Mar 1st to Mar 7th: 1st Week of Lent – The Adventure Begins

Reading: The Story of Two Sons and Their Father; Prologue: Encounter With a Painting; Introduction: The Younger Son, the Elder Son, and the Father (p. 1 to 23)

At the heart of this adventure is a 17th-century painting and its artist,
a 1st-century parable and its author, and a 20th century person
in search of life’s meaning. (p.3)

Welcome, welcome, welcome to each of you. What a tremendous start to what promises to be a blessed and meaningful Lenten journey. Thanks to those of you who introduced yourselves. We have gathered in this virtual space from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, the UK, the Netherlands, Hungary and beyond to form a global community to read and discuss this spiritual classic.

Gabrielle Earnshaw–Nouwen scholar and author of the soon-to-be published Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son – The Making of a Spiritual Classic–said that it took Henri nine years to write this book, the longest gestation period of any of his forty books.

As Henri writes in the Prologue, it was during his 1983 visit to L’Arche in France that, “My eyes fell on a large poster pinned on her door. . . . I could not take my eyes away. . . the hands–the old man’s hands as they touched the boys shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.” (p.4) It was this “poster moment” and its immediate impact that was the genesis of what became Henri’s most popular work. The image to the left is the poster Henri bought for himself after seeing the poster on Simone’s door.

Then why did it take nine years to complete? As Henri describes in the reading this week, he decided to leave the world of the university to make his home with mentally handicapped core members of the L’Arche Daybreak (just north of Toronto) and their assistants. After his arrival, he experienced a disabling spiritual and emotional crisis. So rather than writing about Rembrandt and the painting, the artist and his masterpiece accompanied Nouwen through his time of transition, healing, and rejuvenation. And, as Henri writes, “Now a time has come where it is possible to look back on those years of turmoil and to describe . . . the place to which all that struggle brought me.” (p. 13) The book we have before us is the result of Henri’s anguished journey and it has been a blessing and a comfort to more than a million readers the world over.

Henri describes in loving detail the time he spent with the painting at the Hermitage. This image is a screenshot from a virtual tour of the Hermitage to give you some sense of what Henri saw when looking from a distance at the eight foot by six foot painting.

On page 13 Henri mentions how he relocated his poster from place to place at Daybreak. This photo shows its current location in the living room of The Cedars, a retreat house at L’Arche Daybreak, which was formerly the Dayspring where Henri found his home. Looking at the poster, he realized, “All of the Gospel is there. All of my life is there. The painting has become a mysterious window through which I can step into the Kingdom of God.” (p. 15)

You are encouraged to share and discuss whatever came up for you in the readings. You are also welcome to share your reflections and insights prompted by the comments of others. The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion. Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them.

  1. “Coming home” meant, for me, walking step by step toward the one who awaits me with open arms and wants to hold me in an eternal embrace. (p. 6) What does “coming home” mean for you? Have the readings this week challenged or deepened your understanding?
  2. As I reflect on my own journey, I become more and more aware of how long I have played the role of observer. . . had I, myself, really ever dared to step into the center, kneel down and let myself be held by a forgiving God? (p. 12) Do you find yourself living life largely as an observer? Are there times you have stepped into center and what was that like?
  3. I have been led to an inner place where I had not been before. It is the place where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all loving father. . . who says, “You are my beloved son.” (p. 16) How do you respond to these two ideas at the heart of Henri’s spirituality–you are the beloved and you are God’s home? Have you experienced this in your life? What was it like?
  4. I am called to enter into the inner sanctuary of my own being where God has chosen to dwell. The only way to do that is prayer, unceasing prayer. (p. 18) How do you approach your inner sanctuary? What does “prayer, unceasing prayer” mean in your life?

As we enter in to this first week of Lent there is much to share from our reading and we look forward to hearing from many of you. It is an joy to be gathered with each of you, those posting comments, and those following along silently. Everyone is welcome here.

Peace and all good.

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86 Responses to Mar 1st to Mar 7th: 1st Week of Lent – The Adventure Begins

  1. Paul Q says:

    There’s a reluctance in the light… or should I write, a comfort in the lessening shadow.
    Seems as the son is embraced…as the hopes of his life are found in the embrace of the one who loves him just because…are all those hopes in all those people in the lessening shadows. The author of the Bible story gives us the son’s exploits. The author invites us into the son’s mindset. Or is it the author’s mindset? What I don’t know is what’s in the minds of the other characters..but they do watch… they do see.. perhaps they flinch at the embrace because they want and need the touch so much that the slightest brush of humanity upon their needful beings is so alarming… because the need is so deeply felt. Perhaps they need to bust out, scream, break the norm, dance a little, live a little, break the ho-hum, go for self realization and just dare not… lest they lose all they have.. yest the creature comforts and the pains, doubts and fears.. for even pain, doubt and fear can become familiar. What we know is the embrace… and the light….

  2. Louise Cantin says:

    This week’s reading left me with two important impressions…
    First,this is the first discussion I risk getting « into the light » of sharing with all of you. It is so easy for me to be a bystander, observe, listen, read and…not be seen. So, this is a real step for me: be seen, feel vulnerable and …approach the Father. From the older daughter to the prodigal daughter desiring so much to drop the resentment and the protective armor. Second, I come to realize how difficult it is for me to let myself be held in love. And yet, this is my calling as the beloved daughter of God: as Henri said, to go from the house of Love to the houses of fears, and from the home of God to the homes of my fellow humans. Be where God is dwelling in me, in prayer, in gratitude and letting myself be loved so I can offer this love and joy to those I encounter. This is not an easy road but it is definitely the road I want to be on…with all of you.

  3. Mart says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments. I have taken so much away from them. All I can add is to say, like many of you, my coming home to the Father lies in the openness of my prayers.

    In prayer, I visualize God as a campfire burning in the middle of a dark wood. The flames of His love comfort me and give me warmth They also protect me from the darkness that surrounds me. To sit around such a fire is to know a deep peace that I do not find anywhere else. John Woolman, who writes from my own tradition, calls the place of prayer ‘a precious habitation’and this is how the Father embraces me.

    However, I also know of the spiritual pride Nouwen sees in the elder son and I pray that the Spirit dampens it whenever it arises in my heart.

    Am I called to be a spiritual father? Of course, we all are, but I do not yet know what this will look like. That part of my pilgrimage is still ahead of me.

    Thank you all so much for your wisdom.

  4. Janice says:

    I’m reading this book for the first time as well as this being my first reading of Nouwen. I know that I don’t fully appreciate all he had to share, it’s allot to take in and process and relate to. I can’t help but wonder if he had seen the Rembrandt Poster at a time in his life when he wasn’t so vulnerable, if it would’ve had the same impact on him. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated his words as much just a few years ago but I am yearning to find more meaning at this time in my life as Nouwen. Gods home to me is through the beautiful acts of love I’ve been fortunate to have received throughout my lifetime, many of which I questioned if I “deserved”, it’s not a certain place but all around me . It’s through the way I treat others even when it’s difficult. Unceasing prayer to me at one point would’ve been very literal. Now it’s being more attentive to the Holy Spirit. Book is giving me much to think about and see the Prodigal Son in new ways.

