Dec 9 to Dec 15: Disciplined Living, Spiritual Life, Prayer, & Compassion

ReadingHere and Now, Chapter V to Chapter VIII (pages 85-153)

The purpose of spiritual reading, however, is not to master knowledge
or information, but to let God’s Spirit master us… 
it helps us to give meaning to our lives.
Here and Now, Five (p. 95) & Six (p. 96)

Wow!  It’s a great blessing to be a part of this wonderful, Spirit-filled,  and joyful virtual community sharing our Advent journey together. Last week was a truly amazing week of thoughtful, honest and thought-provoking sharing. A sincere thanks to each of you who shared.  And thanks to the many folks who are following along, but may be be less active in sharing comments.  Your presence strengthens our community. 

In our readings this week, Henri encourages us to continue our conversion and to claim and share God’s love by being disciplined, prayerful, and compassionate. We are presented with 31 meditations that encourage us to go deeper in our spiritual life and our relationships with the Lord and our community, especially those who suffer.

Henri highlights the discipline of spiritual reading and reading spiritually (quote above)– a discipline that is clearly evident among this community here and now.  In reflecting on Henri’s meditations last week, many of you recalled and shared insights from a variety of sources that broadened our perspective and enriched our understanding.  Thank you.  Henri then challenges us to look at how we are living our life today.  He reminds us that prayer is the way to know the Lord and that it is through compassion that we build up community.  There’s lots to ponder here and what we discover may be life-changing.

As always, you are invited to share the insights you have gained to the degree you are comfortable.  Several of you found the reflection process suggested last week to be helpful;  it is included again below. Finally, it seems to be a good time to say that your comment doesn’t have to be perfect, profound or polished.  You are not being evaluated based on your comment.  We will all gain by hearing from you as we continue what has quickly become a fruitful discussion among friends brought together by our shared interest in Henri Nouwen.

Once again, thanks for joining us this Advent as we prepare ourselves to receive the only gift of Christmas that matters–the Lord Himself.  We very much look forward to hearing from you in the week ahead!

May the Lord give you peace.

Here is a process that you might find helpful as you explore the readings.

  1. Concentrate on one chapter per day.
  2. Read all of the meditations in the selected chapter in the order presented to gain insight into Henri’s approach to this element of the spiritual life.
  3. Select a few (perhaps 2 or 3) of the meditations that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times and reflect on what they are saying. Consider:
    1. The thought or concept that stands out to you
    2. How does it relate to your personal experience? Look at your experience with the benefit of Henri’s insight.  Does that help you to see things differently or to know yourself better?
    3. What is God speaking to your heart?  Henri turned to scripture daily and that is reflected in many of these meditations.  You might find it fruitful  to seek out  the Scriptural truths that Henri mentions or that God is speaking to your heart.
    4. How you will respond? Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights and to apply this element to strengthen your spiritual life?
    5. Pray!
    6. You might also consider the questions in the Guide for Reflection (p. 203)
  4. Move on to another chapter.
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10 Responses to Dec 9 to Dec 15: Disciplined Living, Spiritual Life, Prayer, & Compassion

  1. Ray Glennon says:

    From Roger Snyder
    Greetings, My name is Roger. Henri Nouwen has been an inspiration for me during the last 5 – 10 years. His insights leading to God’s revelation have been significant in my experience. I’ve never joined a study like this. I hope to find a way for further inspiration with the ability of group and individual observations. I realize I’m starting this a little late but hope to catch up! On we go…

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      Roger, several of last week’s readings encouraged us to live in the present. You are not a little late –welcome!

      • Roger Snyder says:

        Thanks you… I’ve just experienced the first chapter and already it’s the medicine that God knew I needed for my soul… in the here and now!!!

