Paul Kopczynski is trading his kayak paddles and backpacking gear for a simple black robe and pair of sandals.
“I feel called to the more contemplative life,” the 32-year-old man said with a peaceful smile. “I’ve been looking for happiness and to me it comes with doing the will of God.”
Paul left Coeur d’Alene Wednesday for a Benedictine monastery in the shadow of southern France’s Alps. He’ll take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as soon as he learns enough French.
He’ll live in near silence, in Catholic spiritual study with 53 other men. He’ll sleep in a stark cell on a wooden bed with a foam pad. He’ll work in the vineyards or orchards, bake bread, tend bees.
“There are times when, if I think about it, it can be scary,” Paul said during his last day in the United States. “But if it’s God’s will, everything will work out fine.”
Paul has craved solitude all his life. He was 12 when he found a measure of contentment behind a welder’s mask. His mitt-sized hands molded metal into the finches, hummingbirds, cattails and smooth stones he loved in nature.
He has searched Northwest mountains and rivers for peace, pitting his substantial strength against whitewater and weather. His adventures netted him a berth on the U.S. National Kayaking Team, but not the happiness he sought.
Paul was raised Catholic, but strayed from the church as an adult. He found the peace he wanted at a traditional Latin Mass in Sprague, Wash., a few years ago.
A 70-mile pilgrimage in France with 20,000 religious devotees in 1993 confirmed for Paul his need to serve God.
“It was something I’d felt I should be doing for a long time but didn’t want to,” he said, his quiet voice at odds with his powerful physique. “It finally caught up with me.”
Paul will study for three years, then become a brother or priest, whichever his abbot chooses for him. If Paul finds a monk’s life unsuitable, he’ll leave. But that is unlikely.
“At this monastery, the monks are very peaceful. They look very happy,” he said, with a faraway look. “This seems to me the place where God lives.”
Paul’s sculptures are on display at The Roosevelt Inn Bed and Breakfast, 105 Wallace Ave., in Coeur d’Alene.
Wilkommen zu Idaho
You don’t have to visit a monastery to hear sacred music. Germans from the University of Karlsruhe’s touring choir will stop in Plummer and Moscow this week to sing sacred works from Rossini, Mendelssohn and Bruckner.
The choir also will entertain with some romantic European folk songs.
If you’re starved for international culture, this choir will fill your plate. The Plummer concert will be in the Lakeside Middle School gym Wednesday at 7 p.m. The music will start at 8 p.m. Thursday at the University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton School of Music. Call 686-1669 for details.
Women are wonderful people and The Women’s Forum wants to honor them. The group is looking for the brightest women in Coeur d’Alene working in the arts, business, community service, education, health or public service for career excellence awards.
It also wants to honor special senior and young women for their community service. Think of all those women you admire, then call Raoul Bennett at 765-2399 for a nomination packet. Deadline is Sept. 14.
The rent’s due, but the landlord’s gone and closed the bank account in which you were to deposit the rent. Sound absurd? It happened to a Coeur d’Alene man who finally tracked down his landlord’s mother in Utah.
What strange stories has renting left you? Save whining for the therapist. Tell the good stuff to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814; FAX to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo