Nov 29th to Dec 5th: 1st Week of Advent – Henri Nouwen, Fred Bratman, and Being the Beloved

Reading: Prologue: A Friendship Begins & Being the Beloved (p. 11 to 39)

In the terrain of the spiritual life, we need guides. . . .
I would like to be your guide. I hope you are
still interested in walking along. (p. 39)

A warm welcome to everyone and special thanks to the many people that introduced themselves. Thus far our virtual global community includes participants from across the USA and Canada, Ecuador, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Egypt, and the UK. We’ve gathered to journey together through what promises to be a blessed and fruitful time of preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. This Advent we will be enlightened and enriched as Henri Nouwen guides his friend Fred Bratman – and us – to the realization that “the words ‘You are my Beloved’ revealed the most intimate truth about all human beings.” (p. 30)

In the Prologue, we learn how Henri and Fred met and we watch their friendship develop. It was about 1990 when Henri was living at Daybreak that Fred encouraged him to write something for “us young, ambitious, secular men and women wondering what life is all about after all.” (p. 21) In Being the Beloved, Henri gives us the word “Beloved” and he contrasts the voice that “speaks from above” with the negative voices of the modern secular world. He challenges us to make a choice and to claim the experience of being the Beloved as our core truth rather than seeking our self-worth through worldly success, popularity, or power.

Even at the outset of our journey, there is much to discuss. Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them. You may also share insights you gained from the reading, something from your personal experience, or feedback prompted by the comments of others.

  1. I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. . . . and waste much of their life complaining. (p. 16) What is your reaction to Henri’s statement? Looking back on the choices in your life, which ones did you make with your best aspirations? How did you feel about them? How did you feel if you didn’t make such a choice?
  2. (Fred) felt strongly that his own experience and that of his friends required another tone, another language, another spiritual wavelength. (p. 20) This was written nearly 30 years ago. Has the situation changed for the better or worse in recent years? What ways have you used or are you aware of to reach out spiritually to those in the secular world like Fred, that today we might call the “Nones.” Are there others we need to reach?
  3. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. (p. 33) What do you think about Henri’s description of self-rejection and arrogance and their relationship to our belovedness? Is this contradiction something you experience in your own life and how do you respond?
  4. We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us. That is the truth of our lives. (p. 36) Do you believe and live this truth? Why or why not? What will it take to make you believe it?

The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion and we look forward to hearing from many you. However, we also know that some participants choose to read and journey with us without commenting. We’re just glad you’re here whether you comment or not.

May the Lord give you peace during this first week in Advent.
Ray

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153 Responses to Nov 29th to Dec 5th: 1st Week of Advent – Henri Nouwen, Fred Bratman, and Being the Beloved

  1. Lucy S says:

    Yes, I do believe this truth that we are and were intimately loved before our parents, or any family members or friends ever loved us or wounded us. Although I have to say it is God’s Spirit continually showing me this truth and this book by Henri Nouwen that has locked this truth into my heart where I now guard it and fight to keep it as truth for always.

  2. Michelle Carattini says:

    Beautiful reflections, thank you all!
    I prayed for this truth of belatedness to be revealed to me this week and i was blessed daily, on occasion, multiple times, either in word, reflection, prayer or song. thank you for this amazing opportunity of reading and reflection this Advent season.

  3. Jacky Lowe says:

    Thank you all for your amazing comments they are so inspiring. We all make choices in our life and whether they are right or wrong we have to own them and go forward. I’ve made some bad choices in my early life but have found with age that if I listen to my heart then I am following the will of God, some of my family were not very happy about this when I chose to become a missionary in Madagascar when I retired from teaching in 2017.
    I love the statement , You are My Beloved, and I try to focus on that phrase each day when I am doubting my decisions, I first read the book when I was in Madagascar and Nouwen touched my heart, It is the negative voices in our heads that lead us to self-rejection and its very easy to do it, one needs to turn the brain radio off.
    Everyone on earth was created by God and we are each one His Beloved but people are not aware, we need to help people become aware but this is not an easy task. Its about communication with our neighbours especially if they follow a different culture.

  4. Tim Nelson says:

    This year particularly, I have been wrestling with aloneness. I have read Henri’s work on moving from loneliness to solitude. This isn’t always easy, but I find that the patches that I want to use–sort of like the fig leaves of Genesis 1, only exacerbate the problem. These are patches of distraction and trying to fill the voids I feel in any way possible. Because I think I have tendencies of codependence, I sometimes hope for others to rescue the way that I want to rescue–and this is a whole other can of worms.

