March 25th to 31st (Conclusions): Epilogue

“Is Jesus truly enough for you,or do you keep looking for others
to give you your sense of worth?” (p222)

Reading:  Epilogue

Dear All,

This has been another wonderful book discussion, and we are truly grateful for all who have journeyed with us actively or silently.

This final week is an opportunity to reflect on the book as a whole, and an invitation to articulate your “take aways.”  The epilogue itself provides much to reflect upon, and it may help you to frame some of your take-aways from the book.

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday we also welcome you to share what God is speaking to your heart as we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

With much gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

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23 Responses to March 25th to 31st (Conclusions): Epilogue

  1. Laura says:

    Having never posted and always reading all of your good thoughts, I now join in several days past the end of this journey.
    This has been a rich and challenging book to read and to listen to the reflections of you all.
    There is much to ponder on and hopefully inspire me to a greater dependance on God and to come to see and accept my own handicaps. To trust Him to know He will be with me in the loneliness that may look like.
    A simple thank you .

  2. Mim (Miriam) Kunz says:

    I have enjoyed sharing with You all during our Lent as it formed Comminity. There are many take aways so i will just share a couple. P167 where Henri talks about our propensity to seek darkness. It’s very comforting to hear such a spiritual giant speak about what is most universal – our constant turning toward darkness. Praise be to God that He has loved us while He knew we were still sinners.
    I enjoyed this book immensely during this lent period. Happy Easter to you all – He is Risen

  3. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Again, many warm thanks to everyone who has journey together this Lent. The website is just a page of technology… but the presence of each of you turns it into an incredible gift of community.

    Wishing you all a blessed Easter,

    Brynn Lawrence

  4. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Several concluding thoughts on this Holy Saturday morning…

    On Monday I will begin the next phase of my life journey as I transition to part-time employment. This change opens up new possibilities for me to respond to God’s call in ways that might be precluded if I continued to work full-time. And so I pray:
    Holy Spirit, help me to trust in Jesus and to see the Father’s will in the circumstances, places, people, and problems that I encounter each day. Give me the understanding and wisdom to know what I should do and the courage and strength to act on that knowledge today and everyday.

    In this time of personal transition, I’m grateful for the threefold adage of Henri’s friend Donald Reeves (p 205) on a vision and a task:
    –A vision without a task is a dream;
    –A task without a vision is drudgery;
    –A vision and a task is the hope of the world.
    May these ideas guide my thoughts and actions as I respond to God’s call.

    Finally, this morning I returned to the latest Nouwen book, You Are the Beloved–Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, compiled and edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw. The entry for today, March 31st, is a prayer written by Henri that was originally published in A Cry for Mercy. I was moved by this prayer, especially as we approach Easter, and I wanted to share it with you as we conclude our time together.

    Dear Lord,
    Help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father’s holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lampstand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see the the Heavenly Father, and with you I can find my way to him. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace. To you I give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all–all that I have, think, do, and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own.
    Amen

    Peace and all good.
    Ray

    • Patrice Donnelly says:

      At the end of the story, Henri writes about the three graces he received from his work at Trosly. Over the year he set himself the goals of learning French, writing more, praying more, and knowing the handicapped people more intimately. These were goals, he says, he did not acieve. Instead, he learned the importance of sharing in the community, as he mentions in the Epilogue, and he received three graces. The three graces were being in touch with Europe, friendships, and being in deeper contact with the handicapped people.

      From my own experience planning, I find it is not uncommon to set a goal, only to find that another is more important or perhaps a steppingstone that is needed first.

      I am also moving into a new area of my career, so I hope for us both, clarity gained from insight and prayerful reflection as we move forward in our individual journeys. I also wish you good luck and enjoyment in your new career path.

  5. Melanie says:

    Thank-you so much for this sharing. It has been a transformative time for me. Making prayer a bigger part of my day, everyday, and finding the joy in prayer rather than a feeling of duty has been the biggest, greatest gift. I have not been very present with comments but have taken so much from everyone’s sharing. I feel pretty infant in my faith journey and am learning to be less private in this journey. In fact, I am discovering just how important that faith community is to growth.
    Thank-you for this opportunity to read Henri’s books and share together. I have shared this and a few other of Henri’s books with my mom who is bedridden. His words have brought her such consolation. This week she is in a great deal of pain and I shared the Jesus Prayer with her that I found in Henri’s book Reaching Out. It is so powerful to witness her breath and pray – I can feel the presence of the Lord with us.
    Blessings to you on the Easter weekend. I look forward to the Advent book discussion.

    • Patrice Donnelly says:

      One of life’s greatest joys is to share parts of our own journey in life with a friend. Our parents always remain our parents, but they can also become friends in our adult life. Sharing our journey with a parent and friend by reading Henri’s writing aloud is very nice idea! Best wishes to your mom, and Happy Easter season to you both.

