Feb 25th to Mar 3rd: Sections 6 – 10

Reading:  sections 6-10, The Road to Daybreak

Last week was a truly amazing week of thoughtful, honest and thought-provoking sharing. A sincere thanks to each of you who shared.  We also like to always remember the many folks who are journeying along with us, but may be be less active in the comments.  We are grateful for your presence too!

We have before us another wonderful group of readings, with much to ponder.

1_In this section Henri continues to ponder “the journey of leaving everything behind for Jesus’ sake” (p71), and the growing awareness that “God wants my whole life, not just part of it” (p73).  He encourages us to “trust that true freedom lies hidden in total surrender to God’s love” (p74).
a) Henri describes the “voice” in him that tells him not to give his whole life to Jesus (see p71).  Is there a similar voice speaking in you?
b) Hot heeding that voice, Henri seeks to understand how he can bring Jesus truly to the centre of his life.  Fr. George answers “Be faithful in your adoration” (p71).  Why do you think this discipline opens up the life to full surrender to God?

2_ Forgiveness is an important theme in this week’s reading.  He writes, “I learned afresh that friendship requires a constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ and a willingness to ask Christ himself to be the true centre” (p65).  
a) How does Henri’s experience of pain and forgiveness in his friendship with Jonas speak to you?

3_ On page 81, Père André encourages Henri to “keep a careful eye on the difference between urgent things and important things.”
a) Is it clear in your own heart and life, the difference between the urgent things and the important things?  Which ones get most of your attention?
b) Do you know someone who consistently chooses the important things?  What do their decisions look like?  What does their life look like?
c) How can we start to make the shift from urgent to important?

4_ Henri was struck by Jean’s words “Jesus always leads us to littleness” (p88).
a) What does it mean to choose the way of “littleness”?  What does it not mean?
b) How is it that through this littleness, Jesus can bring about much fruit? (p89).

Again, you’ll find throughout Henri’s entries many other insights and pieces of wisdom he gains from the people around him.  Please feel free to share what stood out to you.

Sincerely,

Ray and Brynn

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52 Responses to Feb 25th to Mar 3rd: Sections 6 – 10

  1. Brenda says:

    I changed jobs three months ago and am still adjusting to, and struggling to establish, a new schedule and routine. Earlier in the day I had read an article that used the same framework of urgent things vs. important things, so when it appeared in the book too, I knew I needed to pay attention! It can be so hard to decide which is which.

  2. Harry Ford says:

    Again, I found myself thinking that Nouwen lived in a radically different, almost alien, environment from my daily routine.
    I suspect that Henri Nouwen would have a difficult time living in the world of social media. He seemed to fret over the non-response of his friend. I do admit, however, I get annoyed when e-mails or messages go unanswered, so I guess I share some of his insecurities.
    Many years back, I remember taking a seminar about choices. In this class, a matrix was presented. There were two columns and two rows in the matrix. The first column was labeled URGENT and the second, NOT URGENT. The rows were labeled IMPORTANT and NOT IMPORTANT. All of your options can fit into the four boxes: urgent and Important; Not Urgent, but important; not Important, but urgent, not important and not urgent. We should do our best to live in the second and third boxes, trouble brews for us when we live in the first or last!
    Reflecting upon the concept of littleness, I feel that there are two forms of littleness. The first form is one of a self-surrender of one’s own ego and going down into the deepest part of one’s own humanity and meeting Jesus there in our own naked and vulnerable center. Just after writing this sentence, I realized how truly frightening that thought was to me. The second is the littleness reflecting one’s own shallowness and insensitivity towards another fellow human being’s struggles or needs. As an example, at a seminar I recently attended, a man broke down while expressing his rage and hurt at the bulling and demeaning treatment his daughter experienced at the hands of others.

  3. Patrice Donnelly says:

    Jonas and Forgiveness.

    We first meet Jonas in 3: Darkness and Light. Jonas did not show up as scheduled and made no prior contact to let Henri Nouwen know that he could not visit. Henri struggles to forgive and draws a distinction between the love that Christ provides and that found amount human friends (25-26). Henri receives a call from Jonas almost 2 weeks later. In that call, Henri discovers forgiveness based on renewed trust. He also recognizes in himself a weakness of focusing too much on his own needs (34). He has found that inward thoughts and feelings, as well as small intimate gestures, can involve both our greatest joys and pains. This stands in contrast to the accolades and mantle of success at Harvard.

    In 6: Feeling the Pain, Nouwen writes about Daybreak in Toronto. He is not writing specifically about Jonas, but he makes the point that it is through our affections shared with others that we can deepen our relationship with God. Affections are not all there is to life -although our culture places great emphasis on our wants and needs. God is not absent from our affections, which can lead us to God (58-60).