  2. Liz Forest says:

    What spiritual reading does is to let the Spirit master us. When I read Scripture or wisdom texts by spiritual writers, I may be only adding to my knowledge base. Yet when I absorb the wisdom, digest the truth, “it will give meaning to my life. Some texts are meant to be read, reread and reflected upon. Some bits of spiritual wisdom may be worth writing into my Journal. Some others will be ones I want to share, posting in blogs that I am joined with or sending emails out with these gems from what I have absorbed.
    Questions? Henri says”We have to keep asking ourselves: ‘What does it all mean? What is God trying to tell us? How are we called to live in the midst of all this?’ Without such questions our lives become numb and flat.”
    Now that’s a gem worth sharing!

  3. R says:

    Hello ,
    I’m just joining today as I saw the group discussion opportunity on the website.

    Thank you for sharing these helpful thoughts.

  4. Elaine M says:

    I too have given much thought to the idea of “reverse mission.” As a home-visit volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, I have often been moved by the resilience, fortitude, and spirituality of our neighbors in need. A few years ago our pastor suggested that parishioners participate in a reverse mission whereby we would first spend at least a day providing some kind of direct service to the poor, the lonely, or the deprived and then an evening in which we returned to church to share our experiences and new insights about seeing the image of Jesus in the faces of the poor. At first I was amazed at how many participants, most of whom were older adults, had never before performed direct service and therefore had never really seen “the poor” as unique individuals deserving of not only our love but also our admiration.

    I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Too often, church homilies addressing Jesus’ many lessons about loving our neighbor as ourselves are too abstract or analytical, and in some people’s minds the message is reduced to financial donations or a box of canned goods dropped off at the food bank or sorted at a warehouse. While these works of charity are indeed essential and appreciated, the actual physical perception of the poor may be reduced to the image of a man holding a sign on a street corner or a story in the news (and often negative or political).

    That is why I consider spiritual reading to include “secular” works, both fiction and nonfiction, in which the Word of God is made flesh through 300-page stories of one individual, one family, one small town–real people—fleshed out with descriptions of their specific struggles, hopes, and dreams. How could one not be moved to pray and to act after reading of the plight of a refugee, a child growing up in an inner city tenement, or a doctor in Central America? The characters in Jesus’ stories live on today. As God, Jesus had special insight into their hearts. As man, Jesus was moved to touch them, speak with them, and act directly on their behalf. As humans, we need extra help in seeing into people’s hearts. Such fully fleshed out modern stories can help to show us the way.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      I am an avid reader and have belonged to a Book Club of four reading friends that have met monthly since May 2000! I love your statement, “…I consider spiritual reading to include ‘secular’ works, both fiction and nonfiction, in which the World of God is made flesh…” So true.

  5. marge says:

    “Reverse mission” (p. 67, Conversion) continues to get my attention as I read Nouwen’s thoughts on the discipline of prayer….helps us to bring God back again and again into the center of our lives…then reading, “The purpose of spiritual reading, however, is not to master knowledge or information, but to let God’s Spirit master us.” And asking/willing to live the questions, “trusting that gradually the answer will be revealed to us”..trustingly…..

    • Marge,
      Thank you for your noticing of Nouwen’s “reverse mission.” It drew me to read this section. These words touched my heart: “the poor have a mission to the rich, the blacks have a mission to the whites, the handicapped…to the normal,” etc.

      What a profound noticing that those that the world makes victims are the very ones that God makes “reverse mission.” They challenge me to see that those I stigmatize (see as less), can be bearers of soul conversion. This challenges me to let go of judgement, claim God’s love and see myself and them as God’s Beloved.


      • Deb Gustafson says:

        This section on “reverse mission” really resonated with me! When Henri states that after deciding to move and live with the handicapped at L’Arche, that he learned that his real task would be to let those whom he wanted to help offer him -and through him many others- their unique spiritual gifts! I am getting ready to leave on a mission trip to Haiti on December 31st to work with handicapped “orphans.” This gives me a new perspective on my mission – praying for God to open my heart to some “reverse mission.”

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