  6. Elaine M says:

    These readings and discussions keep bringing me back to the idea that our greatest natural gifts and talents are our joy, our responsibility to share, and often our greatest vulnerability and source of suffering (though hopefully redemptive suffering). Besides his huge intellectual gifts, Henri carried the gift–and burden–of being able to listen generously and openly to the pain of others, lifting their burdens, and taking on their burdens himself. His super sensitivity made him vulnerable to feeling hurt in his personal relationships, but it gave him great empathy, and that quality drew others to him. Though it has been years since his death, we are still drawn to his books and to each other in this book discussion.

    In a similar way an artist friend of great talent and soulfulness finds joy and fulfillment in her art, but for these reasons, she is often called upon to do pro bona projects that, I fear, will eventually cut into not only her discretionary time but her sleep. Some friends in St. Vincent dePaul give mightily of their time, talent, and treasure, but they too sometimes lose sleep worrying about a neighbor in need. Ditto for every parent and grandparent who responds with unconditional love to every family need.

    But such is the call of the Cross to carry the joys and burdens of the gifts of our lives, to get up time and time again when we fall, to resurrect feelings of hope out of situations of seeming hopelessness. Blessed Good Friday.

  7. Kathy says:

    Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the book discussion. I have learned much through your sharings.
    I have found two “take-away” graces from these readings. Firstly on page 138 the concept of choosing joy. I know I can choose to love even when the feeling may not be there but I had never thought about the possibility of choosing joy, despite circumstances or prevalent emotions at play in my life. I took this concept to spiritual direction last week. There is a lot of depth to plumb in that idea.

    Secondly, the thought on pages 150 – 151 that at L’Arche the Word is found in the body. As a hospice nurse this struck me as so in keeping with the work and relationships that my colleagues and I enter into caring for our dying patients. Death is a very basic and often not pretty expereince but I encounter God there more than in any other form of nursing I have undertaken in the last 43 years.

    So much to think about. In New Zealand it is now nearly evening on Holy Thursday and we are about to enter the Triduum. I wish all you a most graced and peace-filled Easter

    • Patrice Donnelly says:

      Thank you for your post. I am grateful to being reminded of choosing joy. It is not about moid, but about free choice. In Bread for the Journey, the April 18th entry, Henri writes about the importance of inner freedom. These are both expressions of the need and importance of moving beyond the daily obligations and feelings, towards a deeper purpose in life involving free choice.
      Happy Easter season, and good luck with your work.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks to Ray and all of you for your honest comments. If I had to choose one post that was most helpful it would be Ray’s March 23 story about Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek being imprisoned in the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1955. 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.” 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.

    I’ve had a habit of living in the past or the future instead of the “day that the Lord has made” and rejoicing in it. (Psalm 118:24) I’m grateful that a soured friendship has begun to be healed the past 2 weeks. It’s a small resurrection compared to my Lord’s total defeat of death and sin! Thanks be to God for Easter.

  9. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Although Henri was certain he was called to Daybreak, in the Epilogue we learn how difficult he found the transition. As Henri wrote, “Once I said to them, ‘I first thought I came to help you care for handicapped people, but now I feel as if you had accepted one more handicapped person among you.’ Indeed, the facing of my own handicaps was the hardest battle of all.” One of the comments last week put it this way: “I felt like Henri Nouwen was not particularly joyful with where he had been led… Something just didn’t seem right to me with the way his journey ended in this book.”

    As we conclude our Lenten discussion, it may be helpful to briefly consider Henri’s journey beyond The Road to Daybreak. What follows is a revision of a comment I posted last week.

    Suffice it to say, Henri’s journey of painful self-discovery continued beyond the end of our book. Less than six months after the Epilogue was written, Henri entered a period of “extreme anguish” that was triggered by the “sudden interruption of a friendship.” During this period Henri needed to leave Daybreak for an extended period of psychological and spiritual attention. 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.” If you are interested in continuing to walk with Henri on his journey to “a new inner freedom” I highly recommend Inner Voice…

    Three of Henri’s most popular works are a fruit of Henri’s spiritual anguish and healing, all of which I highly recommend: In the Name of Jesus (1989), The Return of the Prodigal Son (1992), and Life of the Beloved (1992). Another window into Henri’s life and spiritual growth is through his letters. Published in 2016, Love, Henri–Letters on the Spiritual Life includes over 200 letters (from more than 16,000) selected and edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, founding archivist of the Nouwen Archives. As Henri’s friend Sue Mosteller writes in her epilogue to that book, “I love this collection. It is, for me, a spiritual autobiography.”

    Finally, Brynn and I hope that you will join us for our Advent book discussion. Our book selection will be announced in early-October with the discussion likely beginning on November 18th. May you be richly blessed this Easter season and until we meet again.

    Peace and all good.
    Ray

    • Jo says:

      Hello Ray,

      Reading your post spoke to me personally and I have to say that
      we do go through deep anguish at times over situations in our lives
      and if we make it through we do discover that everything in this world
      is passing. It doesn’t end here. That’s the good news of the Resurrection!

      I witness my family dealing with really serious health problems and
      it’s beyond human how we’re all coping so well. We are helped by
      God who takes care of our daily needs. The Our Father is a personal
      prayer where we can reach out to Him asking for help and listen to Him
      give us guidance.

      We go through a tunnel guided by a Light until we’ve left behind a lot
      of support systems that aren’t really helpful until we discover that He,
      Himself is guiding us and carrying us in such a helpful way we have no
      need to think we have to have the answers or the map. God is calling
      us to a deeper relationship with Him which brings us all the support
      we’d ever need.

      Happy Easter!

    • Patrice Donnelly says:

      Thank you for providing an opportunity for each of us to participate in this Lenten blog on The Road to Daybreak. It was a wonderful experience. I look forward to continuing in Advent. Thank you also for the further reading suggestions.

      Peace and joy to you and your colleagues! Happy Easter!

  10. Linda C. says:

    I am grateful that the Holy Spirit nudged me again to be a part of this wonderful book discussion. I was alot more open to sharing this time. I definitely felt connected to so many of you with your stories and spiritual journey. After so many years of living alone and serving the Lord throughout the world, I am being called again to communal living. Today I found a 55 and older Independent Living Retirement Community which will be perfect for me and those that will visit. I echo the words of Henri on page 227 ” Even though following Jesus might well become a more and more hidden journey for me, I do not think it will ever become a private journey. “Laying down your life for your friend is what Jesus asks of me. For me that includes communicating as honestly as possible the pains and the joys, the darkness and the light, the fatigue and the vitality, the despair and the hope of going with Jesus to places where I would rather not go. His will be done and not mine!

  11. Gretchen Saari says:

    Here I sit in my study – back home, cloudy Seattle skies, raindrops on the window. In my meditation this morning, I decided to listen to some of my favorite hymns, including “It is well with my Soul”. It felt comforting to hear, “my helpless estate.” The feeling is my reality now…thanks Ray for the quote: 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… Today I am with my church during Easter week. I saw people at church this past Sunday – we hugged – few words. As in the hymn – Christ regards me, my ” helplessness” – like Henri, I often face my helplessness, with lots of no’s, wrestling, justifying, but recognizing God in the reality of my situation soothes me. I have loved settling in and reading what this discussion community, fellow seekers, experience each week during these past weeks. The comments and Ray’s guidance were gifts.

  12. Marge says:

    As small and insignificant this may be, for me, reading Henri’s 3 promises gets my attention..1) pray more 2) do everything possible to come to know my own community better 3) to keep writing….in this 3rd promise, key for me, “”Even though following Jesus might well become a more and more hidden journey for me, I do not think it should ever become a private journey.” Differentiating hidden/private so helpful to me. I prefer private, thus serving as board chair of my church community has led me into a place I would rather not go, if it were up to me! My fear to speak my heart was noted in an earlier response, silence chosen for me rather than choosing it, getting to know, “waste time” with those in my community: called, sent, belong….and especially, embracing Henri’s last sentences…Jesus has led me, will sustain me when I feel lost, and “will guide me toward the day no longer followed by night”…..concluding with…..

    “But I trust that the slow and inefficient ways of life at Daybreak will teach me something new about God’s love that has remained unknown to me so far.” p. 192

    PS p.223…about 2nd loneliness…..”a loneliness with Jesus in community”…..”because it is a loneliness not to be removed as a stumbling block to full human maturity, but to be embraced as the way to follow Jesus to the end.”

    Looking towards our Savior’s cross, joined in Love we stand….thank you, ALL!

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Marge,
      These three promises also resonated with me as I make the transition to part-time employment and I continue to seek where the Lord may be leading me. It is clear that I will need to establish a schedule that: 1) begins with a time for prayer; 2) meets my part-time work commitments effectively; 3) includes time for discipleship; and 4) fosters reading, reflecting, and writing in a more intentional way than I have done to-date. While all four item are important, it is the time for discipleship that is the most uncertain at present.
      While I am currently active in a number of areas (e.g., Confirmation preparation), it is unclear where I may be called in this next phase of my life. Like Henri, I recognize that I need to know the communities to which I belong better than I do now–and that can only occur if I am willing to share my life’s experiences and faith with others in those communities. This remains a challenge for me and one that will require focused attention in next phase of my life. It needs to begin with my acknowledging, as Henri says so often, that I am the beloved. And then I need to trust in Jesus.
      Blessings,
      Ray

      • Marge says:

        Thank you, Ray..blessings to you as you walk on a new road to “daybreak”! Like Henri, may you be surrounded with those “who want to keep me faithful to my promises”. p.227

        I, too, read “The Inner Voice of Love”, in June 2000…so very helpful in articulating and realizing my own pain, the short reads are about all I could absorb at a sitting, and have passed it on several times to those readied to receive by dark times, times of silence….in need of healing time……….God is so good! Thank you for reminding me of this book!

        Truly when Henri writes, “It is being emptied out on the cross and having to wait for new life in naked faith.” p.225…I get it, though most probably not a once-done deal! But praise God, it certainly is worth the wait, and the agony..so grateful God did not give up on me, thus I cannot give up on anyone…even in the abyss, God is present. Henri’s writings, faith journey continues to bear fruit……just as he most desired……

        So grateful for this opportunity to travel together ….may ALL our lives bear fruit in the precious “Name of Jesus”! Trustingly as Day-Breaks….Resurrection awaits……

  13. Ray Glennon says:

    From Patrice Donnelly
    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.

  14. jo says:

    I think we are like onions being peeled one layer at a time. I remember when my
    mother got dementia as a result of a massive heart attack I trembled when I first
    saw her. It was through imitating Mother Theresa in my care for mom that I was
    able to give her love and care without expecting anything in return. As it happened
    I did receive a hundredfold in return.

    It’s natural and healthy to have relationships where each one shares pain,
    suffering and joy. When these relationships are derailed by outside interference
    we crawl to the cross with our suffering waiting for stability to come from the
    Lord and He doesn’t disappoint. It’s in the quiet time I find new strength and
    remember it’s God who is helping me…God who has the whole world in His
    hands, so I need not fear. Anyone can be replaced. And I’m learning to let go
    and let God so He can deal with those who persecute, etc. while I can live a live
    given by Him for Him keeping my eyes upon Him, adoring His wonderful
    Face.

    Claire, a feisty core member in L’Arche, gave me a deeper sense of my worth
    continually. She praised my cooking and laughed at my jokes and was always
    thrilled spending time with me. I’ve learned over the years that the Core
    Members are more whole than many ‘normal’ folks. They have a spirituality
    supported in L’Arche that draws me right to the Heart of Jesus and I find
    following Him much easier being in L’Arche. It’s Lighter…not so much in the
    head as in the heart. They teach us to laugh and not always be thinking about
    serious issues. They transform us.

    Reading: Epilogue

  15. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Three thoughtful comments on the readings from last week were added on Saturday evening. They can be found here. http://wp.henrinouwen.org/?p=1554 After reading them, you can navigate back to this page by clicking Home in the black bar under the photo.
    Ray

  16. Elaine M says:

    As a starter for this last discussion, Ray and Brynn cite Henri’s question about whether we may keep looking for others to give us our sense of worth. I use the pronoun “us” in my paraphrase since this tendency is so central to a culture that values (or at least pays heightened attention to) material power and success. While we may legitimately admire the hard work and intelligence that it may have taken to reach high status in the eyes of the world, it is often the status symbols, the power that the culture admires. As a teacher, I often see parents using their high achieving children as bragging rights for themselves.What of the hard working parent who struggles to scrape by, whose troubled and confused child goes to school without hope or energy and maybe without breakfast? How will other students or even teachers interpret that child’s potential recalcitrance and failure to achieve?

    However, the line that struck me most personally in Henri’s epilogue appears a little earlier on that same page (222): “Is my attention for …broken people little more than my way of feeling better about myself?” When I reach out to that struggling student, which do I feel more: deep empathy and sorrow for his challenges or self-assurance that I responded appropriately? When I go on a home visit to a neighbor in need for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, do I appropriately admire the courage and resoluteness of the struggling mother who has humbled herself to ask for our help? Do I fight the urge to judge her unwise decisions (and thereby deem myself as wiser, better)? Do I become indignant if a neighbor in need is frustrated and does not offer me the thanks I perceive I deserve for helping her?

    Dorothy Day, who often faced rebuffs from the poor she served, said it well: “We must love to the point of folly, and we are indeed fools, as our Lord himself was who died for such a one as this. We lay down our lives, too, when we have performed so painfully thankless acts, for our correspondent is poor in this world’s goods. It is agony to go through such bitter experiences, because we all want to love, we desire with a great longing to love our fellow human beings, and our hearts are often crushed at such rejections. But, as a Carmelite nun said to me last week, ‘It is the crushed heart which is the soft heart, the tender heart.””

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