    In 7: Forgiving the Hurt, we hear more about Jonas. We learn that Jonas is a psychologist. We learn furthermore that Nouwen has concerns that Jonas may regard him as amateurish given that the work of the community is not a professionally oriented as the institutions in which Jonas works. Nouwen then describes the strengths of the community first by explaining the difference between professional distancing and spiritual distance. Professional distancing is the act of keeping professionals away from the pain of their patients, whereas spiritual distancing is the intention to allows one to bear the pain (63-64). Here is the basis for their difference and of their friendship. They discuss their differences within the context of friendship and how they process their feelings. Nouwen elaborates on his feelings of rejection. He arrives at the conclusion that mutual forgiveness is necessary (64-66). He also concludes that one has to forgive oneself, before being able to forgive another (67-68).
    The aspect of their relationship that has to do with professional differences is fascinating, and I hope Nouwen writes more about it later in the book.

    My personal journey with forgiveness has had points of revelation similar to the story Nouwen shares. Long ago I read about the power of forgiveness and gave up a well-justified anger that I had carried in my heart for a few years. It was a very freeing moment, and I made it part of a Lenten journey. Looking back to that time, although I did not think of it then, I had also previously forgiven myself for any related faults. I have seen and heard from others a similar experience. Forgiveness is highly personal and can’t be counted on to resolve problems between people because each person has to realize their own path to forgiveness. Lent can be a perfect time for this journey.

  4. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Good morning!

    I first of all want to express my gratitude to each of you as you share your thoughts and comments, and thereby encourage all of us. It has been another very rich week.

    Over the last two weeks I’ve been thinking about about two things from the readings. The first is the power of living in the name of Jesus. I am blessed to live in a very safe place, so it is sometimes easy to forget how much I need Jesus as my strong tower, my refuge, my strength. But last week I actually had a dream where “evil” was trying to penetrate our home. In the dream my husband and I were trying our best to keep the evil out. But when I woke up my first thought was “Brynn…. the name of Jesus!!!! Call on the name of Jesus. He is your impenetrable fortress. Live in Him.” The second thought that has stuck with me is the encouragement to be faithful in adoration of Him. These days, with a little guy at home, I don’t have enough time dedicated to “quiet time.” But I’ve started to play worship music more often around the house. I can adore Him while making dinner etc. and invite my little guy to join in 🙂 I’m not saying this should replace prayer or the Word, but it is something I can do often to keep my eyes on Jesus.

    In gratitude to each of you,

    Brynn

  5. Renee says:

    Henri’s conversation with Pere Andre about urgent vs. important really struck home. Pete Andre said, ““The issue is not where you are, but how you live wherever you are. For you that means a constant choosing of what is important and a willingness to accept that the urgent things can wait or be left undone”. Before I came to Malawi, my life was consumed with checking things off my to do lists at work and home. My self worth was measured by productivity. I was committed to leaving the to do list behind for this time away, but I have travelled with the lists and recreated the same environment. Africa does God’s work by not responding to my to do lists thereby teaching me that spending time with people and being less driven by outcomes is more important than being busy.

    Just now I have had to accept a down day during a short vacation to Tanzania. Flight cancellations have forced my husband and I to just hang out with no itinerary. we are just enjoying being together and remembering what good travel buddies we are together. It’s a blessing. Thank you to God for showing me the blessing through the written word of Henri Nouwen.

  6. Gretchen Saari says:

    Yes there is a voice in me that says “don’t follow Jesus” It was shouting at me yesterday. An urge to act to support changing stigma that families of drug addicts experience developed in my life last year. I’ve felt it myself and have received support from a researcher in the UK. Yesterday I received a request from a group that might make a difference. My will took over and I imagined great results. I was writing the outcomes in my head. The request came out of nothing I orchestrated but my self centered voice popped in. I listened to Let there be light just now. I cried. I felt my personal experience as universal…how filled the world is with stigma. Henri was telling us to watch where we put our adoration and the song opened my heart to Jesus bringing light, not myself.! My heart shifted. No more self centered voice. I may have to run back and ask forgiveness many times but Jesus is there. So nice to collapse in His care.

  7. Ray Glennon says:

    The day that Jonas left L’Arche, Henri’s homily Eucharist that evening expressed the freedom that he felt from having forgiven Jonas. His personal experience touched the hearts of others who had suffered a similar trial. In his journal (Forgiveness and Freedom, p 68-69) Henri writes, “I discovered once again that what is most personal is most universal.”

