Desert House Of Prayer

Desert House of Prayer
Cortaro, Arizona
Desert House of Prayer is a center for Contemplative prayer in the Christian, Catholic tradition. Located on thirty-one acres of Sonoran Desert outside Tucson, Arizona, Desert House of Prayer, founded in 1974, is a place and community committed to silence. Surrounded by three mountain ranges, the natural beauty of terrain evokes an awareness of God’s grandeur. The conditions are ideal for fruitful solitude, in which “all things find their just emphasis.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Desert House of Prayer is a contemplative community that offers intentional hospitality to those who seek prayerful silence and solitude for reflection, discernment, renewal, or healing, and to draw closer to God. We feel that God and the desert do enough work in the heart that we do not need to offer workshops, programs, or seminars. We do offer a clear structure of daily worship and prayer that individuals may take advantage of to whatever degree they desire. One purpose of the structure is to allow time and space for paying attention to how God is working within as well as around us. We can also provide spiritual direction and massage for healing of body, mind, and spirit.

Desert House of Prayer comprises several buildings, each one opening directly onto the desert: four hermitages and ten rooms with separate entrances and private baths; a chapel, a library, and a central dining area. The accommodations are named after the saints of the mystical tradition (Francis, Teresa, Juan de la Cruz, etc.) and suggest the spirit of the same by simple works of art and décor. Each space is revered as a silent area except during times designated for conversation.


Centering Prayer Intensive Retreats

Each month there are three days set aside for Centering Prayer Retreats. Our regular schedule is modified during these days to allow for more times of Centering Prayer and to offer instructional and reflective videos each afternoon following lunch.
There are four sessions of Centering Prayer on each day. We observe complete silence during the retreat.

Hermitage and Self-Directed Retreats

Each person designs a schedule to fit individual needs and goals. All the community exercises including meals are optional. In addition each hermitage is equipped with a small microwave and refrigerator.

Staff Directed Retreats

Members of the staff are available to lead private, guided retreats if a person so desires. Each retreat is tailored to the needs and goals of the individual retreatant.


Peace and Justice Awareness

One evening a week, issues relating to peace and justice throughout the world are presented and discussed. To date, we have faced and discussed the marginalization of people within the Church and society. We seek to be sensitized to the poor and disenfranchised all over the world. Lectures, videos and guest presenters working in the field of social justice broaden our awareness of and awaken our compassion to the needs of global community.

Silence: A Most Necessary Gift

If you love to listen you will gain knowledge and, if you pay attention you will become wise. (Sirach 6:33)

As staff at Desert House of Prayer, we meet regularly to evaluate the past seven days and to anticipate the coming weeks. In the course of these meetings we frequently refer to the gift and value of silence in our lives. We are agreed that silence, both external and internal, is essential to our ministry and its purpose, so we strive for balance between necessary communication and a quest for quiet.

We acknowledge that an emphasis on deep listening and on inner and outer silence does not come naturally to all people. We invite each of you, our guests, to join us in cultivating a rich silence. Any of us may find ourselves challenged by this. We might address this challenge in the spirit of Sirach 19:10: “Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Be brave, it will not make you burst!”

As a community we are vigilant about preserving the silence for our retreat guests and for anyone who ventures onto the property. None of us has laryngitis; we just whisper a lot. Strange as it may sound, silence is important to our hospitality. Our welcome extends primarily to those, like you, who have come here to be in retreat.


Vatican II called Catholics to think positively about those religions other than our own. At Desert House of Prayer, we are likely at any one time to have guests besides Catholics: Protestants, Jews, Orthodox, those with no formal religious tradition as well as those of the various Eastern mystical religions. Coming to know these people (and their inherent goodness) and being together with them in prayer is our most natural way at Desert House of being ecumenical.


Living in harmony with all creation is brought to one’s awareness in the fragile desert landscape, filled as it is with a variety of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants. Because those who come here engage in prayer, they often sharpen their awareness of God’s presence in nature. Consequently, the whole world of nature becomes very dear to them and they are ready to take seriously what they must do to keep from destroying it. Paths and hiking trails, as well as the clear desert night skies, compel awe of God.


An important component of the Desert House experience, music engages the emotions and heightens the appreciation of beauty in all its expressions.

Music leads to the threshold of repentance, of unbearable realization of our own vanity and frailty and of the terrible relevance of God. (Rabbi Heschel)

Singing at liturgy celebrates and deepens the unity of the assembled believers in praise. A carefully selected collection of classical recordings enhances the contemplative dimension during silent meals.


Artists feel welcome here and have contributed to the collection of paintings, sculptures, icons, mosaics, and photographs on display throughout the property. In the words of the Vatican Council II,

The fine arts are rightly classed among the noblest activities of human genius…of their nature, the arts are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God.

Hermit Day

Each Friday is observed as “Hermit Day.” In complete silence and modified fasting, we commemorate the passion and death of Christ and do so in solidarity with workers for justice and peace and with victims of injustice.

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