Eagle Scout project provides monks with meditation gazebo

When 15-year-old Bishop’s Sophomore Kaiden Cárdenas-Marouf of La Jolla Boy Scout Troop 4 was considering what his Eagle Scout project would be, he said he wanted to pick something that had meaning for him, so he went to visit the Prince of Peace Abbey in Escondido.

“(I have a connection there.) My dad did his Eagle Scout project there, and my mom used to go there to feed the poor when she was a little girl. Years later, Father Charles, who is a monk at the abbey, married my parents,” Cárdenas-Marouf explained.

During his first visit to the monastery, he was impressed with the monks’ activities. “A monastery is like a community where each monk has a special role; some are chefs and cook, some like garden work and they do that, others do paperwork, and I think it’s really good what the monks do, devoting their lives to help others.”

The Prince of Peace Abbey is a Catholic monastery that sits on top of a hill in Escondido and receives guests who range from the curious, sporadic visitor to those who spend extended amounts of time in prayer and retreat. It was founded in 1958 and follows the teachings of Saint Benedict, the founder of the order.

Among the monks’ needs that sparked Cárdenas-Marouf’s interest, was their meditation gazebo, which was destroyed by an El Niño storm last winter. “I meditate sometimes ... life is kind of stressful, especially in high school with homework and other commitments. If you get too caught in with things, you can just take a few minutes out of your day to thing about whatever you enjoy, and it’s good to take a break and calm down,” he said.

Once he selected his project, Crdenas-Marouf had to create a proposal. With the help of Father Michele, he took measurements, figured out what structure shape he wanted, and filled out a project proposal. “I had to present to the plan at a Troop meeting, and everyone asked questions about it to make sure it went smoothly. Finally, it was approved, but not all projects are.”

For the first weekend of work was at the beginning of September, Crdenas-Marouf enlisted the help of 14 volunteers, who during eight hours on Saturday Sept. 10 and seven hours on Sunday Sept.11 collaborated to build the gazebo. The job consisted of dismantling the broken-down old structure, drilling holes for the new poles, and once those were installed, filling the remaining space with concrete. For the floor, Crdenas-Marouf used 1- to 2-inch flagstones puzzled together.

The meditation gazebo features a pentagon shape with 7-foot-wide sides. To achieve its natural look, palm fronds were installed for the ceiling on Oct. 1. “When I was working with Father Michele on how we wanted the gazebo to look, he had palm fronds from the other gazebo that he wanted me to use, to look natural and fit with the rest of the garden. Also, when we were building, he always said, ‘Remember guys, don’t make it perfect, because God didn’t make us perfect,’ which I think is pretty cool.

“I learned a lot from the design, and getting a project together. You have to be into what you’re doing so it can get done when you want, because setting one thing back a week will set everything else back. You have to have goals to do things by certain days. I also learned about leadership, because it’s difficult to keep everybody occupied when you have 10 people working for you. You can’t manage every single person, so if you put people in groups and designate a group leader and tell them what needs to be done, that works better because you only manage two or three people.”

Crdenas-Marouf has been a Scout since age 11, and in addition to Scouting activities, he plays volleyball on the Bishop’s School team. He said his favorite subjects this year are chemistry and photography, and he also likes philosophical discussions in class.

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