    Why is this so? My answer is that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Each of us has a heart that seeks the one true God, albeit in our own particular (i.e., God-given) way. We are all on a journey through this world to our eternal home with God in heaven. God is present with us along the way. I recalled a letter we read during our Advent book discussion and I decided to find it. In his letter to Anna (Love, Henri p. 251) Henri writes, “…we cannot see God in others or in the world, but the God in us sees the God in others and the world. The deeper our communion with God is, the more we will discover Him in all that we see. That is why Jesus says those who are happy are those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”

    It is only because the God in us sees the God in others that we can sing, “…let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony. Let there be peace on earth…” Listen here: https://youtu.be/x-djRRFxOMk

    This weekend I’m one of the chaperones for on Confirmation retreat for high school students (mostly 9th graders). Keep us in your prayers.
    Ray

  8. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    I shared two of Henri’s journal entries on friendship with my best friend, my wife Dawn. Writing about Jonas (p 65, question 2), Henri emphasizes that no friend, not even a spouse, can take the place of Christ at the center of a person’s life. In the words of St. Augustine, “(Lord) you have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Like Henri, I have a great need for affirmation and despite the frequent and loving affirmation my wife provides, I often don’t accept it (likely because I tell myself I don’t deserve it) and, consequently, I may feel rejected or worthless. It is when I place Jesus in our relationship and offer prayers of gratitude for my Dawn that I find the peace I am seeking. Later, after his friend Peter departed, Henri wrote (p 93), “Friendship is such a holy gift, but we give it so little attention. It is so easy to let what needs to be done (my note: the urgent) take priority over what needs to be lived (the important).” Dawn and I both realize that we need to “just waste time together” and my commitment is to “make that happen” as my work situation changes and I “become a different person” .

    A brief reflection on the difference between the urgent and the important (p 81, question 3). As I read this entry, I replaced the word urgent with the word pressing–i.e., an urgent matter is one that is pressing. And then I thought of a donkey with the weight of a large pack (or a large rider) pressing down on their back, which immediately brought to mind the word burden. (Of course, a donkey is a beast of burden.) So for me the urgent matters may be those that are burdens and completed with a heavy heart while things that are important may those that bring joy (often in the midst of hard work) because we are following God’s will. Finally, it was interesting to me that when Père André became the authority, he told Henri that building personal relationships (e.g., mail, visits) was important and building personal accomplishments (e.g., books, articles) was urgent (or a burden). Père André seems to have understood that what Henri needed at this time in his life was to learn how to establish trusted relationships.
    Peace and all good.
    Ray

  9. Marianne says:

    The devotion which rang true with me was Returning With and Impure Heart. “God does not require a pure heart before embracing us.” This also reminds me of the verse in Romans which says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” I’m not sure why there is such a strong feeling of hesitancy in returning to church or returning to Christ because we are not perfect. Henri says, “Even if we return because our sins did not offer as much satisfaction as we had hoped.” I”m so glad we have a father God like this. God compares his relationship to us as a father. This I can understand because as a parent, all I want is a relationship with my kids. I don’t care if they screwed up, we can always dust each other off and get back in the saddle again.

    The second lesson which I appreciate is Choosing what is Important. Recently I have read a book which talks about being more effective at work and interestingly, this writer states we should take our coffee breaks and be so organized that we can leave work at work when we go home. I’m having great success with those methods. Henri says, “For you, that means a constant choosing of what is important and a willingness to accept that the urgent things can wait or be left undone.” If work is our vocation, our calling, these lessons should apply to work as well.

    Have a good weekend, all of you! Marianne

  10. Jo says:

    “Be faithful in your adoration” brings you closer to God and helps narrow your
    focus so instead of worrying about unnecessary clutter in your mind, your mind
    is more at peace. Spending time in adoration draws you into the heart of God. so
    spending time in His Presence helps us to understand who He is and makes it
    easier to surrender our lives to Him.

    2)Forgiveness: Henri speaks to humanity when he talks about Jonas. It’s
    easier to place someone higher than ourselves and then make demands of them
    than assume responsibility for myself and seek the answers from God.

    3) Paying More attention to urgent matters is a flight from daily routines. Yes,
    I’ve known someone who deals with important matters and it’s inspirational.
    We can make a shift in that direction by spending time with Jesus regularly
    because He’s the inspiration in dealing with daily life.

    4) Choosing the way of ‘littleness’ cuts out the drama. It doesn’t mean living
    a false image or pretending to be humble.
    Jesus can bring about much fruit out of “littleness” because there’s a lot of
    humility involved.

    • todd says:

      Thanks Jo for your post. I also connected with Henri’s writing on adoration- I was impressed by his devotion, dedication, faithfulness, and accepting that sometimes it does not seem fruitful but is always time well spent. In the past I had a weekly holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Due to a move and “busyness”, I have given it up. Wondering how I can bring that back (or even a partial hour…). Have a good week, Everyone!

