My grandparents used to run St. Raphael’s Retreat House in Evergreen, Colorado, for The Church of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal Church where my dear Granddad was an associate minister and my Grandmom played the organ and directed the choir. My mom, dad, brother, sister, and I lived 90 minutes away in Colorado Springs and we often spent weekends and holidays in Evergreen. I loved visiting St. Raphael’s. The 100-year-old house had originally been a tavern in this tiny mountain town and, later on, was a retreat house run by nuns. My siblings and cousins and I would play hide-and-seek for hours, exploring all the nooks and crannies of this creaky, old house. We’d wade in the creek across the road, go sledding on the hill behind the house, or explore the patch of woods perched on a rocky cliff, and then come inside for cookies and hot chocolate with Grandmom. Often, there’d be a guest or two there, staying in whatever rooms we hadn’t taken over. We kids never thought it strange that strangers were living in Grandmom and Granddad’s house and, apparently, these retreat-goers never complained that they had to share the space with a bunch of rowdy kids. Everyone simply seemed like part of the same big, wacky family (which probably has a lot to do with the way my Grandmom treats everyone with the same no-nonsense, fierce kind of compassion – as if we’re all her kids).
Though my memories are precious to me, I’ve never thought much about the significance of my partly growing up in a retreat house until I started to co-create an intentional spiritual community in Brooklyn. My roommates and I are fortunate to have a beautiful townhome in Crown Heights, complete with a backyard where we can grow food, and a dedicated sacred space, dubbed The Temple. The Temple sees a fairly steady stream of guests, both overnight as well as simply for one of our Sunday afternoon retreats, a time for group meditative practices. This is a special time for our growing community as we share silence and connect over anything that seems to be arising in our lives. We don’t share a common religion or set of beliefs, but it feels like a meaningful space to individually and collectively take a breath, heal, deepen, and expand.
We’ve not yet landed on a name for our community, but on our Splitwise account, we have used The House of Healing as a label for our group. All of us are healers and are committed to sharing our healing with others and with the earth. It doesn’t feel like quite the right name; we need something a little more… I don’t know… grounded? But, I did have a dream about St. Raphael’s last night and, on a whim, and full of memories, I looked up the archangel today. Guess what?
Raphael is the patron saint of healers.