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Mercy, Mary, and Lodging

Pilgrims to the National Shrine can plan a personal retreat and stay overnight

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The picturesque Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts serve as a prime location for second-home owners searching for solace and enrichment of the mind, body, and soul.

That's why Joseph and Nancy Cannata of Whitefield, NH, come here. But their "second home" — as they call it — isn't a cabin by a lake. Rather, it's a simple room on the idyllic grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA. And the solace and enrichment they seek are by means of a spiritual retreat with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

"It's a wonderful thing being able to stay overnight here," says Nancy, a longtime Divine Mercy devotee. "This is such a prayerful, peaceful, holy place."

For years, visitors to the Shrine have asked the Marians if lodging was available on the grounds. The Marians responded by creating a program of "spiritual renewal opportunities" that include overnight accommodations in the John Paul II Institute. The Institute's rooms have recently been refurbished.

"The people who come have loved it," says Wendy Flynn, receptionist at the National Shrine, who also takes care of room bookings.

Though the guesthouse has no frills, a stay there includes some impressive amenities. Outdoors shrines, a hidden grotto, and gardens encourage prayerful contemplation and meditation. A chapel that's open 24 hours. Holy Mass at least twice daily. Eucharistic adoration. Recitation of the Rosary. Opportunities for confession. Talks and concerts, depending on the week. And being out among nature on more than 350 beautiful acres within the heart of the Berkshires.

In addition, a spiritual director can be provided for support during your stay. And downtown Stockbridge is within walking distance.

Rooms rent for between $45-$65 per night. The guesthouse, open year round, includes six bedrooms, each with two twin beds. There are no televisions in the rooms, no computers, no phones — no distractions.

"You really feel like you're far away from all the hustle and bustle, like you've gone from the ordinary to the divine," says Greg Amaya of Atlanta, GA, who stayed in the guesthouse during a visit to the Shrine in March.

Each of the bedrooms is named after one of the Marians' patrons, including The Divine Mercy, the Blessed Mother, St. Faustina, St. Therese, St. Joseph, and Pope John Paul II.

"My idea is to personalize the experience for our guests," says Fr. David Lord, MIC, Rector of the National Shrine. By naming the rooms, he says, the Marians are "affirming a couple of exciting truths" for the guests.

"One," says Fr. David, "is that we are never alone: The saints, our brothers and sisters in heaven, are on our side interceding for us in a special time like a retreat or spiritual renewal opportunity. And we are increasing devotion to the saints: Each room has a biography of the saint and a picture or statue with prayers so that even after the visit, the heavenly friendship can continue."

The guesthouse also has a communal kitchen, named after St. Martha, and a living room, named the St. Francis Study. Sometimes guests have the whole place to themselves. Sometimes it's a full house of guests who range in age from college students to retirees.

"We've met people here whom we would never have otherwise met, and who are now very close friends," says Judy Bray of Somers, CT. Judy and her husband, Rick, have made the Shrine an important part of their spiritual lives since the 1970s. They come several times a year, including each wedding anniversary.

Rick describes retreats at the National Shrine as an ideal spiritual getaway.

"There are certain places on earth where God chooses to manifest Himself," says Rick. "Lourdes is one of them, and there are others. This place here is among those places. This is holy ground."

Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Judy says "Like our Lord says, 'Come away … and rest a while.'" (6:31)

To book a room, or for more information about accommodations at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, call Wendy Flynn at 413-298-1117. Marian-led retreats are also available upon request.

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