“If you love you are not going to want to hate. It’s just not going to be compatible.” – Br. Paul Quenon

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton.

Merton (1915-1968) was a writer, contemplative, mystic, social activist, artist, photographer, and Trappist monk at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani not far from Louisville, Kentucky.

Despite living in a cloistered monastery – eventually living by himself in a small building called The Hermitage about a mile form the monastery – his influence extended around the world…and continues to this day.

We were going to wait until the exact BrotherPaulday of Merton’s birth [January 31] to post this interview; however, what Brother Paul Quenon, a former student of Merton’s, had to say couldn’t wait any longer.

NOTE: This interview with Br. Paul [BPQ] was conducted by The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy [BM] on October 28, 2014, at the Abbey. All photographs (except for the Merton book cover, the Casey book cover, and the photo of Father Louis) were taken by Bill.

BM: Please tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?

BPQ: Oh, well, I am a monk, and I have been here [at the Abbey] most of my life. I love singing, and I do pretty well at that — get a lot of energy out of choir — and I like to read and read pretty broadly, and do a little bit of writing. I don’t write whole lot, but I have published six books of poetry, yeah, then produced a few anthologies, so I think some influence from Father Louis could be seen there. I refer to Thomas Merton as Father Louis because that was his name here in the monastery, so you will just have to bear with my habits.

BM: That’s great.

BPQ: And I cook and love being outdoors, and if I can’t be Continue reading

“Peace begins with a smile…”

There’s a story that Zen practitioners love to tell called The Flower Sermon. It goes like this:

When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he held out a flower to his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile. The Buddha said, “I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa.”

Many centuries later, Mother Teresa – likely not even aware of The Flower Sermon – captured some of its meaning simply by saying, “Peace begins with a smile.”

Life isn’t all that complicated. Really. It is made so when we walk through it scowling, grumbling, being impatient, angry, insensitive, rude. Especially when we’re having a Really. Bad. Day.

But have you noticed how someone’s entire demeanor can change if you smile at him? A simple smile can defuse a tense situation, uplift a weary heart, and state – without words – I am on your side…I care about you.

There’s a lot of wisdom in a smile. Without saying a word. And plenty of peace to go ’round because of them.

I think we can change our communities with a smile.

Want to give it a try?

What do we have to lose? (I’ll bet it’s not likely not half as much as we have to gain.)

Let’s see what happens.