March 18th to 24th: sections 20 to 23

“Listening to Jesus together  is a very powerful way to grow closer to each other and reach a level of intimacy that no interpersonal exchange of words can bring about.” (p189)

Reading:  Sections 20 to 23, Road to Daybreak

These last four sections capture some of Henri’s experiences during a six-week trip around the world to visit with friends and family.  There are a lot of diverse experiences here, so feel free to share about whatever stood out to you / spoke to you.

1_ Henri writes “Oh, how important is discipline, community, prayer, silence, caring presence, simple listening, adoration, and deep, lasting faithful friendship.  We all want it so much, and still the powers suggesting that all of that is fantasy are enormous.  But we have to replace the battle for power with the battle to create space for the spirit” (p184).  It is probably safe to say that the temptation to battle for power comes up for every one of us who has committed to a long-term relationship (marriage, community etc).  
a) In what ways do you see the battle for power being expressed in your own words and actions day by day?
b) What are some practical ways we can choose to “battle to create space for the spirit” in our relationships instead?

2_ Towards the end of the book Henri becomes “increasingly aware of how important it is to enjoy what is given and to fully live where one is… to become present to where I am, always growing deeper in the spirit of gratitude” (p208).
a) You are invited to recognize and express your gratitude for the people and places where each of you finds yourself right now.  You might even choose to share something each day that you choose to enjoy/are grateful for.
b) How does question number two relate to question number one?

We look forward to another rich week of sharing.  Many thanks again to each of you who have been on this Lenten journey together.  Be sure to come back next week for a week of “conclusions.”


Ray and Brynn

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22 Responses to March 18th to 24th: sections 20 to 23

  1. Patrice Donnelly says:

    I appreciate the need to have some power. Henri writes, however, about power that is greater than what is needed in life to find spiritual fulfillment. He writes about excess of power. This reminds me that we are vessels, and we can only hold so much of the different gifts in life, thinking in terms of proportions, not absolute size. One type of gift, such as power, can crowd out other gifts such as spiritual awakening. We need to ask, from time to time, What does the world need most? What do individuals need most? Then we can try to find a good balance. Whatever our particular leanings, faults, gifts, and talents, we can master carrying and using our gifts through balance. We should each gave enough power of a kind that we need in life to fulfill our purpose, and then broaden our gifts, rather than hoard power (or any one gift). Spiritual awakening is the breadth and depth of our gifts that we hold.

    As a teacher, I make room in the classroom for each voice/student to develop and be heard. When students are jealous of another’s talent, I bring them back to the team concept. We are a team, not just a group of people in a classroom who must show up everyday. We have goals, both individual and team/class. In this way, kids both hold and share power. We have individual competition and recognition of individual talent, but we also have team efforts, sharing, as well as charity – giving to others. It only works if each child has a chance to shine. That’s true of adults, as well.

    Giving to others can increase healthy power by our recognition that the world is a better placed due to our effort, or the combined effort of many to a cause. We can also increase healthy power through gratitude. We may not always feel grateful, but the moment that we do consider our gifts, our good fortune, the live in our lives, even though we still have wants and maybe needs, we feel enriched. It is healthy power, not an excess of power.

    We all have faults. Jealousy, bitterness, whatever it is, in whatever measure, we can all understand one another’s faults if we first admit our own. Henri admits his own. It us instructive, and makes him able to understand others faults. His compassion in turn, increases. As a reader, I can feel it in his writing. He was probably a forgiving person, though rigorous in his pursuit to be spiritually awakened.

  2. Linda C. says:

    Like Henri I am sometimes overwhelmed by the sense of isolation we human beings can feel behind bars as inmates or imprisoned without walls in our families. I am taught by the women in jail and prison that our sufferings are similar and our struggles so much a part of our shared humanity. We suffer much but we also have great gifts of healing for each other. We are called to confess to each other in our families, forgive each other, and thus discover the abundant mercy of God. I must admit that confessing to strangers is alot easier than confessing to those closest to us for being afraid of being hurt. Like Henri I see better every day how radical Jesus’ message of love really is.

  3. Harry Ford says:

    While reflecting on this section, the words to U2’s song kept me company. “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” In all of his searching, I’m not sure Henri ever did find what he was looking for, and always seemed afraid that, if and when he did, he would do something to lose it. I guess, in many ways I guess I am like that, keep searching for something, not sure what, and afraid to let go of what I have. Not family or friends, but perhaps the way I approach a problem. The one part of my life that I am most grateful for, is a stable family situation with my wife and our children’s families. This was not something I had growing up, not is any sense.

