Pilgrimage to 'the Casa'

I recently made a Holy Week retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, known locally as "the Casa," which is short for La Casa de Paz y Bien. The title is descriptive. Since this was the first retreat I have made in a very long time, I regret to say, I was not sure whether to expect a lot or a little of it and of myself. The place has been important to me for decades, though. In my early twenties, I would bicycle with my friend John along Glendale Ave. onto scenic Lincoln Drive, which runs along the foothills, undulating terrain that makes for an exciting ride, to go to Mass at the Casa. I was not a Catholic then, but I recall how happy it made me to arrive at this small, modern church full of worshipers and to see a throng of children among the congregation invited to sit around the foot of the altar as the priest spoke and, at times, explicitly included them. John and I were accepted and welcomed genuinely, even though we arrived hot and sweaty, wearing shorts and sometimes carrying tennis rackets. In those days, the Casa sat north of the city, beyond the traffic jams, a desert spot of solitude. Its grounds included date palms (still there), gardens (now more profuse), and a natural desertscape of cactus, palo verde and mesquite. Homes did not touch the perimeter of the property then. Years after I moved away from Phoenix I became a Catholic. Yet I have come to the Casa for Mass, at Christmas or Easter at times when visiting family. So others choices of scenic retreat houses by water or on mountaintops had no pull on me. I chose the Casa, an odd homecoming of sorts, where I could count on hospitality, beauty and a landscape that I love. From past walks about that the grounds, I knew there was a labyrinth for ambling prayer, several outdoor ramadas (small arbors providing shade, seating and a table), a swimming pool, not to mention a miniscule adobe prayer chapel that wraps itself around you like a shawl, protects you from the sun and delights you with strips of deeply colored glass. What I wasn’t sure about was the program--two talks each day on Scripture and liturgy by Friars--and who the other retreatants might be. What I was sure of was that I needed quiet and focus and prayer. So I booked it. In my next blog post, I’ll focus on the Triduum celebrations, which made my experience especially powerful. Meanwhile, a question: Have others made an especially meaningful retreat recently? When and where? What were the highlights of the place itself? For all my posts on the Casa, simply click on my name above. Karen Sue Smith
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
10 years 1 month ago
Dear Karen: Your commentary about your experience is not unlike the hundreds we received each year from people who encounter the Casa de Paz y Bien liturgies, retreats and conferences. Reading your story filled me with emotion and humility. I am so blessed to do the work of the people with our Casa volunteers, staff and friars. It is part of our franciscan charism to collaborate our ministry and I witness it intentionally done here. Thank you for sharing to the World about the Franciscan Renewal Center. Certainly unlike anywhere else. The Holy Spirit lingers here on this sacred ground. Charlie Brown, General Manager The Franciscan Renewal Center.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 20. The pope at his "Regina Coeli" announced that he will create 14 new cardinals June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Eleven of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and so have the right to vote in the next conclave.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2018
Images: AP, Wikimedia Commons
Bishop Curry described Teilhard as “one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
Angelo Jesus CantaMay 19, 2018
Both men were close to each other in life, and both are much revered by Pope Francis.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2018
The Gaza Nakba demonstrations this week have done nothing to advance the situation of Palestinian refugees, nor did they provide relief to the people of Gaza, who dwell in an open-air prison, hemmed in and oppressed at every turn.