Vietnam veteran Andy Farris has gained a lot from attending retreats at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. He learned to let go of anger carried over from his time spent in combat. He learned how to prayerfully meditate. He learned to reconnect with God.
But perhaps even more important than the enlightenment is the inner calmness he finds by being at the monastery.
"You just start to feel at peace the minute you drive down that lane of magnolia trees," said Farris, who will be leading a retreat at the monastery in June for veterans suffering from the trauma of war.
This year's lineup of retreats at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, located at 2625 Ga. Highway 212 in Conyers, delivers spiritual messages through a wide variety of topics. Are you a parent? Try the "Nurturing Children/Being Nurtured by Children" session. Over 50? You might want to step into "Joyful Challenges of Life after 50."
Other retreats incorporate yoga, photography and journal keeping. Or you can explore spiritual themes in works by Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton.
There are also plenty of opportunities to delve into the facets of prayer or work on emotional issues such as anger and forgiveness, healthy relationships and grief.
All the retreats are Christian-centered and led by the monks, along with lay people.
"We have more than we could ever hope for in terms of people who contribute to the retreats. People are very generous with their time," said Father James Behrens, administrator and program coordinator for the retreat house.
Retreats are held at the monastery either Friday through Sunday or Monday through Thursday. A retreat involves presentations, discussion and private counseling, if requested. Participants are also given suggested readings to be used in personal prayer.
Cost is between $60 and $100 a night and includes the presentations, an individual room with bath and bed linens, and all meals. Participants are asked to bring a Bible and journaling materials.
Behrens encouraged those interested to sign up early, as the retreats often fill up fast.
"There's a desire for more in-depth spirituality that is not offered on a typical Sunday in the mainline churches. People want more time and more of a focus," Behrens said.
"We're kind of unique in the type of stuff we offer and I think people want to learn. We take this kind of life for granted. You're here every day working with meaningful themes. Not everybody has access to that."
For more information, call 770-760-0959, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trappist.net.