  11. Marge says:

    P. 67 friends in spiritual companionship, keeping each other in touch with God’s kingdom……”we affirmed our true commitment and safeguarded that commitment in each other.” Not only keeping Jesus in the center of my life, but also in the center of others…love the word, safeguarding…..I feel like that is happening here in this discussion for me, an invisible church, and ongoing is “Constant mutual forgiveness and a continual openness to the love of God are the disciplines which allow us to grow together in friendship”. p. 66….helps me in the visible church I’m a part of…and then, “a good leaving that was already bearing fruit” p. 69 Helping me see distance in relationships as a good leaving, not permanent but for a time….am I remembering how Nouwen felt a need to be absent so that Holy Spirit would be present, come in more fullness? I’m not sure where I read that, but it continues to help me, serve as a reference point when I become too clingy, or too detached…..in relationship with others….

    Reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 16:7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” That helps me whether I’m the one left or leaving…in Christ I am, we are, never alone, though it may feel so at times. Praise be to God!

    • Liz Forest says:

      Leaving implies letting go. The separation could be temporary while the other has space to grow or remake oneself. Reminds me of “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”(Shakespeare) How many parents have had to “let go” of children as they become adults. Hear a song “This is Not Goodbye” by the Sidewalk Prophets on this theme: https://youtu.be/iqaXXxp2GgE

  12. Linda C. says:

    As I reflect on Henri’s comments about the prodigal son, I can only think of my female inmates who have returned to Jesus for survival. The way of addiction was leading them to death. Their life is not peaceful. True freedom for them and me lies hidden in total surrender to God’s love. I am blessed because they teach me so much about the spiritual life.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    These two sections below have helped me think about a friendship that was very close but for the past couple of years has waned. After reading these two sections and praying for 3 days I’ve asked Jesus to be (and stay) in the center of that friendship.

    “Friendship requires a constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ and a willingness to ask Christ himself to be the true center.” (Meditating about his friend Jonas on page 65)

    “Friendship is such a holy gift, but we give it so little attention. It is so easy to let what needs to be done take priority over what needs to be lived. Friendship is more important than the work we do together. Both Peter and I know and feel that, but we still don’t live it very well…It is a love that grows by forgiving each other constantly for not yet being who we want to be for each other.”
    (p. 93)

    • Linda C. says:

      I found Henri’s words on friendship so revealing and healing to me . I have a deep spiritual friendship which is being attacked by the disease of alcoholism. I am struggling with detaching with love or letting go completely of this toxic friendship. I have decided to be with the Lord in the desert and wait for God’s response to me. I love the words that “Friendship requires a constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ and forgiving myself for not yet being who we want to be for the other.

      • Gretchen Saari says:

        I liked it that Henri described praying for friends just before or after he was with them. I have been trying that. I just put my new discipline into practice before I sent this reply. So…my heart is with you.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Elizabeth,
      We were touched by the same two sentences on friendship. I added a comment on Friday afternoon with a brief reflection.
      Ray

  14. Marge says:

    I think I’m behind in my reading, but continue to revisit Henri’s thought of new challenge…p. 58….”It requires me to develop the art of “spiritual companionship” with these fellow travelers.”

    I’m wondering, if that might be moving me to a new understanding of my “ true place in God’s work of salvation”? I’m presently serving as chairperson for my church board, and I think I need to develop the art of “ spiritual companionship” as a call…….I think this will add a needed, necessary dimension to all my relationships….as I continue to read and write, pray and ponder, this may serve as a reference point for me in what I say and do…my ability to forgive, receive forgiveness may hinge on this new insight.

    “I must simply be present to it (“spiritual companionship”), and pray and look and pray and wait and pray and trust.” P. 55…for me, God Through Jesus, through Holy Spirit….through those in community as we travel together…..”Together they seek to form a true fellowship of the weak, always thanking and praising God for the fragile gift of life.” p. 62…..so grateful!

  15. Sharon says:

    This book is very revealing of Henri’s struggle. His willingness to share so openly his inner struggle to commit fully to Jesus is new to me. I haven’t read this before from Henri. A number of years ago I went through a difficult time of grief over the loss of my dad and at that time the loss of my mother when I was 2. In my grieving, I discovered the only one who could identify with my pain and loss was Jesus. Thankfully I had a wonderful foundation growing up in the Catholic Church where I did experience Jesus and his love at parochial school and in a church family and my own. I learned to pray to Jesus early, sit in the quiet place in church, and watch others sit quietly and pray. There is power in the presence of Christ and for me going to mass creates that quiet in my soul. Moving from my head to my heart time. I understand that others may not have that same experience. There was a time that I rejected the Catholic church, but now I find the mass, and the community, and the empty church kneeling, praying, and viewing Christ on the cross a reminder of the ultimate One who loves me like no one else will. Keeping Jesus the Center is how I live at my best even when life is hard. “Be faithful in your adoration” is a beautiful way to come into knowing who Jesus is. He does not disappoint…as the world and others will. He fulfills us so we do not need to get fulfillment from others. He brings peace that nothing else can. It is a journey each person I believe will be offered to make in some unique way of their own. It is not easy but at the other side is the One who was with you through it all and will continue to be with you…Never leaves or forsakes!