    But could it be that God allows valleys–sometimes very long ones–for me to discover that I am the Beloved? I mean to really know this. To bring me to a place of dependence and satisfaction in Him? Where faith comes in, for me, is to trust that this relationship is absolutely real–it is the deepest reality (all other realities are shadowlands–nod to CS Lewis). When I don’t see this, the pain can be overwhelming and the future can look bleak. When I can get a glimpse and hold on to it, I feel that strong sense of hope that I believe Advent calls us to.

  5. Harry M Ford says:

    Hi,
    I find this relates so well to the messages Pope Francis has been trying to get out to the young adults of the world. He sees their need for mentorship, a listening ear, accompaniement and an understanding and non-judgemental ear.

    Peace,

    Harry Ford, OFS

    • Rodney Page says:

      Amen! This is the work I am engaged in as a life coach/consultant in the twilight of a long career in education as a teacher/coach. It is the most fulfilling and rewarding of my personal and professional life.

  6. SHIRLEY SARGEANT says:

    We ARE the Beloved! I am beloved – moreover, beloved by God! God’s beloved child. Discovering that has made all the difference. It has for many years now given me a life that, although wounded by a mother who herself was wounded, and though later abandoned and rejected by a husband, has been richly blessed. I have been found and comforted by the God who has always loved me, even when I didn’t know it. God’s love is not fickle, there one moment and withdrawn the next. It’s ever and always strong and faithful. I can always trust God. For me, God is hope, peace, joy and love. I’m reminded of the Taize song, See I am here, says the Lord, see, I make all things new.

  7. Cathy Kalverda says:

    Hello Everyone ;
    My name is Cathy and I am from Southern Ontario. I am hoping by reading and spending time on reflecting I will have a different experience this Christmas. So often I lose focus on the ‘reason for the season’.
    And I have not been disappointed already. I began reading the book and my first reaction was ‘I know this’ so I set it aside. The second time I read it my heart responded. I felt the cry ‘to be seen’ and not to have to defend myself against the negativity that is so often part of living. The shield I always feel I need to wear against my own self-criticism or that of the world, because it shows up regularly.
    And for a while I found myself resting in the ‘knowing’ and the shield came down and I was filled with gratefulness and peace. How I wish I could live there all the time.
    The shield is back on but it feels looser and less heavy and I remain grateful and hopeful.
    Again this reinforces for me the need for time to open myself up to our God and keep that flow moving between me and my Maker. I can only imagine what an amazing place that will be when I am completely immersed in it.

  8. Patrick Schmidt says:

    I am the caretaker at a 95 acre camp and conference, so I have endless opportunities to do things to help others, but somewhere along the way this thing has developed inside me where I sometimes feel that my main value to others is bound up in the things I do for them, not because I am loved simply for being me. So then I can only continue to be loved if I continue too do things. I know in my head that this is not the case, just like I know I’m my head that I am beloved by God, but my emotions betray what I really feel.

    I appreciated what Darren said about claiming our belovedness as a daily practice and putting it on until we become comfortable wearing it as part of our identity. That is what I want to learn and experience.

  9. Ina says:

    Hi, I’m Ina from the Netherlands.
    Just found this book discussion and bought the e book.
    Looking forward to it!
    Blessings,
    Ina

    • Frank Pavlak says:

      Hi Ina:

      Welcome to the discussion thread.

      Thought I would mention that I just finished a book by Diane Moody called Of Windmills and War that discussed Operation Manna where the Allies dropped food in the Netherlands toward the end of the War to alleviate starvation. I was not aware of that. Very moving.

      Frank

  10. Darren says:

    Greetings from Chicago.
    Q4: We are the beloved, long before we were wounded — is a profound image. I resonate with Nouwen when he reflects how we hope “that some person, thing, or event will come along to give us all that final feeling of inner well-being.” (34). And once we get “it” (the job, the home, the partner), we sit with it, live with it, and awaken to the still restless heart. Which is why claiming our belovedness is a daily practice. It is the practice of the spiritual life. It is something we must put on, and continue to put on until at last we become a bit comfortable wearing it as part of our genuine identity.

