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Bruce and Ruth Davis lead the Silent Stay Retreat Hermitage in Vacaville. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Features-local

Silence on top of the hill: A place to ‘unplug’ like St. Francis

By From page B5 | May 17, 2014

VACAVILLE — Vacaville resident Bruce Davis has two stories.

First as best-selling author and second, along with his wife, the role of “silent” retreat operator both in Assisi, Italy, and on top of a hill in Vacaville.

The two converge when you add two important people to the mix: St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.

An avid scholar of St. Francis, Davis – who is 64 but professes to feel 35, just published his latest book ,”The Love Letters: Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi Meet Pope Francis,” which is a compilation of fictional letters between the two saints. The basis of the book is a love letter he originally wrote to his wife for Valentine’s Day via his role as a contributing columnist to the Huffington Post.

While Davis wrote the letter to his wife, the letter was portrayed as being from Clare to Francis.

“It’s a little arrogant to pretend I’m St. Francis, so I did it from St. Clare to St. Francis,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter, it’s still a love letter.”

After it was printed in the Huffington Post, one “letter” led to two and then three and finally the book, which was written in the first few weeks of Pope Francis’ selection.

Davis, who has his Ph.D. in psychology, called St. Francis a “troubadour, a hippy of his day” – someone who enjoyed being in nature outside the city walls.

“He gave up the stressful life of the 12th century and dropped out,” Davis said with a chuckle. “It was liked unplugging. St. Francis was inspired by peace and quiet.”

That’s what the Davises’ retreats are all about – “the gifts of silence” and learning to live simply.

The two held the first retreat in Italy 12 years ago – Simple Peace Retreat Hermitage was voted one of the top retreats in Travel & Leisure magazine in 2008 and by CNN in 2011. They still own the Italian retreat, but two years ago they were visiting their children in the Bay Area and discovered the rural Pleasants Valley area of Vacaville and moved.

They established their second retreat, modeled after the first. It’s Silent Stay Retreat Hermitage, a rambling hilltop abode on 25 acres. Davis said that the retreats aren’t “about religion” and added that people of all religions come from many countries for some coveted peace and quiet. Many people who stay are in the middle of a life transition, be it divorce or illness – or there are those who just want a break, Davis said.

“People are so wound up with their story and their stress,” Davis said. “I can talk to someone for an hour but it would be much better for them to have peace and quiet for an hour.

“We’re very happy here in Pleasants Valley. We wanted to create a quiet place and invite people to experience it.”

Along with Davis’ latest book, which is 100 pages and designed to be a slow read, meditative book, he has also written “Hugs & Kisses” with Genny Wright, “The Magical Child Within You,” “The Heart of Healing,” “Monastery Without Walls,” “My Little Flowers” and “The Calling of Joy.”

For more information on the retreats, go to www.assisiretreats.org or www.silentstay.com.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.

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