Monastery of the Holy Spirit
As part of the Cistercian monastic tradition, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit can trace its origins to eleventh-century Europe. In 1098 a group of Benedictine monks started a new monastery in Cîteaux, France, for the purpose of following the Rule of St. Benedict more closely than was customary at the time. This separation resulted in the creation of the Order of Cîteaux, a monastic tradition whose adherents are called Cistercians.
The monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit are members of the OCSO. These strict Cistercians are more commonly known as "Trappists," a name derived from the Abbey of La Trappe near Montagne, France, where Armand de Rancé was abbot for a time. Trappist communities consisted of more than 100 houses of men and almost 70 houses of women by the year 2000. The most recently established monasteries are in Africa and Latin America.
The group of monks settled on 1,400 acres of land in Rockdale County. They lived in a barn until they finished building a temporary housing structure in December 1944. The main building of the monastery was not completed until 1959. The monks also built a church, which was finished by 1960. Their own handiwork provided the stained-glass windows for the structure. By 1969 a guest house had been added to the property as well. The monks live regimented lifestyles consisting of private prayer, communal worship, and manual labor. They support themselves primarily through proceeds from the operation of a bookstore, the cultivation and sale of bonsai trees, and the sale of gardening equipment.
In 2005 the original monastery, built of pines removed from the property, caught fire and burned to the ground. The pineboard structure was used as a carpentry shop, and the monk's stained-glass and sandcasting industries were also housed there. Monks lived in the structure from 1944 to 1960, when a new building was completed.
Esther De Waal, The Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian Tradition (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1998).
Dewey Kramer, Open to the Spirit: A History of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Conyers, Ga.: Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 1986).
David Parry, Households of God: The Rule of St. Benedict with Explanations for Monks and Lay-people Today (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1980).
William Brent Jones, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
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