    I especially enjoyed and appreciated Nouwen’s sense of urgency at the end of the chapter when he notes that Fred may “still want to look around a little more and a little longer so as to become convinced that the spiritual life is worth all your energy. But I do feel a certain impatience toward you, because I don’t want you to wast too much of your time!” I too, have felt that sense with loved ones, skeptical of the ‘church’, and hence conflate the ills of a bureaucracy with wholesale hesitancy of Gospel, and the cultivation of a spiritual life.

    As Nouwen notes, the path of the spiritual life must be chosen and done so with the depths of our freedom. I had this conversation across the dinner (domestic eucharist) table with my partner last evening. He reflected how Christmas has lost its charm and meaning, pointing to empty churches, hyper commercialism, and historical doubt surrounding 12/25. Yet he asked me, what does Christmas mean to me. I started by reflecting on the freedom to choose the commercialized message and skepticism, or the freedom to believe a deeper, theological view of the Christmas as — God with us; the Divine embracing vulnerability; and unquenchable light in the depths of darkness. Then, I saw a spark in his eyes.

    Nouwen concludes the chapter with “I have a lot more to say;” and I have lots more to read, to contemplate, to savor, and to grow.

  11. Grant Rickard says:

    Regarding self rejection, one of my favorite songs is by Lauren Daigle. Name of song is You Say the lyrics in the chorus are
    You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
    You say I am strong when I think I am weak
    And you say I am held when I am falling short
    And when I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
    And I believe (I), oh, I believe (I)
    What you say of me (I)
    I believe.

    This song is on my morning song play list. Sure I have family and friends who believe in me and love me, but there are times when doubt – self rejection comes in. But then I need to remember I am love, I am the Beloved.

    I remember one time sitting in a dentist’s chair waiting for a root canal and during that time, I thought back on my life about God being with me in so many difficult places and circumstances. What a feeling of peace came over me. (of course the numbness was setting in as well 🙂 ) I am the Beloved. I know it, but sometimes I forget.

  12. Rita House says:

    Hello from Oklahoma City.
    I struggle with the concept that I am a beloved. I understand and believe it but the challenge is feeling it in my heart. I am positive this is due to a general feeling of unworthiness.

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      We all do on some level! But it’s important that you recognize the potential to move into your own personal sense of Belovedness with God. 🙂

  13. Ray Glennon says:

    Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful, honest, and moving comments in response to the reading and to each other.

    Just a quick comment on how Henri approached writing this book. Fred told Henri, “Speak from that place in your heart where you are most yourself. Speak directly, simply, lovingly, gently, and without apologies. Tell us what you see and want us to see; tell us what you hear and want us to hear. . . ”

    And Henri did just that, approaching it as a lengthy personal letter. Take another look at what he wrote in the paragraph (p. 36-37) that begins, Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at at my center words that say: “I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am
    yours. . .”
    Nearly every phrase in that paragraph is taken from scripture, many of which I recognized even if I could not cite the source. I was intrigued and I went phrase by phrase to find the source. I noted 15 specific references from Isaiah (multiple), Psalms, (multiple), Matthew-Mark-Luke (one or more), Ezekiel, Romans, and Genesis. Henri had a deep understanding of scripture that informed and guided his thinking and way of living. It’s powerfully evident here in the words he wrote to Fred.

    We’ll return to this idea during the final week of our discussion.

    Ray

  14. Making choices that align with your values and offer meaning to life is a recognition of our awareness of being beloved and worthy. The imposed undermining of knowing, trusting the journey takes time to unravel, to reveal that purpose, the quiet, the beauty and love. How often do we hear “not good enough” coming from our inner voice! Self rejection permeates the quality of a life built on imposed contracts, achievements, described by our status and stuff. Like Fred, how often are we wrapped up in our “shoulds”?Working with university students, there is a huge need for the same dialogue between Henri and Fred. The permission to feel intimately loved and bring meaning to life through that love is an imperative in this time.

  15. Irene Yang says:

    I’m not sure how to articulate this, but as I read the prologue and first section, I was struck by the language he uses, “I somehow knew that I was face to face…” or “Suddenly it hit me…” or “Beneath the sarcasm I sensed…” or “But I sensed after our short skirmish….” I suppose all of us “sense things” or “intuit” things, but it seems as though, for Henri Nouwen, this ability is guided by his deep connection to God.

