Paul Quenon, OCSO: Silence, Poetry and Monastic Wisdom (Part One)

Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO, Trappist monk, poet, and photographer, is the author of books like In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir and Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems. He returned to Encountering Silence for a conversation recorded last April (to hear his previous conversations on this podcast, click here and here). This time, he offers a fascinating conversation drawing lines of connection between the monk’s experience of cloistered solitude and the challenges that the public at large has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I think there’s something within everybody that really wants to have quiet time… There’s something about the heart that thirsts for that kind of quiet and silence. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO

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.

Here’s a video of Brother Paul reading one of his poems, from our conversation this year:

A habit can be a very supportive thing, a routine can be a deadening thing a ritual should always be a vital thing and should always be done mindfully. — Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

In a monastery you’re living in a poetic environment, and the countryside that we live in, I think it exposes the mind to open up to poetry. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO

Episode 110: Silence, Poetry, and Monastic Wisdom: A Conversation with Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman and Kevin Johnson
Guest: Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO
Date Recorded: April 30, 2020

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Carl McColman
Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.