  4. chuck says:

    battle for power shown by the words we use could include: i am right, i won, told you so, you are wrong,what about me, not them, just us, and that is mine.
    battle for power by action could include:excluding,creating fear, justice , no mercy, intimidation, not considering the ways of the spirit in others

    creating space for God: Adoration,silence, prayer, contemplative thinking and living, losing the ego,finding childlike humility, finding God in all things.

    Gratititude is life giving. to have it prevents the human condition from wearing us down.a deep appreciation for all gifts creates space for the Holy Spirit to abide in us.

  5. Kathy says:

    In the sub-section “Trusting the first Love” of Section 23 I was really touched by the way Henri speaks of the need for daily confession and forgiveness, acknowledging that we need to keep “forgiving each other for not being God for each other”. True forgiveness is the touchstone of profound love and at the same time so challenging. I see it so often in the love shown by family, friends and patients in our hospice. It breaks down or prevents what could be impossible obstacles to relationships. It enables love to deepen and strengthen despite or even because of our human fragility. It enables people to stay present and supportive through the most difficult of deaths. I still have much to learn though regarding expressing forgivenss in words and in asking others to forgive. It is a life long lesson.

  6. Ray Glennon says:

    Henri’s journal entries from Paris as he was concluding his world tour (p 207-209) touched me. He was fast approaching an important transition in his life. So am I. Next week will be my final week of full-time employment; After Easter I will continue doing similar work for the same company but only for 16 hours per week.

    This will be a significant change for me after 45 years of full-time work. After careful and, at times, painful discernment, I believe that I am responding to God’s call to make this change, however, I am uncertain where God is leading me or what he is calling me to do with my newfound freedom. And that is why these two readings were meaningful to me. On June 23rd Henri writes about the “ups and downs of my inner journey” and that to stay in the right frame of mind the “most important criterion is prayer.” It is essential that I establish and follow regular God-centered routine in order to be open to God’s call to serve him in new ways.

    The following day Henri writes about the need to “live fully were one is…” This, too, will be an essential discipline as I seek to follow God’s will for my life. And what is God’s will? Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek was imprisoned in the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1955 (first in Lubianka prison and then at hard labor in Siberia) and detained for another eight years before being returned to the United States in 1963 in exchange for a Soviet spy. Father Ciszek said he was able to survived his ordeal because he and a fellow priest prisoner discerned this essential truth: [God’s] will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to “do the will of God.” No, these things, the 24 hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation… It is for similar reasons that Henri says I must “become present to where I am” because that is where I will find the answer to Henri’s prayer, “God, show me where you want me to go and I will follow. But please be clear and unambiguous about it.”

    I’m embarking on this next phase of my journey with anticipation, uncertainty, and firm confidence that I am never alone. May I always trust in Jesus. Come Holy Spirit.
    Peace and all good.

    • Linda C says:

      Dear Ray, I have retired twice from full time work. My experience is that God shows us the way in his time not ours. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be Still and Know That I am God!” Enjoy your new found freedom as you rest in his love. Peace, Linda

      • Ray Glennon says:

        Thank you Linda for your affirmation and encouragement.
        I have a plaque above my favorite reading chair with the Scripture you cited. Timely reassurance.

    • Ann Scafe says:

      Retirement is wonderful! The Lord has shown me and thought me so much.
      Enjoy your retirement and God bless you and your wife. A whole new experience is coming.

  7. Jo says:

    Trying to get this book seemed futile until finally I asked the L’Arche community that I’ve been a part of for many years and they gladly loaned me a copy. This, of course, has a deeper meaning. This book is like a Guide in L’Arche!

    When Henri talked about being in California I was pleased reading his experiences
    were a lot like mine. Later in referring to gay men with Aids it brought back a
    memory of a dear friend of mine who lost his partner to Aids. They had broken up
    and his loved friend behaved recklessly until he reappeared at his door asking for
    help. I appeared at his door when his friend died spending the day until the body
    was taken away. It was enlightening, uplifting and wonderful hearing how he
    had provided him with a great spiritual director in his final months. The result
    was experiencing such love from God that one could only be very grateful for our
    Faith and God’s mercy. Confession, something that Henri often refers to, is such
    a pathway to God’s Healing Presence.
    The other beautiful experience was going with a priest friend who happened
    to surprise me with a visit that day. I didn’t know he was in town as he lives in
    the West but there we were, 2 people who share faith regularly, visiting someone
    who just lost his loved one. What Grace! What an awareness of how God had
    healed his friend through Aids and took him home becoming a saint on the way.
    There is no reason to be downcast when dealing with sin because through the
    Sacrament there is such amazing Grace – beautiful Grace for all who repent. We
    were privileged to witness a saint taken from this life to enter eternal life.