    • Katie says:

      What a wonderful realization! He was probably using “emotional intelligence” before we knew it was a thing! Thank you for sharing this, Irene.

  16. Kelly Foyle says:

    Patricia,

    I too find great insight and beauty in the truths expressed through “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In fact, even though I’ve watched that movie probably 30 times, I cry at Harry’s toast each time – and I think that’s because my heart is contemplating that question of life’s worth and wondering (even subconsciously) if I am living a life in service to others.

    Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in prayer and actions that I focus on myself, but to what end? Yes, there is much value in taking care of yourself, but not in so much as then neglecting ways to connect with others. I think during the pandemic it has been especially easy for me (as I know I can’t speak for others) to revert into my own self and life, losing sight of the greater community of both the communal Church and the world. This book, though, in a sense, gives urgency to the need to reach the “nones” and members of our own families and communities. I am a Catholic school educator, so this book comes at the perfect time to renew my sense of mission and purpose in focusing on what matters most for our young learners – helping them come to know, love, and serve God so they can do likewise in our world.

    I love the phrase a good friend of mine has on his Twitter homepage: “Your life is not about you.” Advent is a wonderful time to be reminded of how we are beloved children of God – all of us – and how we are called to show and live that belovedness for others.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      I, too, am an educator. The quote you shared from Twitter reminds me a similar Viktor Frankl quote: ““It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

      • Rodney Page says:

        Amen! The Viktor Frankl quote “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us” has been a significant guidepost for my life as an educator as well, almost 50 years.

        I’m late to the party/discussion but could not pass up this opportunity to share in this wealthy book study.

  17. Russ Weil says:

    I am moved by Nouwen’s insights regarding our difficulties in accepting our unconditional “Belovedness” by God. I have worked for many years to believe in God’s unconditional love; however, my belief is too often at an intellectual level. “After all,” my rational mind says, “If God’s as perfect as we have always been told He is, then, by his very perfect nature, He would not hold resentment against His not-so-perfect creatures. (Like me). “

    But Nouwen is not discussing belief at an intellectual level. Rather, he is focused on authentically living in the experience of God’s love for us simply as the imperfect, finite, warts-and-all human beings that we are. Standards like professional success, education, impressing people with my talents and cleverness and so forth are all of the world and its definition of success. And those definitions make me feel inferior or superior. Those feelings interfere with my relationship with God and people in my life; thus, they affect my perception of events in the world by giving me a malformed basis for relating to God and people and life in general.

    I don’t have as many as when I was younger, but I am still carrying around some “rules” that I need to re-evaluate through the lens of “belovedness” and determine what I need to keep or throw away.

    • Priscilla says:

      Guilty as charged, Russ! I, too, tend to “think” my relationship with God, rather than “sense” my connection to God. Irene Yang, who posted above, remarked on Nouwen’s use of sense and intuition in knowing God. I thought her recognition of Nouwen’s spiritual connection was insightful. I hadn’t even noticed Nouwen’s use of language as I read.

      I used to be more intuitive in my relationship with the Lord, and I strongly desire to get back there. I have had my intuitive approach to life educated out of me. I have been taught to exist in the realm of logic, and — much to the detriment of my sincere use of perception, I have learned this lesson well. The consequence of logic for me is loneliness. As an introvert who lives alone, who do I share daily life with, if not the Lord?

      I appreciate the way you (and Irene) have clearly made the point that God desires our hearts as much as (and maybe more than??) our heads.

      Thanks for your insights into sensing God’s love.

      • Roger Snyder says:

        And your insights are helpful to Priscilla.” I, too, tend to “think” my relationship with God, rather than “sense” my connection to God.” I too!

  18. Travis Copus says:

    I think for question 1, I have to assess my “best” aspirations. Maybe, just maybe, in quiet places in my heart that I didn’t listen to for very long, I knew what the most important things in life were when I was 25. But as I’ve hit middle age, I’ve often wanted to go back and sit with that young man and tell him, “It’s about people. It’s about loving them. It’s not about money or talent or even competence. Find a mentor. Mentor someone. Those are the truest aspirations you can have.”

    There have been times that I feel like I have been successful at the aspirations I listed above, but it was more accidental, happenstance, not a concerted effort on my part. Honestly, I just spent 10 minutes searching for an email for a friend who guided me in my early 20’s but I’ve lost touch with. Why would I ever lose touch with him?

