Wednesday, May 18, 2011

contemplation is an abiding silence

"Well, I think the purpose of the monastic life in the modern world is to show that we don’t need a purpose. The purpose of life is life, and you are to be just to be. Everybody measures their importance by how useful they are, so you need to shatter that. You know, somebody has to come along now and then just say listen, you know, that’s not it. That’s not what life is." - Brother Paul

JUDY VALENTE, correspondent: The lumber shed at the Abbey of Gethsemani in northern Kentucky. It’s late February. Each night at 8:00 Brother Paul Quenon walks to the shed, as he has every night for 20 years. He goes around back, where he finds his mattress. This is where he will sleep—outdoors, no matter the weather.

BROTHER PAUL QUENON (The Abbey of Gethsemani): I can’t be a full-time hermit, but I can be a night-time hermit, and there’s something about waking up in the middle of the night, and there’s nobody around. There’s a kind of an edge of solitude that you cannot experience in any other way.

VALENTE: Here, a monk seeks to live every moment in the presence of God, in unity with God. Brother Paul came to Gethsemani 52 years ago. He was 17, inspired by reading the autobiography of the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who introduced many Americans to the contemplative life. Merton would eventually become his spiritual director and would encourage Brother Paul to write. Thomas Merton said monks and poets are people who live on the margins of society. Brother Paul decided to become both. He says monks and poets remind us to pay attention to the world around us, to focus on what’s essential.

Read the rest HERE ...

From Religion & Ethics Newsweekly


  1. Thank you very much for this post. As is so often the case, it struck a timely resonance for me.

  2. And thank you, JofIndia, for taking me on an exotic and colorful trip through India!!

  3. Hello Beth!

    Thanks for this post. I think Fr. Louis has been a spiritual director to all of us here, not only Brother Paul.

    I will be ordained a Catholic permanent deacon this coming Saturday....your blog has certainly been an important part of my formation..I thank you!

    Fr. Louis had this to say about the he was ordained a "transitional" deacon before his priestly ordination..

    "The first thing about the diaconate is that it is big. The more I think about it the more I realize that it is a Major Order. You are supposed to be the strength of the Church. You receive the Holy Spirit ad robur, not only for yourself, but to support the whole Church."

  4. Congratulations, Brian, on becoming a deacon! Merton's words are profound, that's a tall order. Thank you for following your call.

    And thank you for your kind words for this humble (and sometime very sporatic!) blog.

  5. Hi Beth,
    This is Sean from the jersey shore checking in. I have always kept an eye on your blog the last few years. Haven't commented though. Much has changed in my life, much is still the same.It seems the Buddhist path has unfolded in front of me more than the Catholic path. I suppose the fact that we choose to live a path is what counts. Thank you for the post. The picture of Brother Paul writing reminded me of my vist back in 2008. I wake up alone in the middle of the night now as well. There is solace in that.
    Thanks again

  6. Very good - helpful - i read an interview with Robert Graves yesterday, about thinking poetically as a salvation for science and technology - the best, he said, are those who think in a sort of trance and reason rather than logic -

  7. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  8. Good to hear from you, Sean.

    I understand your attraction to Buddhism. In the last year I have become much more faithful to my contemplative prayer practice. And much as the Catholic apologists claim that Christian meditation is "different" from zazen, I find a lot more in common than different.

    I think that Robert Graves is on to something, Heinrich. I'm hearing a lot about non-dualistic thinking these days, and that seems to be along those lines.

  9. Thanks for your comments, Black Pete and Sewa.


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.