Whether you’re just scrolling through Easter posts or turning on the TV, religious sites have been dominating headlines. Universally, places of worship are typically calm, peaceful environments – yet their serenity struggles to survive outside their confines. Their peacefulness often becomes lost in politics, conflicting ideologies, and social media arguments. But, long before the creation of the internet and 24-hour news cycle, the monks at Monastery of the Holy Spirit recognized these limitations. They — like many of us -- have attempted to construct their own world where they can better maintain clarity and peacefulness in their day-to-day lives.
Sitting at the southernmost point of the Arabia Mountain Path, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is not exactly “coastal.” However, it does quietly stand out from the handful of monasteries in the Southeast region. In 1944, a group of 20 Trappist monks left their monastery in Kentucky and founded their own, just southeast of Atlanta. Here, they built a barn to live in while they began work on other structures. For 15 years, they worked on the abbey church, which was finally completed in 1959. The monks built the entire abbey themselves, from the soaring concrete ceilings down to the littlest pieces of stained-glass. The simple, yet ethereal, concrete structure has been heralded by Georgia Contractor Magazine as “Georgia’s Most Remarkable Concrete Building."
Most surprising, however, were the men who call the monastery home. In visiting the site, I learned that they’re just regular guys who traded in lives as a tech professional on Wall Street or a school teacher on Main Street.
Previous monastery abbot, Father Francis Michael, explains to visiting children the concept of a monastery:
“It’s like God draws a big circle,” he begins very simply. “And He wants you to live in that circle. You want to go live in His circle, too. But He’s going to put other people in the circle with you, and you don’t get to choose. He’s going to choose them. All you have to do is learn how to love one another.”
Father Michael's message could easily be applied to the world at large.
In addition to touring the abbey, the 2000+ acre property offers hiking and biking trails. Guests can also visit the stained-glass manufacturing business, a green cemetery, the largest bookstore of its kind in the Southeast, and a renowned bonsai greenhouse. At the visitor center, a film teaches about the history of the area and monasticism through the ages.
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!