Tag Archives: Cassidy Hall

Paul Quenon, OCSO: Silence and Poetry at Gethsemani Abbey (Episode 32)

Poet, photographer, and memoirist Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO sat down to chat with Cassidy Hall this past July when she was visiting Gethsemani Abbey.

Author of several volumes of poetry including Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems, Br. Paul is also the author of a newly published autobiography, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir. His memoir is a delightful and charming story of monastic life not only as a forum for deep spiritual exploration, but also as the foundation for a life devoted to music, art, and especially poetry.

Cassidy and Brother Paul

Brother Paul entered monastic life in 1958, when he was only 17 years old — back before the reforms of the Second Vatical Council, when the life of a Trappist was even more austere than it is today. His novice master turned out to be Thomas Merton, who eventually became an inspiration to Brother Paul not only as a monk, but as a writer.

In their conversation, Cassidy and Brother Paul discuss his life story, his experience as a monk, as a writer, and as a lover of nature. He enthuses on his special love for the poet Emily Dickinson, and shares the poem of hers which convinced him that she was a mystic (#315). He also offers a ‘sneak peek’ of his current writing, sharing some poems he is currently writing. Through it all, in the heart of his rich and cultured life, silence has been his constant companion.

There is a kind of silence which comes from stilling the mind, and you can develop that capacity, how to not fight thoughts so much as set them aside… if you want to be free, free your mind… instead of fighting the thoughts you just stand above them like on a bridge and watch the water flow by… but then there is a kind of silence that descends upon you, and it’s like the presence… it happens on its own, and that’s really special. You may get that, or you may not get it… it’s not a matter of looking for it, because if you’re looking for it, than you’re thinking of something, you have an expectation and you’re dealing with your expectation. — Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

The opposite of faith is indifference. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO

Filmmaker Patrick Shen, Brother Paul, and Cassidy Hall on the porch of Thomas Merton’s hermitage, on the grounds of Gethsemani Abbey.

Episode 32: Silence and Poetry at Gethsemani Abbey: A Conversation with Paul Quenon, OCSO
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Introduced by: Kevin Johnson
Guest: Paul Quenon, OCSO
Date Recorded: July 4, 2018

James Finley: Silence and Vulnerability (Episode 29)

Author, retreat leader, and psychologist James Finley brings his experience as a student and spiritual directee of Thomas Merton to his work guiding others into the mysteries of Christ and of silence. He is the author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of Godand The Contemplative Heart. He has also created audio learning series, including Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere and Meister Eckhart’s Living Wisdom.

“When we get involved in spirituality, we’re drawn to it, we tend to have a lot of questions, and that’s why we tend to read spiritual books or watch podcasts and well we should, and we should get spiritual guidance and so on. But then… we get a little deeper, here we realize that it’s not so much that we’re the ones asking the questions, but God’s asking the questions, God’s asking me a question… and I start to discover that not only do I not know the answer to God’s question, I don’t understand the question.” — James Finley

Cassidy met Jim through the International Thomas Merton Society, and discovering that they are neighbors in California, they made arrangements last month to get together to record this conversation. As they explore silence together, Jim tells Cassidy stories from his six years living as a Trappist novice (don’t miss the story of talking to Thomas Merton about the pigs!), and how his entry into the world of radical solitude and silence — under the guidance of one of the great spiritual writers of the past century — Finley learned to find his voice as a seeker of God, and eventually discovered his vocation even though it took him away from the cloister.

“We can’t with integrity claim to be on a spiritual path and turn our back on the suffering of this world.” — James Finley

He and Cassidy talk about the tragedy of how contemporary Christianity has abandoned its own mystical heritage, learning to discover the mystery of God beyond all “boxes” and definitions, the “infinity of the unexplainable,” learning to love the world as part of the contemplative project, the importance of paradox and perplexity, how language ought to be “in the service of the unsayable,” how the experience of trauma can impact our spiritual lives, and other topics along these lines.