    • Marcia says:

      This is a book that you will need to read, meditate, and process in your time frame. What a gift to be introduced to Nouwen. This book is one I pick up when I feel homeless. Nouwen’s vulnerability and humanness give us permission to always come home. We are reminded that we are Gods beloved! Enjoy

  5. Katy-Anne says:

    This is the first time reading this book for me. I already posted this week but I have something amazing to add.

    About two years ago now, I returned to the God and to the Church and to God’s people.

    Like that darn prodigal son, I got hungry and knew I had to go home and was trying to figure out how to explain myself and what I was gonna tell God and I hesitated but started walking back home anyway and God came and met me and embraced me and gave me good food.

    The Eucharist has brought me back to God twice now. The Eucharist…it interferes…it changes lives…once you’ve partaken you’re never the same…

    I’ve always had trouble with the concept of God as father. My father was cruel. I have been resistant to God as father. Not willing to entertain that thought. Nope, no way. I cringe when we say it in the Lord’s Prayer, I think I mean every word but that one.

    And God laughs.

    Because today I thought of something. God, like the father in the story, let me come home but didn’t just let me come home but celebrated that I came home. He wasn’t concerned with whatever it was I had figured out I was going to say.

    And today I wondered if perhaps I the hole in the fortified walls I have built around myself and which have served me very well, might possibly be big enough to have gotten a glimpse of what a father is supposed to be like and maybe, just maybe, I could be a little open to that idea.

  6. Michelle Carattini says:

    After reading the pages the first time through, I had a strong desire to spend time in the presence of the painting as well – especially when Henri mentions 4 onlookers and I could only notice 3 in the image on the book cover. More importantly however I wanted to observe, study, reflect and be drawn into the image…Henri’s poster moment. My reflections reminded me of moments that I have experienced in my life – beautiful memories.
    Usually I rush to answer the questions connected to the readings, but this week I allowed Henri’s words to live with me. The passage that resonated with my spirit the most this week is:
    “I have to kneel before the Father,
    Put my ear against His chest
    and listen,
    without interruption, to the heartbeat of God”

    The son was greeted with such warmth, compassion, love and welcome by the father…what the son had done did not matter (among others, by requesting his inheritance he was saying he wished his father dead – that is after all the way inheritances are received). Unconditional love and welcome home.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Coming Home
    This is my first reading of this book after hearing a talk about it on the Henri Nouwen podcast Now and Then (1/4). When I reread the story behind the painting, it brought to mind the many places I have looked for healing in my own life. The son looked to the world and what it could offer when he took his inheritance, then to others who could sustain him, then to himself to control his outcome of working for his father, and finally to his father. His father offered him home – love, healing, and a place to rest apart from the other “answers” he thought he had found or sense of control. It made me think what a beautiful exchange coming home can be – surrendering your cross, whether it be control/self reliance or something else, and receiving a welcoming and healing place to rest in love. Control can be so hard to let go of. Looking at the picture of the son kneeling in surrender in his father’s arms makes the idea of giving up control less scary when I imagine myself in the place of the son.

  8. Nancy True says:

    Thank you for all your shares and prayers.
    I’m returning to reading The Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen after many years away from it. I am older now having been a professional chaplain for much of my career. I’ve chosen to return to school for my Doctorate in Education. Henri and his writings, his words, the way he would pronounce something so delicately, in English gives me the space to pause.
    In the prologue I find myself becoming aware the four figures he mentions, the two men and two women, as Henri writes “who stood around the Luminous space where the father welcomed his returning son.” When I received a copy of the poster many years ago I couldn’t find the other woman. Then I see a silhouette in the upper right corner peeking around the column and I found myself as the silent sister. After years in Ministry in chaplaincy I’ve no longer been the silent sister. My prayer for this Lenten season is to be open to the possibility of a new vocation that Henri lifts up for me to contemplate. Maybe it will be okay to be silent for a little bit this Lenten season.

  9. Linda MacDonald says:

    It was a number of years ago that I read this book by Nouwen. It was published in 1992, one year before I graduated from seminary. When people would ask me how I had found the experience of being in seminary especially as an older person (I could have been the mom of many students) I often said it is like “coming home”. Home is where the things you love may be found but it is the place you may have to search as well. It is a place to enter into action that was going on before you arrived on the scene. I appreciate that aspect more and more. Living did not begin with me, but I enter it and have entered it. I could really feel Nouwen’s honesty about wanting to be in control. What a temptation that is for me. I’ve been a pastor and now I am a retired pastor. Everything I ever learned in seminary, as good as it was, was never enough to assure that I was or would ever be in control of anything! I found myself thinking a lot about the many dates Nouwen puts in his text which for me become a pathway through my own journey. His time spent in the Soviet Union at a time when the world stood on the brink of nuclear “exchange” – a sanitized word for destruction. We were fortunate that at least there were people intent on building bridges between the peoples of both our nations. His connections with Central America were also part of where my journey led me. At any rate – there is much to ponder in this book. And opening it again is to enter a time and space that was rooted in the history of the moment Nouwen was writing and thinking and praying and working. Maybe the challenge of this book 20 plus years since its publication is discerning how or if it connects to where the trajectory from 1992 has taken the world.

    • Liz Forest says:

      Dates are important markers on a person’s timeline. When we are born, the years of growing into adulthood, middle age and golden age are immersed in current events. I can relate to your words, Linda: “Home is where the things you love may be found but it is the place you may have to search as well. It is a place to enter into action that was going on before you arrived on the scene.”
      I was back in school as Graduate student many years after teaching students.
      I was old enough to be mother of the other students in the program. Yet I felt home in the pursuit of further education. I loved learning new methods and discovering I could master new skills. During these four years, I was “at home” in a parish faith sharing group, heavily based on Scripture. My love for the Psalms resurfaced and my prayer often became a Psalmist melody offering praise and seeking guidance. “Be a light unto my path, Lord, and a lamp unto my feet.” Like Henri I was searching while at the same time I was home,

  10. Cindy H. says:

    Henri’s description of the young guard in the Russian hat who smiled at him reminds me of the time I was riding the subway in NYC the day after Martin Luther King was killed. The city was very tense. Everyone was wondering if there was going to be a riot. An older African-American man was sitting opposite me. Our eyes met, and he gave me one of the warmest, kindest smiles I have ever received. I smiled back. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment of meeting. I felt as though Jesus himself was smiling at me and forgiving me. I’ve never forgotten that smile and what a smile can do.

