Protection of the Virgin Mary, Lake George CO

This remote women’s monastery is set just beyond the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs. Though there are some neighbors down the graded county road in this remote area, the monastery borders Pike National Forest, which preserves its wilderness feel. Pike’s Peak (at 14,115 ft; the monastery is at about 9,000 ft) is clearly visible to the east, and if one takes US-24 west, one encounters stunning views of some of the highest peaks in the Rockies.


IMG_1190The monastery features comfortable guest rooms, including a nice 1 BR guest apartment attached to the main building, but male pilgrims unaccompanied by a female Orthodox relative will need to seek lodging nearby, or do as I did, pitch a tent and camp in the beautiful woods across the road.

Excerpted from the OCA’s web page for the Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery:

Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery was established with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Tikhon in October of 1993.  The changing demographics of the US led the sisters to feel that the Rocky Mountain region would not only be an area conducive to the life of prayer, but would also be fertile ground in which to plant a monastic community.  The sisterhood, having no funds of their own, first rented a small house in the prairie town of Calhan, located east of Colorado Springs, until they could raise enough material resources for a down payment on a piece of land. The search for a suitable site led the sisters to the mountains west of Pikes Peak where 10.3 acres with a 3000 square foot house was found…  In 1999, an additional 3.5 acres of forest land was added to the monastery.

The Monastic Community is presently very small, however there is ample room in the buildings to house more sisters.  The somewhat rugged life and remote location is better suited to younger, rather than older, women seeking the monastic life.

Having moved onto the permanent site for the monastery in September 1995, the sisters converted the existing building on the property to better suit the needs of a monastery.  The attached garage was remodeled to be a small chapel which has served us well…

The sisters strive to support themselves through mounting icon prints, making prayer ropes, speaking at retreats and conferences, as well as writing and publishing.  Published works to date include “Orthodox Prayer Book”, “Come, Follow Me”, “The Life of St Spiridon”, and “Edler Cleopa:  In the Tradition of St Paisius Velichkovsky”, and “The Tumbled Stone”, a childrens book written and illustrated by Claire Brandenburg.  The Monastery newsletter, “The Veil” is published three times a year.  The number of titles from other authors in the Monastery book/gift shop is growing daily.  A bookstore catalog is available upon request.

The sisters manage to raise a small garden in spite of the 9000’ elevation and short growing season.  Our small flock of hens have brought neighbors to the monastery to purchase fresh eggs.

The Monastery is not on-line, however those interested may contact the nuns…  Mother Cassiana is presently the acting superior. For more info, contact details, and to schedule a visit, see here.

I had a truly blessed stay at Protection for a few days, and enjoyed my remote camping experience – only one rainstorm, with just a very small amount of water penetrating the tent’s shield. Mother Cassiana’s (the Superior) monastic hospitality is generous, her enthusiasm for the desert contagious.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
The new chapel, under construction, seen from the deck on the main house.

Construction of the new monastery chapel is well underway, and I was disappointed not to be able to remain to see the rafters and roof go up. A pair of very dear canine companions guard and entertain the sisterhood, and the hummingbirds amazed me with their precision flying (I soon got sed to them buzzing past my head as I walked past their feeders to the main entrance).

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
The special gravesite for pre-born infants. Each little stone bears a child’s name.

One of the most unique monastic ministries I have yet encountered is found in the Protection’s special cemetery area and the Sisterhood’s intercessory prayers for children who died by either abortion or miscarriage. This deeply moving (and healing) work is a special sign for our age, and bears witness to the Orthodox Church’s traditional affirmation of life beginning at conception. Parents and families are invited to contact the monastery with the names of their departed pre-born children, and if you can visit, you may write the names of these smallest departed innocents on a special stone (quite profound, considering how this practice echoes Rev. 2:17). The Sisterhood maintains the cemetery and the stones very reverently, every quarter cleaning them, re-inscribing the names with an indelible marker, and then applying several coats of varnish to inhibit fading, before re-setting the stones in their special place.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage

Protection of the Virgin Mary has one of the most impressive bookstores I have seen, for a monastery or parish, largely due to the amazing number of out-of-print titles they offer. A broad selection of children’s books, and an extensive range of international titles, balanced with an excellent selection of current Orthodox titles, means one will be hard pressed not to find several “must have” books. Because the monastery does not have its own website or online store, shoppers need to contact the monastery to ask about specific titles or request a catalog. The Sisterhood routinely takes the bookstore to conferences, but welcomes inquiries by phone or mail. I found several out of print titles from St Herman Press I had been looking for on the used market, and urge you to contact Mother Cassiana if you’re having trouble tracking down a specific book.

As I wrote in my blog post introducing and pointing to this Gallery page, there is a certain ‘Fragrance of the Desert’ in these remote monasteries, which goes beyond the heady blend of flora one catches whiffs of on the breeze, and exerts a calming and centering effect on one’s soul. Participating in the cycle of services and the rhythm of life at the monasteries leads to the dual effect of feeling both grounded and prayerful.

I hope these images convey some glimpses of this experience for you…

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