    Being a part of L’Arche is such a wonderful gift in my life which causes me to
    suffer as well as stabilize me through the presence of the core members that it’s
    really mind boggling. When you think of all the Social Services available and people who spent the 1st years of their life in an Institution are now “Healers” shows how God is counter culture. The Core Members are the amazing rulers…the ones who hold it all together, the people who manage to bring the sophisticated to their knees
    while holding their hands, is a mystery. A Spiritual dimension to living the Gospel that exceeds anything I’ve seen anywhere.

    I had no expectations reading this book but was definitely guided to do it. I’m
    very grateful for this Discussion Group. Thank-you!

  8. David Brown says:

    Having read Nouwen for years I am aware of the immense spiritual wisdom he shares in such a way that we feel we are with him as he writes. I think of three things among so many that create a kind of living bridge to Nouwen. Compassion, One can feel his compassion as one reads his words. His compassion when contemplated deeply can create a spirit and a pattern for understanding our life and the lives of others. another is vulnerability. Nouwen doesn’t hide his humanity and by an in depth revealing of himself opens the door for our own self understanding . finally Beloved, Nouwen declares we all are Beloved and so is everyone else. We are challenged to continue the journey along with others to say”Yes to the One who calls us Beloved from all Eternity” This means we do not judge others who may be at different places in there search for God. I love my church confession which begins, “I confess to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned. . . “(every week) and awareness that I /We have not arrived but God’s forgiveness reminds us of our Belovedness.

  9. Liz Forest says:

    When Henri speaks about evaluating his journey(P.207) he stresses the most important criteria is prayer. “As long as I pray daily, intimately and long, I stay in the right place and continue to walk on the road to holiness.” I relate to his words, except for the praying “LONG” part. Frequent and short prayerful conversations with God can be nourishing.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      I wholeheartedly agree (and I think Henri would too) that frequent and short prayerful conversations with God are nourishing. As I reflect on the “long” part, it seems to me that during this part of his life and continuing at Daybreak, Henri realized that the hour of prayer in the morning was necessary for him as he struggled to remain in the Spirit of Jesus while finding balance in his life. If we could ask Henri, I think he would say that keeping his journal is also an act of prayer. I have noticed during these weeks together how often Henri’s journal reflection is based on the Gospel reading for the day. That’s not surprising, as it is likely that he used some of his morning prayer time to reflect on the Gospel, often before celebrating the Liturgy later that day. For me that is a very helpful hint as I try to journal more during my own job transition.

      Thanks for sharing. Peace and all good.

      • Liz Forest says:

        So true that the Word we hear at the day’s beginning helps to set the direction for the rest of the day. Thanks Ray for your input.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    In the epilogue Henri revealed his most radical challenge (page 222) at Daybreak: “Is Jesus truly enough for you, or do you keep looking for others to give you your sense of worth?” His dependence on his friend Nathan prevented him from making the community the true center of his life and kept him from a primary dependence on God.

    I’m encouraged that one of Henri’s conclusions (page 226) was a promise to pray more, especially prayers of adoration. I’m a new member of a prayer team and really needed to read his long time of agony and wrestling ending with a move from self-centered reflections to simple adoration and praise!

  11. Marge says:

    Silence…p. 188&189…..I think for me, silence may be a spiritual discipline, my choice in the “ battle for creating space for the Spirit”…..necessary is “an atmosphere of mutual trust”…let the Lord be the One Who speaks, gently and softly”….”a caring silence”…I help my daughter-in-law who is in the throes of progressive MS at age 40…she teaches me the sustaining, nurturing power of silence…the disease, itself, silences me…it is encouraging for me to read, “A silence lived together in the presence of Jesus will also continue to bear many fruits in the future.” I wonder…This read helps me realize my gratitude for, and being fully present in this time and place, almost feeling like my choice has already been chosen for me! Whatever that means? Is this the “ daybreak” moment….still a bit “opaque”……

  12. Beverly says:

    My heart was deeply touched by two readings. The first was Henri’s discussion with Senator Mark Hatfield regarding human rights issues in Guatamala (187), the second on “Welcoming the Child” (189). In the first he mentions “I was able to stay very close to Jesus in all my conversations and speak simply and directly about him.” Clearly, in a political arena that would not be easy to do. But Henri’s Holy Spirit seeing looks past the prestige and ‘welcomes the child,’ rather than recognizing the power. This takes the ego out of the mix making it easier to speak from the heart and speak to the heart of another.

