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Monastic life and its counter-cultural wisdom come alive in the stories and lessons of Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO, 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.
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- Adrian Chan-Wyles Ph.D
These contemporary monks are very bourgeois and live a life of luxurious simplicity that is completely out of touch with the real world of genuine poverty inhabited by the masses. It is a self-indulgent narrative premised upon a privileged educational background, where knowingly quoting from the Bible replaces the cultivation of humility and the realisation of grace. There is no humility in this diatribe. This monk does not walk with his eyes fixed upon the ground in front of him.