  11. joe says:

    Salutations to all.
    I love this book. I had a thought just now about how all my life I wanted to remain on the fence, living in the world but also being accepted and loved by God. Much of this time I was looking for approval from the world which never offered much except for needless suffering. Approval from God means that I had to give up the worldly me to be accepted by Him. The call to come home is strong in my life and yet the journey has been long. How much further must I travel? What does it mean to live in this world but not be of it?

  12. Patricia Martin says:

    I have been reflecting upon the idea of stepping into the center and finally identifying some times when I felt myself to be in the glowing center where the Loving Father is. I don’t know that I “stepped into” it, just that I was suddenly present in a place that I didn’t want to leave – an experience more wondrous than just sensing him being present to me. But then I would be there no longer. Perhaps in some sense I am already home or at least in the foyer, but I long to enter into and remain in the center of my true home. I know that unceasing prayer is necessary for that to happen, but prayer occurs in fits and starts for me. Looking forward to Lent, I resolved to try, but resistance to prayer became stronger instead until this Lenten discussion began.”

    • Diane Frances says:

      I’ve also struggled with the idea of incessant prayer, if we define prayer as discrete periods of saying or thinking. Who can possibly do that? But what you’re describing is the best type of prayer and the only kind that can be unceasing— the longing to be in that wondrous union with God. I believe holy desire is prayer!

      • Christine says:

        Diane Frances,
        Your descriptions of prayer as holy desire spoke to my heart. I have a copper plaque with the “Praying Hands” in relief and the verse “Pray without ceasing” imprinted above them. It was a gift from a coworker that has traveled with me through a few moves after retirement.
        The plaque is one of the first things I see each morning. I’ve become so accustomed to seeing it, that I don’t really notice it’s meassage. Perhaps this season of Lent is the time to take those familiar words to heart. Perhaps as Henri suggests, ( see question 4), they will serve as a door to ” the inner sanctuary of my own being wh r God has chosen to dwell.”

        Thinking about Paul’s wise words of advise, I decided to look for the full verse. Here it is:

        “Rejoice always,pray without ceasing,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
        (- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (

  13. Diane C. says:

    It was a joy and delight to begin reading this amazing book again after so many years. When Henri was first gifted to me, I had just broken away from a cult-like and controlling church experience. I was spiritually empty, scared, angry, lonely, and completely lost. I truly believe that Henri was sent to me as a life raft…to this day I call him my guru. I’ve come a long way since those dark days. My spiritual journey reminds me of a line from an iconic Grateful Dead song: “What a long, strange trip it’s been!”
    When Henri speaks of “coming home” it hits me right in my heart. While re-reading, it was curious for me to see what I had underlined in this book all those years ago. One particular sentence brought me to tears. Henri is speaking about being led to an “inner place”…the place where God dwells. He quotes from the gospels “You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests”. And then…here is what I underlined:
    “THIS PLACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE”. Upon reading this I was flooded with memories of how relieved I was at this truth that had eluded me for so long. I had been beaten up, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and even physically as my experience in that church had adversely affected my health.
    Eternally grateful for Henri, for this journey, and for the gift of traveling through this Lenten season with this book once again.

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thank you for reminding me how faithful God’s love is. Henri is speaking about being led to an “inner place”…the place where God dwells. He quotes from the gospels “You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests”. And then…here is what I underlined: “THIS PLACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE”.
      I need only to enter into Divine Love always available to me.

  14. Elaine M says:

    Henri’s description of the “seemingly insignificant encounter with a poster” suggests to me that I should regard such a serendipitous moment in my own life as a blessing, an opportunity to see the workings of my God through a new lens. He then describes a decision to ultimately abandon the world of academia and fame for life with “the least of our brethren” as a spiritual “adventure,” a word which generally connotes a sense of daring, excitement, perhaps the emergence of an epic hero. Instead, Henri thrusts himself into a position where he is not the acclaimed scholar and expert but the humble novice who admits he has much to learn from those he intends to serve. In typical Henri fashion as the wounded healer, he shares with us his periods of depression, confusion, and vulnerability. I share with Henri the experience of being the oldest child in a large family and having the “desire to predict life.” Unlike Henri, I have not always given myself the freedom to let go and let God and to settle peacefully into the “ embrace of the Father” in an inner sanctuary which is both safe and holy. In this rereading of the book, I am discovering that perhaps I am still grappling with the notion that I am “where God has chosen to dwell.” That very notion is just so mind boggling to finite, imperfect me. My mantra for this Lent (and hopefully for life) is this: “Peace and trust, not fear, O Father.” I especially look forward in this Lenten study to re-examining the meaning of “father” in this book. Can I recognize all the times that He reaches out to me?

    • Liz Forest says:

      Your reflection reminds me of a picture I have of Jesus outstretched on the cross.
      The text: “I asked him, “How much do you love me?” He stretched out his arms and died on the cross.”

  15. Melanie says:

    Like many here, I have read this book before but reading the first few chapters this past week felt like a new experience again. I appreciate how a painting brought about so much insight, and it reinforces my belief that art, as with any of His creations (or creations’ creations), can be a source of spiritual comfort and wisdom and perhaps even transcendence.

    But I also felt very much like the observer in this painting because it seemed like such a “bro” thing. And so, I did feel this sense of exclusion, that I could never really partake of such an intimate experience with God even as I long for it. The concept of coming home seems even more far-flung. I have a feeling I have just poked the surface on these issues, and will continue to read and pray.

  16. Patricia Hesse says:

    Henri’s passage on page 13 of the Prologue describes me: “It is the place that confronts me with the fact that truly accepting love, forgiveness, and healing is often much harder than giving it.” I like to feel I am in control and manage to appear that way –I’m a very good actress. But there have been times …there are times …there will be times that what has always been an illusion dissipates, revealing the truth. My need for control is not a strength, but a weakness filled with self-pride. Lord, have mercy.

    • Liz Forest says:

      I surely can relate to your words, Patricia. Being open and accepting what is right before me is not always easy.

  17. Christine says:

    I love the way Henri describes taking a step toward “the platform where the father embraces his kneeling son” (p. 13). He writes, “it is the place I so want to be, but am so fearful of being. … it is also the place where I have to let go of all I most want to hold on to … It is the place of surrender and complete trust.”

    When I look at the young, ragged son kneeling before his father in Rembrandt’s painting, I see one stripped of all he once held in such esteem. He is broken and vulnerable and has placed himself, quite literally in his father’s hands.

    I’m not sure why, personally, times of great loss were the times I’ve reached out to the Father, ready to accept the balm of his love … only to move away from the circle of light and love once I’m feeling better. I find myself wondering what happened after the young son was well fed, and attired in a fine robe.

    I must remember my need of the father’s love in good times and bad.

