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In Praise of the Useless Life

"I am on permanent vacation. This surprising state of affairs is the life that I have been called to, and it has lasted almost six decades. My good fortune is known as a vocation. Monastic life is essentially a vacating, an emptying out, not unlike vacating an apartment and living without furniture, or even without an apartment. Monastics (men and women) vacate the world and where people of the world do not want to go and remain. To live in solitude, to be specific, is one of the most difficult things for a person to endure.

… But this outward solitude is not enough. Vacating means a personal emptying out of clutter within the mind and heart … Radically, there must be an interior journey into a wilderness to be alone, free of the world and at rest in God. Living in cenobitic community might seem to upgrade this desert to the status of a private resort, with all conveniences provided, like laundry and cooking. Perhaps that sounds too good to be true. Well, it is. You will shortly find the is not the case. Everyone here has to put in a hand and do his own part. Work is one of the forms of this emptiness, this vacation. It enhances prayer and keeps it from going static and stale. Likewise, prayer is a form of work – “the work of God”, as St. Benedict called it. It requires intention, attention, and persistence." (p.1) Paul Quenon


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