Taking a Moment to Pause

img_6338On Thursday, Nov 10th 2016, Berea College had the honor of welcoming Brother Paul Quenon, a monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani, for a campus visit. His visit was a breath of fresh air in the wake of a tumultuous election day, and his calming presence was felt by many as he attended the Spiritual Seekers lunch in Draper, and later gave a presentation in the Appalachian Center Gallery. “I can’t help but think of what it must be like to be an engaged citizen of this world in such a crazy time, while also being committed to being somewhat away from the world. I think I have a lot to learn from spiritual contemplatives.” Said Katie Basham, Coordinator of Interfaith Programs.

During his presentation in the Appalachian Center, Brother Quenon, shared several of his poems and photography, most of which reflected his life in the monastery like this one:

The Cowl
–solemn as chant,
one sweep of fabric
from head to foot.
Cowls hanging
on a row of pegs—
tall disembodied spirits
holding shadows
deep in the folds
waiting for light,
for light to shift
waiting for a bell
for the reach of my hand
to spread out the slow
wings, release the
shadows and envelope my
prayer-hungry body
with light.

img_6340As Brother Paul, flipped through a slideshow of photographs full of beautiful landscapes, water drying on asphalt, and monks offering their voices in prayer, he described his creative process as a photographer. “The photograph finds you.” He said. “You don’t find the photograph.” He explained that whenever he goes out with the intention of taking pictures he usually comes back with nothing, but if he just goes out, without an agenda and something strikes him as beautiful, that’s when he pulls out his camera and those are the pictures that are worth taking.


Brother Paul stressed the importance of stopping to appreciate the little things in life, and acknowledging them through writing or works of art. He sets an example of this by writing haikus daily as a form of meditation, and carrying around a small digital camera with him everywhere he goes to capture beautiful moments. “The mind is never alone.” He said. “It is always floating back and forth with its surroundings, but there is a moment you have to pause, when something calls out to you as says, ‘Look at me. Notice me. Take me in.’”

If you would like to read more about Brother Paul Quenon and the Abbey of Gethsemani, please feel free to visit the following links.




Article Written by Heather Dent

Leave a Reply