    • Liz Forest says:

      There is a Balm: Hear the song:

      • Christine says:

        Thank you, Liz. I love this soothing rendition. If you love old hymns, I think you would enjoy Deborah Liv Johnson’s entire CD, “Softly and Tenderly” that has this and other old hymn favorites of mine.

        In our book, Henri wrote how Rembrandt’s painting inspired him to look within for the safety of the Father’s embrace. It is such a poignant image as are the words of the song’s refrain
        “There is a balm in Gilead
        to make the wounded whole.
        There is a balm in Gilead
        to heal the sinsick soul.”

        With Sacred music, I get a small taste of Henri’s discovery within Rembrandt’s painting, “I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen to the heartbeat of God.”

        When my youngest son died, over ten years ago now, I felt as ragged as the young son in the painting, I can see myself within that image, leaning in for the comfort and safety of our Father’s embrace. Looking now at the Father’s hands on his son’s shoulders, I realize he is also giving his son a blessing. Perhaps the balm in the hymn is the blessing.

        Thanks for reminding me of this song, Liz, that gave me much food for thought.

  18. Suzanne says:

    I’ve lived much of my life as a safe observer, and have often had difficulty allowing myself to drop down and let go enough to experience God’s all loving embrace. Henri’s words have the ring of intimately known and experienced truth.
    There have been times when I have let go enough to “step into the center”, although I can’t say that I’ve intentionally or purposefully done so, but rather been been gently led. This sense of effortless closeness to God has usually occurred during times of marked distress, when no matter how relentlessly I’ve tried to control difficult situations or influence outcomes, I feel basically powerless and spent.
    Being in the center at those times is devoid of any rational thought, planning or the angst involved in needing to come up with a solution. I usually have no thoughts of past or future, nor at times any thoughts at all but rather a peaceful, safe, loving and lovely resting in God.

  19. Ellen Jimerson says:

    Coming home to me meant the peace I experienced after I had done my best to lead a good life, but my efforts had not been enough. I had been, in a manner of speaking, down a very deep and dark well. Metaphorically and physically, Jesus reached out and held me up. He reminded me that life was good. He led me to live a new life. Along the way I learned compassion and I learned what it is to be a participant, not just an onlooker. It was a hard journey but along the way I recognized God’s comfort, maybe as Henry Nouwen felt God’s presence through the encircling arms of the father in Rembrandt‘s painting. Since that time, I have felt God’s Grace and Presence every day, in small ways, through my new careers as a teacher of small children and as a musician.

  20. Patricia Martin says:

    Thank you, Ray, for the two photographs of the Rembrandt painting that you included here. I have little experience studying art or paintings themselves, so I was amazed to read in The Return of the Prodigal Son that the painting is 6 feet wide by eight feet high. A room in my home has a blank, dark paneled wall that is larger than that and after having studied the color photographs in my copy of the book I can sit in front of the wall with eyes closed and “see” and reflect upon the father and son. I’m looking forward to Henri Nouwen’s meditations because in these first pages alone I have gained insight into my own relationship with the Father.

  21. Jody says:

    To “come home”, to be “held by a forgiving God” means I am being invited to give up control. Henri’s words about being in control as the observer struck me. I do so want to be home with the Father and yet there is a part of me who continues to live life as the observer because my ego is quite comfortable there. I share this not from a place of shame but one of hope as I continue to take steps toward coming home and staying there.

    A year of so ago, my spiritual director challenged my notion of home. I grew up in Idaho (Northwest U.S.) and miss it terribly. I loved the green, the water, and the small rural towns. I’ve wanted to go back there, but for multiple reasons we’ve chosen to stay in Arizona – the desert, the city. While lamenting, my spiritual director reminded me that I am always home. God is my home. I can see and experience God right here, right now, all around me. Her words changed me as do Henri’s. My desire to go home seems to be less about a geographical location and more about my longing to be in God’s presence as His beloved.

    • Jody,

      Thank you for your honest and humble words. My ego too, is “quite comfortable” being in control. I love that you say it unapologetically yet with deep desire to come home: “I share this not from a place of shame but one of hope as I take steps toward coming home and staying there.”

      These words of yours remind me of Thomas Merton’s trust:
      “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I know nothing about it” (Thoughts in Solitude).

  22. Diane says:

    I live in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada and have been a Baptist girl for a lonnnnng time and have had a deep desire to know God and His love for almost as long.
    My mentor suggested I read this book 20 years ago and I have just started re-reading it this past week. It is all seems new to me – as though I have not read it before…
    I am not sure that I have ever ‘come home’ but have a deep desire for the Lord. I have trouble reflecting on questions but will try with the Lord’s help.
    I look forward to this lenten reading and comments from others. God bless.

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      Diane! Has the Lord guided you to an understanding of Ogopogo, though? He has a place for all beings, and I sense that Nouwen would agree! 🙂

  23. Katy-Anne says:

    If Nouwen can spend all this time with a painting that totally drew him in, then that means everyone wants to hear about my amazing Mary Magdalene (my patron saint) icon, right? No? Oh, ok then. I won’t bore you going on about that, however, images are something I struggle with so for me to connect so deeply with her and the icon was amazing, and in that way I totally understand Nouwen being deeply moved by a painting. God uses art to connect with us. Nouwen put his painting in a prominent place where he could see it all the time, and I did that with Mary Magdalene. She invites me to stop and ponder some things, to use my prayer beads if I need to, etc. I see her all the time, and she makes me pause, even if just for a few seconds, and focus on something spiritual.

    I don’t have much of a concept of “coming home” and maybe one day I will, but my question is, what is home? And what about people like me, who found that being homeless made life so much better than living at home with abusive people? When people ask me where I’m “from” they usually mean what country, since I’m obviously not from the USA but I live here. But when my Facebook profile wants me to list my hometown, I’m not sure what to put. Do they mean the city I was born in? The city I live in now? The multiple towns I grew up in? I never had roots anywhere, so again, what is home? I’m still trying to figure this thing out, but I must say that now I’m putting down roots where I’m at, my children are finding community, and I have people that love and care about me (which is a new experience for me), that I’m starting to think that this is home. This place, probably not where I would choose if I had the choice of anywhere in the world, but where I finally found love (not romantic love, just love in general), seems more like home than anywhere else.

    I feel like I am maybe finding the center right now. I’m not really an observer anymore, as I’ve committed this Lent to living out the fact that I am beloved, and I’m exploring mysticism, but I have often felt like I was on the outside. I always felt like I was some cosmic joke God created just to laugh at. I felt like I had messed up my life so bad that God was done with me. I wouldn’t say I’m completely in the center, but that’s what I’m working towards and desiring.