    This quote resonated with me especially….”Friendship requires closeness, affection, support, and mutual encouragement, but also distance, space to grow, freedom to be different, and solitude. To nature both aspects of relationship we must experience a deeper and more lasting affirmation than any human relationship can offer”.(p. 65) I agree wholeheartedly with this. What a wonderful friendship that can be if this is cultivated. It requires giving up and not wanting to control the other person and giving freedom to the other without being jealous or clinging. And adoring Jesus, for who He is for me, and that no one else can be! Making Him THE center, because I love him, lets everyone else off the hook for fulfilling my needs! I love that! And I am so grateful that I know this and continue to experience Him more. Truly and humbly …it did not come easily. I know there is more for me to experience and grow in. Peace and goodness. Thank you for allowing me to share.

    • Melanie says:

      Thank-you for sharing this Sharon, your words really resonate with me. I have been sitting with the same paragraph over the last day – especially the idea that Christ must mediate a relationship. It is such a huge shift giving it all to Christ and trusting – not worrying or meddling – that when “we truly love God and share in his glory, our relationships lose their compulsive character”.

    • David Brown says:

      Sharon,
      You said that going to Mass creates quiet in your soul. I couldn’t help but respond with a ‘Thanks Be to God” This has been my experience too for many years now. Nouwen tried to celebrate Mass wherever he was as a centering of community and realized Jesus as his center. He struggled to relate to others who were his friends with that in mind. Friendship and community are so important but Jesus at the center. Mass and adoration in the church as you mentioned can be a tremendous help in focusing on the Lord. thx, for your sharing,
      David

    • Brenda says:

      Yes, I loved this passage about friendship too!

  16. Derrick Fallon says:

    Henri’s reflection, “Where Misery and Mercy Meet” was particularly powerful for me, especially the idea that “Jesus always leads us to littleness.” I spend a few hours a week as a companion caregiver to a man with autism. Lee has a nine- year- old boy’s worldview trapped in a sixty-five- year-old body. His mother died a year ago and he is now completely on his own, living alone in the house in which he was raised. Lee often talks about how much he misses his parents, and I promised to take him to the cemetery where they are buried once the weather got nicer. We did that a few days ago, and it was a holy moment for me to be able to stand alongside Lee in his time of visitation, remembrance, and communion with those he loves. It was a time of misery and mercy meeting, as I experienced God’s loving presence with Lee in his time of need.

    • Elaine M says:

      There are many moments of misery and mercy meeting, as you so beautifully put it, Derrick: loved ones gathered in prayer as they hold their mother’s hands and listen to her last breath, a long estranged father and daughter embracing at last at his wife’s memorial, even a loved one’s solicitous care when you have the flu or a broken arm or a broken heart.

      Though I am not always a fan of social media, it is sometimes a way for people in pain to rally around one another. This book discussion, for example, can be that “ark” if we choose to come together for solace, just as Henri taught. I was recently reunited in a sense with old friends from around the country as we used Go Fund Me to provide prayers and financial support for the children of a former neighbor who had lost her police officer husband to gun violence. The survivors of the most recent school shooting, themselves the tangential victims of violence, are trying to find ways (including Twitter, rallies, and letter writing campaigns) to come together to effect change.

      Mercifully the Spirit comes alive for us in so many moments of misery. May I feel the Spirit in every moment, both miserable and joyful, that I may pray without ceasing.

    • Gretchen Saari says:

      Thank you

  17. Melanie says:

    As always I am moved by Henri’s writing – how relevant and accessible his words are. Today I am sitting here doing my readings before going to work. Spring Break is around the corner and my husband and I will be going on a holiday to Mexico for one week. Henri wrote about being ready for Paris on page 66. I wonder how it will be to be out of routine and be in a bustling city and how strong will the pull to be “swept up by desires for the many “other things” of this world present. Keeping my life Christ centered is where my heart is. Thank-you for this thoughtful group where we share our journey together.

  18. Jeff Dean says:

    Last part of section 7: Sensuality had a different meaning than is normally covered. We can breakaway and the see our environment in a whole new way. Which one will we choose?