    In the second entry, Henri asks and answers: “What does welcoming the child mean? It means giving attention to those that are often overlooked.” Here, in the same way he looks past the power of the politicians he lunched with at the Whitehouse, he challenges himself to look past his own power and make a decision to put his attention on the one overlooked: “I imagine myself being invited to receive an award. Could I let the honor go and spend the time with a depressed elderly woman who is forgotten by her friends…?” He then surmises; “To welcome the little child, I must become little myself.”

    My heart is so stirred by this profound challenge of what it means to simply be Christian in this complex world. Henri calls me to stay close to Jesus in all my conversations and to become little myself. This demands so much more of me that taking political stands, espousing sound theology, knowing the right people, serving on committees and going to church. It invites a surrender that strips me down for the sake of raising others up.

  13. Gretchen Saari says:

    I might be a little off because I am on a trip. What struck me from the reading is how similar New Orleans is to San Fransisco! I had a conversation with a street artist about this city. She thought a lot of people move here because they want love. The searching and conflicts we all face are the same everywhere. The darkness I mentioned is not unique to any one group of people. I am with two friends and we have to navigate choices and being in close proximity. I’m challenged to leave space and listen. I will do that today. It’s easier to imagine it in my own house than crowded in a vacation condo in the French Quarter! Such a history here of loss with Katrina. And, the imbalance of power with the history of slavery. I vow to remain tuned to the imbalances that still exist today.

  14. John Parent says:

    So well said Elaine M. Even though I was unable to participate fully in the years Lenten journey because of other Lenten obligations, I did read, pray and travel with all of you seekers. It was important to my child-like heart for you to be there. Thanks for all your sharings and insights.

  15. Elaine M says:

    In the section entitled “The Way to a Second Childhood” (p. 193-194), Henri quotes the words of Jesus as recorded by Mark: “Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Although Henri focuses primarily on a child’s openness to receiving love willingly and unconditionally, I also like to think about a child’s propensity for asking questions (“Why is the sky blue? How do caterpillars become butterflies? What does God eat in heaven?”) and exploring the world (rolling mud balls in her hand, wading in every mud puddle, seeing what results from mixing every paint color in the box together). For children are natural wonderers and searchers. Too many adults wearily resign themselves to the status quo or decide that their religious beliefs have already been laid out for them in black and white terms: “I’m right, so that is that.” As I grow older, I see more and more that we must continue to seek God in people who may not share our orthodox beliefs, to search for the hand of God in new and unexpected places, and to continue to ask “why” and “how” and “where.” I think that quality in Henri is part of his appeal for those of us who continue to participate in every book discussion offered on this site. Though we may experience times of doubt and confusion and pain, as long as we continue to seek, often in the company of other seekers, we will find our place in the heart of God.

    • Renee says:

      Thank you for your post Elaine. Another aspect of being like a little child is playing and being joyful! I believe that God wants us to be joyful (“even after considering all the facts” says Wendell Berry). I may have missed the point with the book, but I felt like Henri Nouwen was not particularly joyful with where he had been led. He seemed to have left an important, affirming friendship behind and wasn’t really enjoying his new mission. Something just didn’t seem right to me with the way his journey ended in this book.

      • Ray Glennon says:

        Thank you for your comment about where Henri was on his journey as he concluded his first year at Daybreak. Suffice it to say, Henri’s journey of painful self-discovery continued beyond the end of The Road to Daybreak.

        Less than six months after the Epilogue to our book was written, Henri entered a period of “extreme anguish” that was triggered by the “sudden interruption of a friendship.” Henri’s secret journal “written during the most difficult period of my life December 1987 to June 1988” was published as The Inner Voice of Love–A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. As Henri writes in the Introduction to that book, “…I see (that period of my life) as a period of intense purification that had led me gradually to a new inner freedom, a new hope, and a new creativity… the books* I had written since my period of anguish could not have been written without the experience I gained by living through that time.”

        I highly recommend Inner Voice… or any of the books below.

        Peace and all good.

        *Some of Henri’s most popular works including: In the Name of Jesus (1989), The Return of the Prodigal Son (1992), and Life of the Beloved (1992).

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