    The whole concept of being beloved is something I know but am struggling to live. I still drown in shame often. It was only this time last year that I truly began to believe that God loves me. Thirty-four years old before I believed it. And I might never have believed it but I met a priest one day who looked at me and said “God loves you, but you don’t believe it. I’m going to remind you every time I see you” and she did. And one day, about six months later, I came to truly believe. It was a moment of conversion, and now that I’ve experienced conversion, I can experience transformation. As far as being God’s home, see the above comment about concepts of home. This is something I cannot relate to and will have to look at more closely.

    I struggle with intercessory prayer, but have found God through liturgy, prayer beads, centering prayer, writing, tears, songs, etc. Even gazing on my Mary Magdalene icon in silent contemplation is prayer. Holding my prayer beads when I’m having a panic attack even if I don’t say any words, is prayer. Crying but not having words is prayer. We all connect with God differently, so prayer looks a little different for each of us.

    • Patricia Martin says:

      Katy-Anne, I am more than twice your age, but I don’t think I really truly believed that God loves me so much that he would give his life for me until just a year or so ago. I had read and heard that said countless times. Then through a time of coming to recognize that I cannot seem to stop needing forgiveness and God never fails I knew for myself and could be genuinely grateful.

      I had not read this book before so had not previously reflected on it, and all four questions are difficult for me to answer. The first three because I don’t completely understand them and the fourth because prayer itself is a mystery to me. What does coming home mean to me? What is home I ask myself; where is home; and where am I? Am I in my home with the door closed and others shut out? Am I just outside the door with Jesus inside waiting for me and I not opening the door and stepping through? Or am I already home and always have been, just making trips out from time to time.
      Thinking about “home” I am reminded of Henri’s final interaction with the young guard in the Russian hat who gently smiled at him. Their smiles and feelings of safety strikes me most of all in this week’s readings because not all homes are places where people count on feeling loved or forgiven or even safe. I think each man seemed to feel that he had done something for which he needed forgiveness or at least understanding and I see my elderly mother’s gentle, understanding smile on the face of the guard and then on Henri’s face. They act as forgiving father to each other and welcome each other safely home.
      I want to be the same

  24. Ray Glennon says:

    From Peggy Guiler
    This is a journey I look forward to. I came to love Nouwen’s work when I studied to become a spiritual director. The simplicity of the words and the depth of the meaning touched places in my heart which needed healing and understanding I found in his work. He quickly became my favourite of the “modern mystics”. I live near Port Dover Ontario, Canada and work as a spiritual director/minister (among other things). Life is busy but I will find time for this study.

  25. Liz Forest says:

    “I have played the role of observer. . . had I, myself, really ever dared to step into the center, kneel down and let myself be held by a forgiving God? “(p. 12) Do you find yourself living life largely as an observer? Are there times you have stepped into center and what was that like?
    Stepping into the Center happens when I’ve been faithful to prayer, Lectio, seeking sacred spaces to spend time in. As I go about my daily tasks, I connect with God, reminding myself of the Divine Presence. Then there are times I’m the observer of God’s goodness. I learn of a friend who has found peace in living the truth about her son’s behavior. I see her peace and how God has touched her heart. Her peace overflows to me. In nature walks, I’m the observer of our Creator’s artistry which makes me grateful for the One who brings life. I’m at times the elder one who wants as much attention as the prodigal gets. Those are times when my tendency to compare myself with others tries to surface. Then I need to recall Psalm 139!
    Unlike Henri, we do not enjoy the hours he spent in front of the painting. I first saw this work of art while on a Retreat. The presenter guided us in Lectio, using the Bible text and the painting. That painting is hung on the wall in the nearby monastery where I often visit. We are blessed to have computer access for images of this painting. Just Ask Google and you’ll be able to capture an image of it.

  26. RoseAnn Hunt says:

    I am a cradle Catholic a product of Catholic schools and colleges. I turned to God in times of crisis or problems but always asking forgiveness for my shortcomings or sins. I had never given myself permission to go to God in anger.

    My son had died in an accidental fire and I was grieving. I was in the anger stage of my grief. I didn’t want to hear my son was in heaven with God. He was in a better place. He was a flower in God’s garden or any other statement meant to comfort. During this time I was aware of God calling me to come to him. I would notice this when I was working around the house. I rejected the call yet He persisted. On this day and I heard his call. I called out to God just leave me alone. Get out of my life.I used some profanity the time. I immediately became overwhelmed by a profound sense of emptiness and aloneness that I had never felt before. I was driven to my knees and I professed my contrition. I felt I was held in the arms of the Father. Comforted and welcomed home. I learned God has broad shoulders and can hear all my feelings. Even in anger He was loving father welcoming his daughter home.

    • Katy-Anne says:

      Hi RoseAnn,

      I’m Katy-Anne. 🙂 I am so sorry to hear about your son. I didn’t want any trite words when grief came to me, either. Last year I had to place my disabled ten year old son in an institution full time because of his severe disabilities. It hurt so much, and he is three hours away. While my son is still alive, he’s not here every day and I miss his presence. I too have cursed God out. One day as I was driving up to see him, and crying, I heard a song on my Spotify list that I would not have chosen to hear, it just randomly came up. And that song made me think…I had spent ten years begging God to heal my son. God provided a place for him to live where he could flourish and have his needs taken care of around the clock. This is what healing looked like for him. It was such a huge moment for me.

      I guess I was mostly just reaching out to say that I too have had some of the same thoughts and feelings and cursed God out. I think God understands, actually.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      This is a passage from Jerry Sittser’s book, “A Grace Disguised”: In hard times we use words like “depression” in an attempt to describe the inner place of our anguish, but the Psalms use words like “pit” and “darkness.” We speak of “loss,” but the Psalms talk about walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” No clinical language is as visceral and powerful as these lines from Psalms 22: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it is melted away within me …my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” God allows us to pour out our hearts to him, and get rid of the poison, regardless of how much there is, so that it can be diluted in the ocean of His love. Whether expressing praise or rage, prayer does accomplish at least one thing –it pushes us toward God.

      • RoseAnn Hunt says:

        Katy Anne and Patricia, Thank you.
        Psalms 22: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it is melted away within me …my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” God allows us to pour out our hearts to him, and get rid of the poison, regardless of how much there is, so that it can be diluted in the ocean of His love.
        This is very loving.

  27. Diane Frances says:

    My Inner Sanctuary

    Several years ago I was in a very deep, dark place. I wanted God’s help, but there was no true connection. I was that observer, keeping my distance, learning about God through mainstream Protestant theology and Bible study. Then, during a time of mindfulness meditation that was not intended to be prayer, I felt the overwhelming presence of God. That started me on a journey that slowly changed my relationship with God, with myself, and with others. Several months after that experience I wrote in a journal that God was saying to me “ You know, I’ve waited 51 years for you to walk through that open door. I’m so happy you’re here”. I often go back out through that door and become embroiled in fear, anxiety, judgmentalism, superficiality. But the path that returns to the open door and into my inner sanctuary is becoming more familiar . This truly is grace.

