“Meditation is the action of silence.”—Krishnamurti (1895-1986), an Indian-born speaker and author on philosophical and spiritual subjects
Perhaps little known today, and seldom seen, are monastic orders. In the hustle and bustle of our modern world, there are so few places reserved simply for quiet thought, reflection and asking the great questions of today.
In east metro Atlanta, specifically in Rockdale County and not far from Conyers is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (MOHS), a Catholic monastery originally founded in 1944. The monastery is a Roman Catholic religious community, belonging to the worldwide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, more commonly known as Trappists. This Trappist community is currently home to 36 monks, a few of whom have been there more than 36 years, who live, work and pray repeatedly throughout the day at the Abbey. The monastery sits on 2,300 acres, 1,000 of those are under permanent easement protection. This is one of Georgia’s two National Heritage Areas. Some things that you might expect to see at a Catholic Monastery are easily located—but you will also find quite a few surprises. The website is http://www.trappist.net.
Bonsai gardens and nursery
The patient practice of cutting, trimming and shaping a tree in miniature is an art form primarily for contemplation of the viewer, as well as the regular efforts, ingenuity and exercise of the grower. Ambassador Andrew Young helped make me more familiar with and appreciative of bonsai more than a decade ago. The mother of my youngest child is also a fan. The monastery offers a greenhouse filled with bonsai, as well as all the tools to practice this unique horticulture on your own or to purchase and ship a bonsai most anywhere in the world.
Stained glass studios
If you visit the abbey during any of the multiple sessions of group prayer throughout the day, you cannot help but note the incredible stained-glass windows in the sanctuary. Each was designed and built by hand on the grounds of the monastery. An Old World production studio is helmed by Father Methodius, who has been designing and building stained glass for nearly 50 years. Stained glass is assembled here in much the same manner as in the 1150s, when Cistercian statutes of the order proscribed the use of stained glass in early churches and sanctuaries.
Prayer Walk and PATH Trail
The PATH Foundation, in partnership with DeKalb and Rockdale counties, as well as the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance have developed an extensive bike and walking trail system winding east of Atlanta through 7,000 acres of greenspace, passing the Mall at Stonecrest and into Panola Mountain State Park, Arabia Mountain and beyond. While 20 miles of trail are already completed into Rockdale County, by mid-2013, a new trail head-end will terminate at the monastery, and once Atlanta Beltline connections are complete to the Silver Comet Trail (west of the city), continuous PATH trails will flow from the Monastery Prayer Walk to Anniston, Ala.
Whether one wishes to reflect, retreat or renew, the monastery offers modest retreat facilities and overnight accommodations to the public to come and live among the order for a weekend or a few days mid-week. These unique retreats offer considerable time for prayer, reflection, contemplation and meditation or simply give visitors both a cause and a place for quiet rest and pause.
Honey Creek Woodlands, Georgia’s first conservation burial ground:
For centuries our decedents were simply buried in plain wooden boxes or a burial shroud. This old practice is now newly relabeled as “green burial,” without chemical embalming, metal caskets and typical burial costs approaching $10,000-$15,000. The Honey Creek Woodlands is 500 acres of woodlands, wetlands and wooded streams permanently protected by a strong conservation easement, as well as an endowment created from a portion of the plot sales. The initial 70 acres in use for burial grounds contains abundant wildlife and 400 species of plants. Modest markers on natural and engraved stones replace mausoleums and life-sized headstones. Tours are available with advance appointments.
My first trip to the monastery was as a young pre-teen. Honey Creek might be a good place to plan to spread my cremains for my last visit there when that day gets here. From what I’ve seen, I’m guessing they have figured a better path to the higher grounds. Hoping that you and your family and your God find peace, health and happiness this holiday season and in the New Year.
Bill Crane also serves as a political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action News, WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and now 95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion, Champion Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can reach him or comment on a column at email@example.com.