In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk's Memoir

In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk's Memoir

by Paul Quenon, Pico Iyer

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Winner of two 2019 Catholic Press Association Awards: Memoir (First Place) and Cover Design (Second Place).

Monastic life and its counter-cultural wisdom come alive in the stories and lessons of Br. Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O., during his more than five decades as a Trappist at the Abbey of Gethsemani. He served as a novice under Thomas Merton and he also welcomed some of the monastery's more well-known visitors, including Sr. Helen Prejean and Seamus Heaney, to Merton's hermitage. In Praise of the Useless Life includes Quenon's quiet reflections on what it means to live each day with careful attentiveness.

The humble peace and simplicity of the monastery and of Quenon's daily life are beautifully portrayed in this memoir. Whether it be through the daily routine of the monastery, his love of the outdoors no matter the season, or his lively and interesting conversations with visitors (reciting Emily Dickinson with Pico Iyer, discussing Merton and poetry with Czeslaw Milosz), Quenon's gentle musings display his love for the beauty in his vocation and the people he’s encountered along the way.

Inspired by his novice master Merton, the poet and photographer’s stories remind us that the beauty of life can best be seen in the "uselessness" of daily life—having a quiet chat with a friend, spending time in contemplation—in our vocations, and in the memories we make along the way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594717604
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Publication date: 04/13/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 613,615
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Br. Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O., entered the Trappists in 1958 at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where Thomas Merton was his novice master. Quenon is a photographer and the author of several books of poetry, including Unquiet Vigil—named a "Best Spiritual Book of the Year" by Spirituality & Practice and “Best Poetry Volume of the Year” by Hearts and Minds Books. Quenon coauthored Carved in Stone and also contributed spiritual reflections to other books.

Pico Iyer is a British author and Time magazine essayist who lives in Japan.

Table of Contents

Foreword Pico Iyer xi

Introduction to the Circle Dance 1

A Life of Song and Music 10

Thomas Merton, Novice Master 23

Nature, My Guru 41

A Week at the Hermitage 53

Our Golden Age of Hermitages 61

Prayer Nurtures Poetry 79

Battle of Wits with a Mockingbird 84

Emily Dickinson, Soul Sister 90

Contemplation and the Camera 99

Merton's Death as Seen from the Home Grounds 109

Unexpected Visitors 119

Final Judgment 130

Epilogue 133

Coda 137

Notes 138

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