    • Ellen Jimerson says:

      Your comment, “I often go back out through that door and become embroiled in fear, anxiety, judgmentalism, superficiality. But the path that returns to the open door and into my inner sanctuary is becoming more familiar” describes my own experience, and brings clarity to my understanding of it. Helps to hear it from a fellow traveler!

      • Liz Forest says:

        Jesus said, John 10:9 9 “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

    • Stephanie says:

      Thank you for sharing this. A beautiful visual of the open door.

  28. Ray Glennon says:

    From Suzanne
    Hello, I am Suzanne, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta CA.
    I am a retired Social Worker and a long time member of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada. I coordinate the Pastoral Care ministry in our parish and I am busy with family, especially grandchildren. I purchased this book 25 years ago. I love all of Henri’s work. He is so easy to relate to on a personable, intimate level, especially if one has introspection on how God works through our life, mostly our pain! So happy to be a part of this study. Thank you so much for the daily meditations, they are my favorite!

  29. Arnold says:

    I am Arnold. I am a cradle Catholic. I am a retired pharmacist in San Antonio, Texas. Our parish men’s group has a men’s retreat each year. As part of the retreat we use Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” as the basis of a reconciliation service.
    I love the book. I am excited to join your discussion group.

  30. Chris says:

    It is almost 3am as I read the comments. I am so restless tonight and just could not get my mind to shut off. I just finished this book a week ago and loved it. After reading all the comments, I have a better appreciation for the book, and the man, as I search to do the Father’s will while setting aside what I have thought were my desires. Look forward to more.

  31. Meg Rice says:

    I am Meg Rice, well-traveled child of a Naval officer, retired from teaching elementary school for 44 years and now blessed to be reading books, listening to audiobooks, and attending every church activity I’d always wanted to, when is was working.

    I live in a small town in South Central Kansas. We have no traffic lights, are folded into a river valley and are surrounded by family farms; quite a beautiful bit of earth.

    Henri Nouwen’s words arrive digitally each morning to bless my thinking and heart. I have collected several of his books and look forward to reading, underlining, and digesting them all.

    I confess a visceral envy upon reading of the hours Henri was able to sit and watch the light change over the painting which is the object of this book. Such prolonged conversation with a painting like that is surely what many a painter was inviting upon the time of painting. New Year’s day we attended the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Frustrated by the crush of the crowd and my impatient companion, it is only down to my camera that long gazes that those paintings can occur. Henri was blessed indeed by the painting and now we by his account of the same.

  32. Christopher Ciummei says:

    Hi folks! So I really enjoyed Nouwen’s Prologue and Introduction for this book. it really helps to set the tone for the reader to understand specifically why he was drawn to the Prodigal Son painting, and what feelings, emotions, and thoughts that the painting brought to his mind during his multiple viewings of it. I think what struck me most, from a historian’s perspective, myself, is that the younger son, older son, and father all seem to represent chronological development in terms of spiritual maturity as the individual experiencing these changes ages, grows in knowledge, and eventually becomes, in the case of Nouwen, an unexpected father figure for many readers and fans alike.

  33. Ray Glennon says:

    From Shelia Erickson
    My husband and I live on Vancouver Island outside of Victoria, BC, having moved here 6 yrs ago from Edmonton/St. Albert, Alberta. ’m a retired nurse having worked 41 yrs. in various specialties, with the last 15 yrs. teaching student nurses in the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta. In about the mid 80’s I first discovered the writings of Henri and found them extremely helpful, wise and honest. His writings have spiritually lead me down more a path of solitude, meditation and reflection. I think I have nearly all his books and last year while in Toronto visiting our daughter my husband and I had the privilege of spending part of an afternoon at the Henri Nouwen centre. Also years ago I was very blessed to have heard Henri speak one evening at MacEwan University in Edmonton. I’m looking forward to the next weeks of Lent.
    Sheila Erickson

  34. In 2006 I received a postcard of Rembrandt’s The Prodigal Son. I was not as aware as Henri of it’s visceral effect on my emotions. I did want a large poster print so ordered one from New York. Seeing it bigger took my breath away. So I had it assembled with an antique frame protected with non reflective glass preserving the print pristine. I hung it in a prominent place in the entry way. It captured me. It called me. It grounded me in my baptism calling me God’s Beloved. I needed that then. I need that now.

    I was in pastoral ministry when I had my encounter with Rembrant’s Prodigal. I was also in personal pain as my relationship with my children was distanced by a difficult divorce. In a leadership role, I had no close church community. I felt I had no family. The endgame I emersed myself in work and hardened my heart.

    So I never languaged this encounter as “homecoming” as Henri has here (6, 8, 17). But hearing him say “I desired only to rest safely in a place where I could feel a sense of belonging, a place where I could feel at home” (5), was a click moment making meaning of my memory in 2006.

    It was everything I desired then. And it is everything I desire now.

  35. Patrice Donnelly says:

    Hello. My name is Patrice Donnelly. I live in Maryland, between D.C. and Baltimore. I have participated in several Henri Nouwen lenten discussions, and I look forward to reading and discussing “The Return of the Prodigal Son” with you!

    There are many things that have impressed me in the first readings. I am already engaged in the story and look forward to reading it all here with everyone! I’d like to start with Henri’s exchange with the guards and others at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg while viewing the painting (Prologue, p. 14 – the 2016 version – right before “The Event”).
    Henri describes in characteristic detail the embarrassing situation that unfolds on his third visit to see the painting. The sunlight was obstructing his view due to glare, so he moved one of the red velvet chairs to gain a better view of the painting. He explains how the guard was upset by his action, his attempt to explain it, further disruptions, and eventually a resolution: another chair is brought in just for him! Of course, he did not mean to be awkward. Upon leaving, he thanked the guard for ‘putting up’ with him. He then saw in the guard’s eyes a fear like his own and a desire to be forgiven. It was his smile that made them both feel safe.
    Nouwen loves details like this, as they are opportunities to convey the importance of compassion in daily life. It is compassion that is so boldly portrayed in the painting, compassion that at least in part draws him to the painting, and compassion that he gives to the guard in the form of a smile, which is the internationally recognized invitation to peace. Nouwen uses the word “safety” in order to invoke our most basic need. The word ‘peace’ sometimes seems like a luxury in comparison. “Safety” is primal.
    I was always fortunate to see compassion in my parents’ eyes throughout my childhood and adult years while my parents were alive. They are now both deceased. Coming home, in the sense of visiting one’s parents, always meant being greeted with compassion. I also have this encounter in my own home with my husband, when we come home from work, for example, or when we visit other relatives – regarded as a visit, it still has the feel of ‘coming home.’ As a teacher, once I get to know a class, there is a feeling of coming home when we gather together, and this is also true of other situations, groups in which I am involved. Smiles convey sincerity, trustworthiness, joy, and yes, even safety! It is interesting to think of it like that – I don’t generally think of it this way, but it makes sense.
    Situations that are required in life but do not include sincere people, do not foster trustworthiness or joy, would not generally be considered ‘coming home,’ however, it could be a worthwhile challenge at times to introduce the elements of coming home into any situation! As per the situation described by Nouwen above, a start could be a smile.