    I don’t feel like I’ve been afraid of bold decisions, and at the time I convinced myself that those decisions were carrying me forward, but now I wonder how to move toward our best aspirations. I do think all my fumbling helped me to clarify my truest desires, so I don’t regret those decisions. Just musing as to how to get that clarity and keep it.

  19. Question 4 regarding whether I/we believe that I am/we are “The Beloved”. God’s grace is difficult to comprehend. I was raised in the church and all I have ever known is that Jesus died for me so that I could have an intimately relationship with the Father. Even being raised this way, it is difficult for me to wholeheartedly believe that I am a beloved child of the Most High God! At times I do not believe that I deserve such love. So, I look forward to reading further the “Life of the Beloved”. To gain a greater understanding of why God chose me/us to be a “Beloved”! Amen!

  20. Cindy A. says:

    It’s lovely to read what others are processing through reading this book. Thanks for the honest sharing so far.
    I would like to add a few comments about Q2 and Q3.

    I think that reaching the “Nones” (and people who are technology/science dependent) has gotten worse over the last 30 years. There’s so much information-some true, much not true- on the internet that worldly-based knowledge has become an idol. It’s hard to help move one’s dependency on information and self-effort to depending on and trusting the One true God. I constantly pray that I walk by faith and trust God every day.

    Nouwen’s point about self-rejection as a spiritual enemy rings true for me. When self-rejection (or arrogance) is a driving force for one’s identity, that thinking crowds out the love that God consistently and generously offers him or her. Furthermore, because we are made in the image of God, rejecting oneself is like rejecting God. That is a sin. And thankfully Christ’s death and resurrection has saved us from sin. I am so glad that God’s grace wins every time!

  21. Maz says:

    I was struck by the thought of chasing our desires and wondering how wives and mothers are able to do that and at what cost.

    I speak as a woman who had a calling to ministry alongside my soon to be husband. He went off to train for ordained ministry and I supported him financially through those times. Then children came along. It was only 25 years later that the forgotten call to ministry resurfaced – and it was forgotten. Finally I trained for ordained ministry and minister now as my husband retires.

    My daughter is now training for ordained ministry and senses that it is right to follow the call now realising what pain it has brought me to wait.

    • Cindy says:

      Maz, you have suffered for years by not being able to pursue your first aspirations in your timing. I would encourage you to rejoice in the fruit of your labor that a daughter is going into full-time ministry for the Lord. In addition, I pray that God will use you mightily as you have become an ordained minister.

  22. Ray Glennon says:

    From Christopher Ciummei
    Hello, my name is Christopher M. Ciummei, M.Ed., and I am a historian, teacher, and writer from Pennsylvania. I do this work to help preserve history as a discipline for future generations. I came across Nouwen through my mother’s interest in him, and have now read several of his books. I have participated in one or two Lenten and/or Advent discussions on here, and have truly enjoyed them. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of this difficult and transitional time in my life through this Advent reading and discussion. Thanks for having me!

  23. Christopher Ciummei says:

    “Perhaps all we need to do is remove the dry sand that covers the well.”

    I feel as though this was a perfect way for Nouwen to try to communicate to Fred and his friends the necessity of simple acts to achieve Beloved results for ourselves and others. Hope is possible no matter what stage of the spiritual journey one is on.

    • Christopher,

      I was also taken with Q2 as it looks like you were. Fred’s concern 30 years ago is mine today; particularly with the intersection of Covid, political divides and racial awakening. To your good quote people of faith may need to “remove the dry sand that covers the well.”

      Because my work brings me in contact with very diverse people of all ages and because those I work deeply long for a power greater than themselves for hope and healing, communicating that all are Beloved is critical. But to Fred’s point, it requires “another tone, another language, another spiritual wavelength” (20).

      How to remove the sand is an honest question. To Jewish journalist David Brooks point, culture has lost it’s “moral floor.” We no longer have agreed upon common values. When it comes to scripture (which was often taught and referenced in a liberal arts education), many people have no context to understand. So it’s tough to communicate about God when the words I use don’t have meaning, or are weighted with a very different (even divisive) meaning.

      So your “simple acts that achieve Beloved results” is a great phrase summing up a concrete conduit to communicate God’s love to people. Your words conjured up John Wesley: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Maybe it was St. Francis. Anyway…

      Thank you for your thought-packed economy of words.

