On a spiritual quest

At the age of 14, Henry Garcia felt "drawn" to the priesthood, which would lead him, beginning in 1949, to devote much of his life to theological and philosophical studies.

Now a retired U.S. probation and parole officer, the Laguna resident has applied his religious educational background to writing his first novel, "Matthew's Call to Qumran," the journey of a young Essene who denies familial pressures to lead a traditional life and carry on the family name, to devote his life to Adonai (Hebrew for "God") with a monastic community along the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Set in the era when the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been written, the tale — which mirror's Garcia's own modern-day journey — tells of Matthew's life in the monastery, becoming a scribe, and eventually his departure from a life of celibacy and the decision to devote his life to God through marriage and procreation, after he falls in love with a woman from his youth.

Garcia will host a book signing at 4 p.m. Saturday at Latitude 33, 311 Ocean Ave., where he will read excerpts, hold a discussion and offer signed copies of his book at a reduced price. Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will also be served.

The book carries many spiritual themes, including societal pressures and influences, and pride and humility, the author said.

Much like the character about whom he writes, Garcia said his own instincts — despite what his parents and seven older siblings expected of him — led him to join the priesthood.

"Since I was a little boy, I just had an instinct to be spiritual," he said. "I wanted to be in church."

And similar to his character's journey, Garcia left the monastery just one year before he officially became a priest because something inside him told him he wanted a family, he said.

Since that time, Garcia married and had a family, and embarked on a new career, but his interest in theological studies still remained. About 12 years ago, he began working on a manuscript. He shelved the project for six years and then decided to polish his work for publication. He recently completed a "prequel" and is now working on a sequel to his first novel.

"Writing is a spiritual release for me. I plan to keep doing this until I die, and that's going to be a very long time from now, because I just got a clean bill of health from my doctor," the 76-year-old said, laughing.

To reserve a copy of the book, call Latitude 33 at (949) 494-5403. The book is also available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Kindle.

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