    Also, It is easier to make progress on reading s when doing so together…

  19. David Brown says:

    I read Nouwens book on Icons Ray and had a deep spiritual experience when looking also into the eyes of Jesus in one of the Icons Nouwen provided, It was like looking into an inexhaustible well of Presence and Love.

  20. Liz Forest says:

    Ora et Labora: Prayer and Work is not an easy balancing act. Henri teaches that action without prayer is fruitless. Being in prayer brings me to a place of mercy. Henri says “Only with Jesus can we go to the place where there is nothing but mercy,” For me, that means I enter a sacred space of moments/minutes and see who I am and who God is. I take a passage from Scripture and find my place in the story. What will the message be? When I was still teaching, I always wished my little could be more. In hindsight, I see that every effort done with love is truly valuable. St. Therese of Lisieux had her “Little Way” of love which was drenched with sacrificial acts. She thought of herself as a flower in God’s garden as she was seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and the everyday. St. Therese based her “little way” on two fundamental convictions: 1. God shows love by mercy and forgiveness and 2. She could not be perfect in following the Lord.

  21. David Brown says:

    4. Nouwen showed by his actions that “the “Littleness of Christ” was bestowed on those most in need. Leaving Harvard for L’arche to serve persons with special needs, ministering to the one dying of aids with great compassion and understanding, learning from persons with special needs, enabling us all to understand our “Belovedness” in the still small voice of God, wrapping his priestly Alb around the special needs member and pronouncing a simple blessing on Her affirming her worth are just a few examples of Nouwen exhibiting the littleness of Christ. To me Nouwen is part of all our families through including us in God’s love through his writings which often seem to make him present among us.I used his four descriptions of the spiritual life from his “Life of the Beloved” in many funerals of persons I had not known in life. The families would ask me how I knew their loved one after the service. I would relate to them about Nouwen who seem to be there with us through his words.

  22. David Brown says:

    3. My concern is two severely neglected activities or attitudes in relationships,in all areas of society today, both emphasized by Nouwen at least as ideals he accepted and sought.To me these were/are “Silence and solitude” and ‘Listening from the heart” Silence and solitude bring peace, communion with God. and inner depth of character to name a few benefits. Many persons seem to believe one must always be busy. Jesus knew better,so did Nouwen yet he struggled with frantic activity. Persons often do not really listen to one another even in families. Persons who were fortunate enough to talk with Nouwen felt he listened from the heart.

    • Liz Forest says:

      How true that we do not listen. When we hear another speak we are thinking already of what our reply will be. In conversations, I must remind myself to hear between the person’s words, their feelings and where they are coming from. Then my response will be genuine. Speaking over another, even shouting at, seems to be the norm today. Dialogue is an art which needs to be revived.

  23. Ray Glennon says:

    Seeing and Being Seen by Christ, Rublev’s Icon
    I was touched by Henri’s words about this icon (p 55 and p 56) and I wanted to see what Henri saw. Click here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rublev's_saviour.jpg

    Henri writes, “O Lord Jesus, I look at you, and my eyes are fixed on your eyes… Your eyes, O Lord, see in one glance the inexhaustible love of God and the seemingly endless agony of all people who have lost faith in that love and are like sheep without at shepherd… Lord, let me see what you see–the love of God and the suffering of people–so that my eyes may become more and more like yours…” (p 56)

    After spending some minutes with the icon, and guided by Henri’s reflection, I was blessed with new insight into the person of Jesus and calmed by the love that is so evident in his face.

    Coincidentally, I am also re-reading Les Misérables (Julie Rose translation) and in describing how Cosette and Marius fell in love Victor Hugo had this to say: “Hardly anyone ever dares now say that two beings fell in love because their eyes met. And yet that is the way you fall in love and it is the only way you fall in love. The rest is simply the rest and comes after. Nothing is more real than those great seismic shocks that two souls give each other in exchanging that spark.” Hugo shows that the human eyes are the pathway to the human heart and soul. For Henri, Rublev’s icon is a physical manifestation of the divine love of Jesus and “…seeing and being seen, about being blind and receiving new sight, and about eyes–human eyes and the eyes of God.” (p 55)

    • Joni says:

      Ray, thankyou for posting that link; I too was wondering what Henri was looking at this time. His in depth description of the painting of the Prodigal Son still resonates in my heart and so.

      Wouldn!t be surprised is this Icon will also become a special gift for mediation.