      Beverly

      • Michael Butler says:

        Beverly, you have articulated what I was wanting to say in response to Q2. I am a converted Catholic, coming to the faith in my 20s and finally being baptized, confirmed, and receiving 1st Communion at the age of 30 after 3+ years in RCIA. I was on a spiritual quest for years after reading St. Augustine’s Confessions as a freshman in college. Now in my 50’s, it seems there is almost no shared language or frame of reference for talking about relationship to God with my peers or contemporaries. Moreover, it is extremely rare to find people with a notion of what is or can be “sacred.” As such, feels impossible to communicate about living a sacramental communal life as a Christian. Spirituality seems to now mean “something bigger than self” unanchored to any notion of spiritual discipline or tradition. I want to applaud when someone shares the sense of awe one feels in nature gazing at the majesty of a forest or the constellations above. Yes, that is God and spirituality but is that all there is? Nouwen speaks to me as someone of faith, but I lack words to move the discussion forward with my “none” friends and colleagues.

        • Christopher Ciummei says:

          Hi Michael! I wanted to say that I agree with you as well. While I am a cradle Catholic, I have several friends who have done RCIA, and unfortunately, there isn’t much done on dialogue with other faiths about our faith, or why it is important to us. Apologetics all too often focuses on conversion rather than simple understanding. My hope is that this process with evolve as the Church continues to evolve.

      • Christopher Ciummei says:

        Hi Beverly! Firstly, I am sorry that it took me a week to get back to you. I had some email trouble and wasn’t receiving these notifications until today! But yes, I agree with you. My mother worked in campus ministry for 12 years, retiring only 2 years ago, and I can remember how valuable that writers such as Nouwen and Richard Rohr were to informing her ability to think outside the box spiritually for students who, many times, did not hold the same views or ideals as young people in her time did. Similarly, as a historian, I have worked at Civil War parks, and the idea is equally as touchy. One has to present the objective truth while still showing sensitivity to both sides of an issue, which is, as any interpreter will tell you today, nigh on impossible without stepping lightly on some toes. Nouwen has, I think, shown Fred and his friends here that simply because we are Catholics and have our personal beliefs, it doesn’t mean we can’t understand outside the box and commune with good people from outside our traditions. The sand can then stay in the playground sandbox where it belongs. 🙂

  24. Patricia Hesse says:

    Clarence the Angel: “Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”

    There are many ways of seeing a truth –that is what I love about this forum. Perhaps our anonymity frees us to be more honest, more open. Henri says on page 16: “I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. Instead, they blame the world, the society, and others for their ‘fate’ and waste much of their life complaining.”

    I’m not sure I completely agree with that as it appears on the surface.

    I love the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George Bailey sacrifices his dreams for family obligations and a sense of responsibility toward his community. He lives a life he never wanted to live –a life he would never have chosen. He sacrifices for his dreams for his brother, finds himself in financial ruin, and contemplates suicide. However, at the end, at a celebration with those whose lives George has changed, it is his brother who raises a toast saying, “To my brother, George –the richest man in town.”

    This summer I read a book called, “Fire Bringer” by David Clement-Davies. Written in the vein of “Watership Down,” this book is about a herd of deer and their quest to overcome evil. The protagonist gives his all for others. I love this sentence that occurs near the end: “All of a life well lived is sacrifice.”

    I see that in the lives of those selfless individuals that touch me with their giving spirit, showing me that following your heart’s TRUE desire lies in sacrifice. I see that played out in Henri’s life. Henri’s “best aspirations,” too, were those of sacrifice for others. I see that in all its perfection in the life of Christ.

    Christ made the choice of sacrifice, according to his own aspiration. The world, society, and others were responsible for –not his “fate,” but his free choice.

    • Susan says:

      Patricia, beautifully expressed thoughts. This resonates with me and seems to be a theme I keep returning to when I reflect upon my life. I “gave up “my career to raise my four children who are now adults with children of their own. When I look back on my life, it was in those sacrifices that I met Jesus, not in any title or position, but when I served a meal, combed out tangled hair, cleaned the home etc. He was in the small details of life and He still is.

  25. Beth Graham says:

    Greetings from Cleveland, Ohio. I am excited to begin this Advent Journey with everyone.

  26. Barry Sullivan says:

    A highlight in these readings was captured in Question 3, relating to Henri’s thoughts regarding arrogance and self-rejection. As he asks, “But isn’t arrogance, in fact, the other side of self-rejection. I resonated with Ty’s response to that question and have sent my thoughts in a reply to his fine posting.