  36. Suzanne Domzalski says:

    Greetings Everyone,
    I’m from Pennsylvania and am a retired psychologist and Catholic campus minister. The transition from very active work life/ministry has been a challenge, and has left me exploring “what now? and, minus all the responsibilities, busy-ness and distractions, who I am in relation to God and the world. Currently, I am spending more time with family, offering spiritual direction to folks, and working very part time with a local parish on a community revitalization project in a formerly thriving coal manufacturing town.
    I’ve been inspired by Henri’s writings over the years (currently reading “Following Jesus”), and have found them an inspiration and comfort during difficult times. “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is especially meaningful during this during this major transition time, and I am excited to get started!
    I have no previous experience with an online discussion group.

  37. Ray Glennon says:

    From Melissa
    Hello. I’m from northeast Georgia, USA. I’ve been a Catholic school elementary teacher since 1983 in 3 different states through the years. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen’s writings through the spiritual opportunities granted me as a teacher and then in my studies for a Master’s in Religious Education. That intense, 3 year journey was the beginning of my spiritual renewal. I’ve most recently picked up a few of his books to read and study in depth, The Prodigal Son, the one I chose for Lent 2020.

  38. Pat says:

    I read and commented to parts of this book several years ago. I frequently will write notes/ comments that speak to me in spiritual books during reflection time. I find it interesting to reread my comments and try to visualize to see if I have changed, still needs working on, or have grown and see something else in me. I found that in this first reading, I am still not stepping out like I want too. Why? Fear. Trust? Really trying to move forward this Lent. The few times in the past that I did trust even in fear, was so
    Powerful that I get afraid and step back and yet I truly want to go forward. I am active in many ways with my church and community… I just want to follow that little voice I sometimes hear…. like the day I saw a homeless lady bundled up at bus stop, was heading to adoration but heard the voice that said, stop and check on her. I did even though I had a little fear. I asked her if she had any food today and she said no. I told her I wanted to buy her a hot meal and gave her some money that I had been saving I thought for such an occasion. Her toothless smile made my day and I’ often gone by on a cold day to check to see if she was there. I keep a little extra cash for just such occasions in case I hear His voice again. From Charleston, SC

  39. Melissa says:

    I’m looking forward to sharing this journey!

  40. Darren hampton says:

    My name is Darren and I am a Salvation Army officer leading a church in north Wales, UK. First came across Henri Nouwens writings when in training college over 10 years ago. I found them really helpful then, and have done ever since. Coming home for me is knowing that when all is stripped away (being a good officer/church leader/father/husband/son/colleague etc.) and it’s just me and my father in heaven. No performance just me and dad hanging out, being known and knowing him more. Really encountered that last year during a family situation (now resolved) when I nearly lost everything. Thankfully all ix returned and I am a changed man for the experience. Glory to God!

  41. Ray Glennon says:

    From Christopher Ciummei
    Hello there! My name is Christopher Ciummei, and I am a Catholic from Central PA, USA. I am currently employed as an independent historical consultant. I came to know Henri Nouwen’s work through a family member, and also through some religious I am acquainted with who are big fans of his work. I have read Following Jesus, am working on The Inner Voice of Love, and am now adding The Return of the Prodigal Son to that. I am hoping to gain a better understanding of myself through this reading and discussion, as several difficult life changes recently have left me with a particularly strong desire for Christ’s love, forgiveness, and direction this Lent and moving forward.

  42. Kim says:

    Thank you for selecting this Nouwen book for our Lenten inspiration. A couple of years ago, I joined the Nouwen Society Lenten book read, Adam, God’s Beloved. I am still today reflecting on how that book and the discussion participants opened a window for me on how we, like Adam, do not have to prove ourselves worthy for God’s love. His love for us is His gift waiting for us to claim it through our Savior. Today, I just finished the prologue, and I am excited to read both this “back story” to Adam, God’s Beloved, and all of the insights from our fellow readers. Grace and peace.

  43. Ray Glennon says:

    From Nancy True
    My Nane is Nancy True. I live in the Denver area of Colorado. I was a student of Henri’s when he taught at Harvard before leaving the Academy. I was a young student at Andover Newton Theological School, attending seminary to see if there was a place for me in the world. I’m an ordained UCC minister and have found a calling in Clinical Chaplaincy, until recently. I continue to work very part time while I attend Denver University for my Doctorate in Education. I’ve read the return of the prodigal son for many years, have the poster and found the “site t sister” peaking out behind the column. I’ve been the silent sister for a very long time. Now, I wish to find my voice in a human world that is struggling so very painfully and offer my gifts and talents to heal, restore, and reconcile one another and creation. I look forward to reading Henri’s word again in this new adventure during Lent 2020.

  44. Ray Glennon says:

    From Michelle
    Hi everyone,
    My name is Michelle and I am living in northeast Ohio. We moved here just about 2 years ago. I have always endeavored to study and pray and seek God’s will for my life and where and how to dedicate my time and energies. This has been a bit of a challenge here in NE Ohio to accomplish in a group setting. I pray the rosary every morning, live with a group on Instagram, which has been a blessing. I have been wanting a book study, especially with my Edmonton community/friends (where I lived before Ohio) and couldn’t quite figure it all out. Then this website and group was referred to me by one of my Edmonton friends.

    We’ve always had Henri on our bookshelf, but I’ve not read this book before. I am so looking forward to hear, learn and be part of this world wide group discussion. We have so much to share with each other and what a beautiful way to use the internet for God.

    I am so happy and thankful to be able to join this group for Lent. Thanks to Kathy!
    Peace and prayers for all.

  45. Ray Glennon says:

    From Amy
    Greetings Everyone,
    I’m Amy and I am from Akron, OH. My days are spent serving some amazing people through an organization called Young Life. We come alongside adolescents to introduce them to Christ and help them grow in faith. A few of my staff-mates have mentioned this work to me over the years. I am thrilled to finally be reading it during Lent 2020. I resonate with Henri’s writings and works. Looking forward to this discussion.

  46. Ray Glennon says:

    From Karin

    My name is Karin. I live in County Durham, England. Until recently I was a General Practitioner but I’m currently on sick leave with depression and burnout. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. There’s a print of the painting of the wall at a retreat centre I go to and I’ve seen the original in St Petersburg.

    • Meg Rice says:

      I shall pray for God to use this time of your medical leave to restore your energy, strength, joy, and re-direction. Such can be a healing time of establishing self-care habit to refill your spiritual, physical, and emotional cup. Blessings.