  24. Mike Van Cleve says:

    2_ Forgiveness is an important theme in this week’s reading. He writes, “I learned afresh that friendship requires a constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ and a willingness to ask Christ himself to be the true centre” (p65).
    Forgive friends for not being Christ really reasonated. In the 15 years I was out of the Catholic heck even Christian Church I found that to be a chore. I wanted my friends to takr the place of Christ in my life of course none could

  25. Liz Forest says:

    How he can I Jesus truly to the center of my life? Fr. George tells Henri “Be faithful in your adoration” (p71). Why do you think this discipline opens up the life to full surrender to God? I surmise that this would be a way to take Henri out of the busy and into “sacred space.” That space could be at dawn in a chair watching daylight and praising our Creator for mercies renewed daily. (Not necessarily in a chapel.)
    Dropping routine makes me realize I’m not in control of all that happens. As for the “squirrel noise” the same can be said about my “monkey mind” jumping around during Lectio. What’s important and what’s urgent?(P.81) Like Henri, I can create busyness out of nothing really important. My “to do” lists always had to be revised daily until these lists became a hindrance. To let go of tasks and focus on a few is not easy.

  26. Liz Forest says:

    “Forgiving others for not being Christ” shouted at me. (p.64-65) ” As Henri said,”It is too easy to convince yourself that you are the one who needs all the attention.” A trap that requires constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ. I can expect too much from my horizontal relationships which will often let me down. Being at my true Center, as beloved of God, puts me in the compassion of the cross. Expecting too much of another denies that person space to grow. Here is the crux of the matter. Jonas had his trip planned to fit in a visit with Henri but then things got clogged so he never made the visit which Henri so longed for. Reminds me of how often I expected a call, a gesture, message or some connection from another only to receive no contact. Someone spoke of friendship, “the ties bind so strong that even if it’s been awhile between meetups, the time evaporates and conversation flows as if there were no gap.” (not exact words but similar)

    • David Brown says:

      Liz, Your vertical and horizontal analogies about our relationship to God and to others were very helpful to my understanding of my journey now.
      Thx,
      David

  27. David Brown says:

    2. Nouwen saw hat he was expecting too much from Jonas. He expected all his needs to be met by friendship and that Jonas would always understand. While it may be an overly zealous desire there is a degree in which we all seek full understanding. Another good reflection is what does one do with //Christian forgiveness –what kind of attitude should one have when one lives in a relationship like marriage when a major basic need is rejected by one of the spouses. when any one of the major expected marital traditions or roles, lover companion, supporter in time of illness or crisis, going on trips together etc.is rejected with out a valid reason or willingness to discuss the issue with an open mind seeking compromise or at least understanding… Many people live in these on going unfulfilled areas in their marriage or other significant relationship. This is when the “rubber hits the road” in exercising Christian forgiveness. Nouwen struggled with this and so do many others ,even in Christian relationships.

    • Patty Olstad says:

      Forgive and reconcile. When there is a breakdown in communication, we can only forgive and let go. Reconciliation can only happen when both parties talk out the differences and agree on solution.

      • David Brown says:

        Patty, thx for your comment. I have forgiven in a situation where there was a betrayal but it is true we are not reconciled because of a refusal on the other side to discus the issue or compromise in any way.

        • Pat says:

          How intertwined this is with whether to detach in love, to release–or to continue to hope for connection. Sometimes forgiveness is not only releasing our own feelings, releasing the “debt” or the “offense,” but also releasing the relationship.

  28. Elaine M says:

    One of the most compelling reasons for my leading youth service projects and offering social justice workshops is that it is the only way that my “little” efforts have the potential to go “big.” When I address a group of 100 teens, my prayer is that a handful of them will take up the cause, mobilize their classmates, and channel their sizable energies, talents, and vision into good works. If not now, perhaps later when they are adults with the education and resources to effect change in even bigger ways. I love that my own children have become service leaders and are teaching their children to do the same. Because the needs are so overwhelming, I have to operate on the principle of the starfish story: Though there may be thousands of starfish stranded on a beach, saving a single starfish matters to that fortunate starfish. One at a time, time after time.

    At the same time, there is the “littleness” of knowing that any good I do is not me but the Spirit working in me. And there is the “littleness” of knowing that I have not always given myself fully, expansively, generously, selflessly. When I have experienced the kind of compassion fatigue (the burnout Henri describes, p. 64), can I develop that “spiritual distance which allows us to let that pain become a light burden”?

    Here is the hardest line I have read in this book: “When I look critically at my life, I find that my generosity always occurs in the context of great wealth. I give some of my money, some of my energy, and some of my thoughts to God and others, but enough money, energy, and thoughts always remain to maintain my own security. Thus I never really give God a chance to show me his boundless love.” While it is admittedly good to enjoy the blessings of food, nature, friends, rest, physical exertion, and the simple pleasures of life, how much am I called to sacrifice in the service of others? How willingly would I leave it all behind? I would appreciate the wisdom of the group on the burning question.

