $50.
Bay Street, Sag Harbor
INFO 631-725-4206, cormaria.org
THE SETTING Opened since 1949 and run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, the retreat house sits on 18 acres on Sag Harbor Bay. Guests can walk along the beach or pray in its chapel on the grounds, says Sister Ann Marino.
On Feb. 1-3, the retreat will hold a program called "Listen to the Snow," described as a contemplative weekend in silence ($180). If you're not ready for a overnight retreat, Cormaria holds a dinner and time for "quiet reflection" evening prayer from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month from now until June. Admission is by donation.
ACCOMMODATIONS Most guests sleep in single rooms with shared adjoining baths (five rooms have private baths). Meals, eaten together in the dining room overlooking the water, can be cereal or French toast for breakfast, soup and salads with cold cuts for lunch, and traditional dinners of meat, vegetables and desserts.
WHAT IT COSTS $185 for most weekend retreats.
There are many retreats which are either nondenominational or are not necessarily held entirely in silence, but where contemplation and prayer are still important.
46 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck
INFO 516-773-0971, bkwsu.org/us/newyork
Part of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, the retreat center is open to the public for day workshops, including meditation and yoga practice. There is no cost for the retreats.
79 County Line Rd. Amityville
INFO 631-822-7979, ext. 3
The nondenominational day retreat center is part of an international organization with more than 500 centers worldwide. It often holds meditation in silence and does not charge as part of its spiritual journey, says Jim Rose.