      • Kari says:

        Thank you. I feel this is very much a time for inward growth and putting my roots both deeper into God and wider into my community

    • Sheila Erickson says:

      Hello Karin: The demands on GP’s are incredibly heavy as you are so valued in the medical system as being the “gate keepers”. As well you are on the very crucial front lines where people first go to be seen. As a retired nurse, I too suffered a couple of bouts of burnout and depression in my 41 yr. career. You mention a retreat centre you go to and I too did that. It was during these times I found great solace in Nouwen’s writings as he was so honest about his own vulnerabilities. Blessings to you.

      • Karin says:

        Thank you. The demands of being a GP have grown such a lot during my career due to high expectations, low resources and problems with recruitment. It’s very difficult to fit in time to look after yourself. This should be a time to nurture myself. I’m not going back to my practice so I’m also seeking guidance on what I do once I’ve recovered somewhat.

    • Alison Blenkinsop says:

      Hi Karin, thanks for sharing your struggles. The caring professions are tough to work in, and the GP role especially so. I pray you get the support you need, and that you can see yourself as God sees you, with love and compassion, especially while you are unable to be active in your work. I also pray that you will be able to rest in God’s love, and that your spirit will grow as you take in the wonderful truths of this book. Alison x

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      Hello Karin! I have lived in England, an absolutely beautiful country! County Durham is one place I have always wanted to visit, as I lived mostly in London. I too have been struggling with some depression, burnout, and anxiety, so I am glad to see that I am not alone in that! God bless on your Lenten journey! 🙂

  47. Liz Forest says:

    Coming home” meant, for me, walking step by step toward the one who awaits me with open arms and wants to hold me in an eternal embrace. (p. 6) What does “coming home” mean for me? The caring embrace of the Good Shepherd carrying me along to restful waters, lifting me out of the bramble bushes, bringing me back to safety portrays or me “coming home.” Like the young son, away too long from love, stuck in the mud, I come to my senses and “step by step” walk the Way. Not easy because I get distracted by media, fake news, and noise that shuts out what God has to say. Like the degradation of the pig sty how long I stay away, is too long when God invites me elsewhere.”
    How did Henri came to the full realization of being “Beloved of God” ? On P.12 he says
    “there were many hours of prayer, many days and months of retreat, countless conversations with spiritual directors…” Conversion is a long process and I believe that process goes on daily, hourly, moment by moment. Walking in the Presence is a life long journey.

  48. Karin says:

    I have been struck the exuberant, unconditional nature of the father’s response. I find my internal image of God’s welcome is more along the lines of “yes of course you can come back son but don’t mess up again”

  49. Caroline Hill says:

    As I read Henri’s comments on the people in Rembrandt’s painting of The Prodigal Son I became very aware as to how the father and son did not let their presence intimidate their intimate reunion. The light is totally on them and they are completely involved only with one another. How often am I held back by what observers around me see and think of me. I am more concerned with their opinion than with as Henri writes — laying my head against the father’s chest and hearing the love beating in his heart.

  50. Teresa says:

    I found Henri through daily readings and he has changed my life.
    I look forward to taking this lent journey with other prodigal son travellers.

  51. Ray Glennon says:

    From Kathy
    Hi everyone. My name is Kathy. I’m a former editor and communications person who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Now retired, I teach English to refugees and immigrants. I love Henri Nouwen’s daily reflections and am looking forward to reading his book with all of you.

  52. Ray Glennon says:

    From Amy S.
    Good morning, this first Sunday or Lent. I just discovered this and was so excited to be a part of this Walk with all of you during this time. I was recently introduced to his writings and books by my my Chaplin experience at the hospital, and also through my daughter who will begin seminary in fall of 2020. VTS. Her parish did a walk with Prodigal Son last year.
    Blessing to all.
    Amy S.

  53. Charles says:

    Coming home for me is returning to the Divine Love , the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is where my true self is. My distant home is the worldly falseness that is tricking me with conditional love that leaves me unfulfilled.
    I have been an observer even when it appeared I stepped into the center. Elements were there but true unconditional love was not . I was still an observer.
    Each morning I thank God for this gift of beloveness. I accept it , embrace it ,and give it away throughout the day. Without out it I cannot love my neighbor as God has loved me.
    Praying unceasingly for me is being in touch with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout the day. Strong communication when I awake, intermittent communication at work but having my action be intentional to his Kingdom not the World. Of course I return to my inner sanctuary throughout the day renewing , returning home when I come up short and look away from my creator . This is not uncommon but I try not to get frustrated with my shortcomings because I know my Father is always awaiting to reembrace.

    • Patricia Martin says:

      Charles, I like hearing your response to God’s belovedness: “I accept it , embrace it, and give it away throughout the day,” and considering how I can do the same. I want to ask what you (and Henri and others) mean about being an observer as though that is not a desirable condition. Couldn’t observation lead to discernment or understanding or response to the Holy Spirit? Perhaps what is meant is to remain in a state of passively looking without desire to respond?

  54. Daria says:

    Yesterday I spent some time reading the prologue and introduction. Although I’ve read this book before, I felt like I was reading it for the first time, and that Henri was speaking directly to me. This is not an uncommon experience for me when I pick up one of Henri’s books.
    Being the oldest of nine children, like Henri, I have always viewed myself as the oldest brother. In fact, it took me many years to read this parable without becoming angry – it seemed to me that the eldest brother didn’t have voice.
    Allowing myself to step out of the comfort zone of “judgmental observer” and admitting that I, too, have made mistakes, puts things in a completely new perspective for me.
    I will spend this first week meditating on the prologue, introduction, and reflection questions. I am looking forward to listening to the experience of others.
    Thank you, Ray and James, for giving us much to think about.

    • Patrice Donnelly says:

      I like your point. You draw attention to the fact that this story can carry meaning in many different variant situations. I see elements of it in my own life as someone who was successful after leaving home, only to return to others who were not as fortunate but had tended the home fires for years. It might be too harsh to say, in my case, that those left behind were foolish nor would they have anything to apologize for, because there were hardships to bear. Nevertheless, there are aspects in this story that ring true to me despite the variation in the plot, if you will.

      I can also think of other families where, for example, a parent leaves and then returns, apologizing but not demanding that everyone forgive him or her right away. There are many variations that will still allow the story to ring true.

      One of the most important parts is the remorse of the younger sibling upon return. He sees his better opportunity given his failures, but I don’t think his apology is less sincere. It is an important part, yet sometimes forgotten. Perhaps what could be emphasized and maybe isn’t always mentioned, is that the older sibling in this story does not need to immediately forgive the younger sibling, even though the father is able to do so. The take away is typically that forgiveness is essential in life, and those of us who find it difficult to forgive are encouraged to try. However, it is also true that no one can demand forgiveness. Often people need and deserve time to forgive.

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