The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, officially named Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery is a Roman Catholic monastery near Conyers, Georgia belonging to the world-wide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) – more commonly known as Trappists.
As described in the Order's constitution, this Order is a monastic institute wholly ordered to contemplation. The monks dedicate themselves to the worship of God in a hidden life within the monastery under the Rule of Saint Benedict. They follow in the spirit of the founders of Cîteaux, as handed on in the tradition of the Order, within a community wholly oriented to a contemplative life of prayer. They lead a monastic way of life in solitude, silence, work and prayer.
Currently the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is a community of forty-eight monks spanning several generations, who live, work and pray at the Abbey. They were founded from the Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, Kentucky in the spring of 1944. The Monastery is sustained through The Abbey Store, a bonsai garden plant and supply business, a stained glass manufacturing business, donations, a green cemetery, and onsite retreats - among other endeavors.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit was founded on March 21, 1944 by twenty monks from the Abbey of Gethsemani. On 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) of land donated by the Archdiocese of Atlanta and media mogul Henry Luce, these first monks lived in a barn while they built (by themselves) what would become known as the "pine board" monastery. They then lived in this monastery from December 1944 -1959 while they built (by themselves) the present Monastery, a beautiful concrete structure complete with a retreat house and cloister. In 2005, the pine board monastery which housed their carpentry and stained glass businesses was destroyed in a fire. Some previous abbots have been Dom Augustine Moore, Dom Armand Veilleux, Dom Bernard Johnson, and Dom Basil Pennington. The present abbot is Dom Francis Michael Stiteler, who was elected in 2004.
The main work of the monks at the monastery is prayer. The monks begin their day of prayer at 4 A.M. with vigils and a half hour of contemplation. They break at about 5:30 and return at 7 A.M. for Mass. Throughout their day of work in their many businesses and chores, the monks break for prayer at midmorning, midday(12:15), evening (vespers at 5:20) and compline (night prayer at 7:30). Grand silence for both monks and guests is required after 8 P.M. Retreat house guests are allowed and encouraged to pray with the monks in the Church.
At least half of the monks at Holy Spirit Monastery are priests who rotate in administering the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) at the retreat house. Monks are also available for spiritual direction and welcome people of all faiths, including those of no faith.
The monks at Holy Spirit operate a thriving retreat business. On the premises and adjoining the church is their dormitory style retreat house where separate floors for men and women accommodate individual and groups of guests for retreats scheduled almost year round. Guests are encouraged to stay on premises for the entire time of the retreat and observe the times for prayer and meals. Meals are served in the retreat house three times a day. Guests may pray with the monks in the Church at their regular prayer times which are announced by a quiet bell. Monastery rules require guests to adhere to silence in certain areas. Retreatants may attend group discussions led by one of the monks in the conference room. Different monks lead different discussions throughout the year according to their different areas of expertise. Retreatants are encouraged to leave a donation of at least $60–$100 per each night of their stay to help defray the cost of providing room and meals to retreatants. Reservations are encouraged as the retreat house is often booked many months in advance.
The Lay Associate movement began with a small group of people associated with Monastery of the Holy Spirit and led by Fr. Anthony Delisi, former abbott and current prior. These are groups of lay people who form a prayerful community that forms its members in Cistercian spiritualty. These groups make annual retreats to the Monastery. Holy Spirit is now motherhouse to five different groups of Lay Cistercians. This movement has grown in popularity over the years and now there are Lay Cistercians all over the world who are affiliated with monasteries near their groups.
The monastery operates a monastic guest program for men who are interested in living the monastic life for a short period of time. The program is open to men of all faiths and regardless of marital status but they must be in good health. They participate in all areas of monastic life but sleep in a special section of the guesthouse instead of with the professed monks in the cloister. Meals are taken with the retreat guests instead of with the monks.
The monastery operates a religious store both on location (The Abbey Store) and online (Holy Spirit Monastery Gifts). The Abbey Store is the largest Catholic retail store in the state of Georgia, and its book department specializes in works on general Catholicism, monasticism, and Christian spirituality and mysticism. The store also offers a wide variety of religious merchandise, rosaries, medals, jewelry, artwork and statues, and a selection of food products produced both by the Holy Spirit monastery and other monasteries in the Americas.
A number of monks at Holy Spirit are accomplished authors of many books on the spiritual life. Dom Basil Pennington, Fr. Anthony Delisi, Brother Chaminade Crabtree, Fr. Tom Francis, Fr James Stephen Behrens, and others have published volumes of popular spiritual works.
The monks of Holy Spirit manufacture and sell bonsai supplies either online or at their monastery bonsai garden store. They also operate a green cemetery located in a secluded section of the vast monastery property. Stained glass windows and doors are created onsite and sold online and the monastery also operates a fruitcake and fudge business. Their fruitcakes are sold both through their own religious store and also through Honeybaked Ham stores.
The Monastery is the second most popular attraction in the county and welcomes an average of 70,000 guests per year. In an effort to better accommodate these, the monks began construction in January 2010 on a new phase of their business featuring a public gathering place/Visitor Center. "A garden will be the nucleus of the new Visitor Center, surrounded by a Monastic Center, the historic barn, gift store and cafe." The barn, where the monks first lived when they began the monastery, was transformed into a museum.
The Visitor Center was officially opened to the public in May 2011.
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