    • Gretchen Saari says:

      Hi Elaine, I’m was wondering what anyone would say to this one????I am replying because it challenges me too. This is what comes to me. Henri has a meditation one day on people who jump from high places . He said that the secret is there are catchers stationed to catch them. He said “trust the great catcher.” I kind of think that the central point is to trust thee catcher. If I feel selfish, grit my teeth and jump when my trust is not mature enough then I am acting out of pride.???? I am focused on trusting the catcher and believing I will be led through my catcher to jump . The jump will be fearless! I am not there.

  29. chuck says:

    question 1 ) yes, the inner voice telling me no to total surrender is present as long as i am caught up in the ego drama of life.i do believe the discipline / habit of adoration brings us ipso facto to the theo drama that we all desire.all attention is to Jesus. being truly present with all your fiber to your creator in awe and gratitude. being.
    question 2) Fathers line ” requiring a constant willingness to forgive each other for not being Christ ” is so helpful. our horizontal relationships can let us down. having the vertical relationship the true center and constantly forgiving the people in our horizontal relationships is the compassion of the cross .
    question 3) yes ,i do know what is urgent and what is important the question is which do i respond to.. i think tracking your time spent on urgent versus important is eye opening. if you are Christ centered that changes your ways removing you from hypocrisy. the people i know who tend to important things have a wisdom, as well as a joy , that is appealing.
    question 4) littleness is a foundation for fruitfullness. being in a constant state of humility including prayer time is challenging. having the self confidence and self esteem to not need affirmation is our goal. moreover, if we do get the affirmation let us bless the giver and give all the Glory to God.

    • Marge says:

      You mention ego, Chuck…helpful for me is to spell ego backwards….OGE….Offer God Everything……just a small, helpful reminder that God often brings to memory when ego seems to “rear its head” far too often.

  30. David Brown says:

    No one wants to be vulnerable, we don’t seek “downward mobility”naturally.As a young pastor I always wanted a “big”church. In 40 yrs. I had only one. Upon reflection in retirement I now see that all the funerals, weddings, Baptisms, calls in homes with the sick lonely and fearful, persons in nursing homes etc. were my “Big” church from the Lords perspective. I have experienced the sweet and very real presence of the Lord in Adoration(chapel) like in no other place. some how if feels to me like speak and listening to Jesus face to face. I think the comment in the book about allowing Jesus to be central and letting other things go or at least being able to hear and adore Christ and want to follow Him is also a process which Adoration enhances a great deal.Yet when we are allowed to bear a cross for a long time or experience a painful relationship that doesn’t seem to change despite our urgent prayers it hard not to take things back into our own ands at least emotionally. David

  31. Steve Scherdin says:

    I found that the ‘urgent’ things distract from the ‘important’ things. In a recent talk to our Confirmation youth, I described it as ‘squirrel disease’ from the scene of Doug, the dog in the movie UP. He is talking and present to others, and then all of a sudden completely distracted by thinking he heard a squirrel. I told them our challenge is to identify our ‘squirrels’ and not allow them to distract us from listening for what’s important.

    I’ve found my ‘urgent squirrels’ of day to day stuff – schoolwork, bills, chores – have distracted me from hearing the important things – the direction God wants me to go. Making time to be quiet and listening in front of the Lord is usually what it takes for me to be able hear what’s important. Unfortunately, that is when my squirrels are also the most distracting. I’m also considering doing some journaling or blogging, putting thoughts down to help focus on them more.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Steve,
      Welcome and thanks for the comment. My wife and I lead a Confirmation small group and we use a number of movie clips. Will certainly add UP to the mix for next year.
      Ray

  32. Ray Glennon says:

    From Steve Scherdin
    I am a public school teacher and part-time associate youth minister in Louisville, KY. I’ve enjoyed Henri’s books for years, and participated in a retreat many years ago based on The Return of the Prodigal Son. I’ve joked for decades about trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (still do), and The Road to Daybreak just seemed to resonate. I have really enjoyed the book and have had a hard time putting it down. I look forward to traveling this journey with all of you.

    = = = Copied here from last week = = = =
    In thinking about being free to say ‘yes,’ I feel my not answering has been a combination of the worldly pull of doing what I think others want me to do, commitments to family, or just making myself too busy to hear Jesus’ invitation. I think my life has been Jesus gently inviting me in one direction, my going in another, and He following along, still there for me, and still whispering his invitation.

    As my youngest is a year from college, I’m hearing that whisper a bit louder. I’m inspired by Henri’s attempts to find his true calling, wanting to hear my call, and encouraged by Thomas Merton’s prayer “…But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

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