Saturday, September 10, 2011
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit
There is place within Rockdale County, Georgia which may be more well known to out-of-state visitors than to those who live within the county itself. Most people who live here may have heard of it... most simply just call it "the monastery". In 1944, when the monks purchased the land and then built their own buldings, this area was considered rural with mostly farms and not too many of those. The monks first built a barn to house their animals and they actually lived in the barn loft above the animals! They then built their church and if you go to see it, you will be amazed to discover that it was built with concrete. It has been so smoothed over that you would never suspect that it is made of that material. Just this past May, they built a new visitor center and also made the old barn (which was their first living quarters) as part of the new Monastic Heritage Center. It is so beautifully done... I have been there several times since it opened and every time I go, I notice something new... I will try to put some of my photos that my husband and I took on our visit today...
I was also able to ask one of the monks if he knew that the monastery was mentioned in a book that I read many years ago (when I was 19!) called "Black Like Me", written by John Howard Griffin. This was a white man who chemically altered his skin so as to be accepted and seen as a black man. He simply wanted to try to understand that it would be like for a man of color in the South. He traveled by bus and got off in Conyers, Georgia. There is an amusing story he told about getting off the bus, but I don't want to ruin it for anybody! He then described the magnolia lined driveway into the monastery and asked to spend the night there...trying to explain to them that he was writing a book. He was welcomed, of course, as I knew that he would be. Now, when I asked the monk who was in the gift shop there if he knew of it...he didn't, so I hope that they will now look it up and I hope that they will like this book as much as I did.
Funnily enough, as I was looking at the books, one of them really stood out to me, it was called "Black Like Licorice" by Father Anthony. (Father Anthony, the one who grows the nice banana peppers and the one who blesses the medals I buy there? Yes, the same one!) Even though I haven't had time to read it yet, just from the cover, you can tell that he has spent time in Africa and it looks as if he speaks very plainly and movingly of all that he has seen and heard in his lifetime.
We have spent a great deal of time visiting the Monastery over the years. Our son loved to go there the weeks before Christmas. One of the monks (this doesn't happen anymore) used to place a very large nativity scene just outside the church...he would leave the manger EMPTY and have Joseph & Mary some distance away....and then, move Joseph & Mary a little closer to the manger each day...and it was very special to go the day after Christmas and then see the baby Jesus in the manger. Afterwards, the three wise men would also move closer, just as it should be as our son pointed out to us when he was older!
It is wonderful to have such a beautiful and sacred place to be so close to us...Today, after my husband's illness, it was so nice to hear him say..."You know, I really enjoyed our day at the monastery".