“I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude-to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.” — Thomas Merton

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

Visit Jim Finley’s website at www.contemplativeway.org. His newsletter which includes his recommended reading list can be accessed here: “Reading List for Beginners”

“Lovers cannot force the oceanic oneness, but can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of that … The poet cannot make the poem happen, but the poet can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of the poem.” — James Finley

Episode 29: Silence and Vulnerability: A Conversation with James Finley
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Introduced by: Kevin Johnson
Guest: Jim Finley
Date Recorded: June 7, 2018

Notes on Silence (Episode 17)

This week we have our first “return” guest, as Patrick Shen joins us again to discuss the new book he co-wrote and co-edited with Cassidy Hall, Notes on Silence. Describing the book as an “entry point” into silence, Patrick and Cassidy share with Kevin and Carl how the book functions as a companion to their documentary film In Pursuit of Silence — and how it is simply a work of art in its own right.

Silence is always over-stated — and under-said. — Cassidy Hall

 

 

Notes on Silence features a selection of essays by both authors exploring silence, and their relationship to silence, from a variety of angles. The book also includes transcripts of interviews from a variety of persons who are featured in the film: theologians, psychologists, artists, educators, and others who have many interesting things to say about silence and the noise in our contemporary habitat. Since only a portion of each interview could be included in the film, these transcripts provide a wealth of information for anyone who wants to go deeper in his or her pursuit of silence.

A monk from New Mellerey Abbey, Father Alberic, said to me, ‘Silence is a place of infinite possibility.’ Silence is also a place of infinite language, because there is no proper language — there is no official way to box it in.” — Cassidy Hall

Notes on Silence also contains a generous selection of beautiful (and deeply contemplative photos) taken by both Cassidy and Patrick. As each of them shares thoughts on one of their favorite photos in the book, they give insight into how image as well as words can testify to the beauty of silence, and of our capacity for wonder at, and in, silence.

Alas, we cannot know for certain, the cosmos demands that we surrender to its majesty, and we must take our seat at the feet of doubt. — Patrick Shen

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

Absolute silence would be a state of lifelessness. Our relationship with silence is always filtered through sound in some way, shape or form. — Carl McColman

Episode 17: Notes on Silence
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Patrick Shen
Date Recorded: March 29, 2018

 

Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, OSB: Silence in the Cloister (Episode 11)

This week marks the first Encountering Silence “Field Recording” in which one member of our team (in this case, Cassidy Hall) records a face-to-face interview with a person whose life is deeply engaged with silence. Today’s episode features Cassidy in conversation with a Benedictine monk, Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, OSB.

Cassidy Hall and Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, OSB

Father Stephanos is a monk of Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California. The Encountering Silence team met Fr. Stephanos online, through a small social media group for artists, writers, and others who explore the intersection between art, spirituality, justice, and authenticity. In that context Fr. Stephanos is a voice of calm, deep spirituality, and good humor. Since he lives so close to Cassidy Hall, it seemed natural for her to pay him a visit, and during her time at the monastery, to record the interview which we are now sharing with you as our 11th episode. Even though this is the third episode to feature an interview on the podcast, it is actually the first interview to have been recorded (back in October of last year).

Fr. Stephanos tells his story, from his early yearning for liturgy and community, to discovering intentional silence through prayer, to eventually discerning his call to monastic life — which in turn took him to the threshold of silence. He reflects on how the wisdom of Saint Benedict has shaped the monastic experience of silence, and the relationship between silence and love. He goes on to talk about Mother Teresa — a modern saint who “suffered” the silence of God, whose voice fell into absence as she responded to her vocation to serve the poorest of the poor.

He explores some of the “silent wisdom” of the Rule of Saint Benedict, such as can be found in Benedict’s twelve steps of humility — which on the surface seems so counterintuitive to the values of our age, but actually points to treasures such as the spiritual beauty of silencing one’s own ego, in response to the love of God. Fr. Stephanos also explores why the word “contemplation” never appears in the Rule of Saint Benedict, and also talks about the heart of lectio divina, the deeply contemplative monastic practice of meditative reading of scripture, and how silence has given him insight into the dynamics of his own personality — and into love.

Monks are men of silence, but they are also men of many words… primarily the Psalms. — Fr. Stephanos Pedranos

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

In the picture we see Cassidy and Fr. Stephanos enjoying a beer from the Almanac Beer Company, a California microbrewery.

Episode 10: Silence in the Cloister: A Conversation with Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, OSB
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Introduced by: Kevin Johnson
Guest: Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, OSB
Date Recorded: October 25, 2017