    Regarding Question 1, I can certainly see Henri’s view that people can make choices “and make them according to their own aspirations.” But we might examine more deeply his contention that, “people seldom make these choices. Instead, they blame the world, the society, and others for their ‘fate’ and waste much of their life complaining” (p. 16). While this may well be true for some of us and for highly educated, well-endowed people such as Fred and Henri, I think it is also true that many don’t have many choices, and their aspirations are limited. Indeed, most in the world and even many in our wealthy country have not had many choices (based on family background, relative wealth, health, etc.). This is becoming more and more evident to me as I watch the growing inequities in our nation. See, for example: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/. Six Facts About Economic Inequality in the U.S. (February 2020). PEW Research. Note that these facts from the U.S. were drawn from before the pandemic, which has probably made things worse.

    Just a thought about what I see as limits to Henri’s contention. At the same time, I do agree that those of us who have had the luxury of choices (including me) are at times tempted to blame others or the world in general for our fates. Moreover, it may well have been a good point to raise with Fred at the time.

    Barry

    • Ty Sharron says:

      A good note, indeed, Barry. Not everybody even has the luxury of having lofty aspirations to ascend to, beyond survival. And if they do, many literally have no means to get there. Very true!

      I remember talking to some young Canadian Indigenous children many years ago, asking them what their dreams were; I was so struck when one said, “To go to the Wal-Mart in [the closest populated town].” Truly, some less fortunate just don’t have the means.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thanks to Barry and Ty (here) and to Patricia (in related comment) for their reflections on Henri’s comment quoted in Question 1 about how people make choices.

      Here’s my take. Barry is certainly right that many people in difficult economic and social circumstances may have limited education and career choices and few realistic aspirations for worldly success–so how can Henri say they “seldom make these choices” and that they “blame the world.” Patricia reminds us that George Bailey “sacrifices his dreams for family obligations and a sense of responsibility for his community.” In the eyes of the world, both the limited prospects noted by Barry and the George’s “sacrifice” can be seen as negative. (Patricia rightly notes, in my view, that in choosing “sacrifice” George is choosing his best aspirations.)

      Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankel had something to say about choices too: “Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

      The choice we face each and every day is to choose love. The God who is love sees the world with eyes of love–and he calls us to do the same. When we make choices to love (i.e., to will the good of the other, to “sacrifice” for others, to find joy in our daily circumstances because life is a “gift”) we are making choices with our best aspirations. On the other hand, if we choose selfishly or by denying our goodness, it is easy to become bitter and to blame the world.

      One more thought. On page 38 Henri returns to choices, writing: “You can choose to reach out now to true inner freedom and find it ever more fully.” That true inner freedom results from choosing to accept and live the reality that, like Jesus, we are the Beloved.

      Thanks to all for joining us this Advent.

      • Pat says:

        I was stopped in my tracks when I read- the choice we face each and every day is to choose love. That really says it all.
        During this pandemic, I’ve said to myself- choose each day that which gives you peace and makes you happy. In reality, the real choice is to choose love, as Ray so simply and clearly says. The choice of the word ‘love’ rather than peace and happiness might seem like a small thing but I think the shift is enormous.

      • Bev B. says:

        I was in a book discussion group last year and the question about the lack of freedom to choose for those who have been born into poverty and are in the clasp of substance abuse or suffering from mental illness was tossed around. It never rang true to me that people who have so little don’t really have a choice. Thank you Ray for this Viktor Frankel quote. I think our perception of the choice of love has to be viewed somewhat as the widow’s mite. Someone in the position of having very little may make an act of love that may be unrecognizable to many of us and yet bring great joy in heaven.
        I have volunteered at a drop in center and I recall stories of great love and honouring of creation that when viewed from the outside would be confusing and unrecognized. For example, one Aboriginal man told me that he and his buddies were driving along the highway and spotted a dead eagle on the side. “Stop the car. We need to bury this eagle.” Such a simple thing and yet I never forgot the respect and honour it showed to nature.
        Back to the book–I was struck in the prologue (p. 13) when Henri says, “Looking at him, I experienced a deep sympathy–more than that I dare say–a deep love for this man….What was happening between us seemed to me quite similar to what happened when Jesus looked steadily at the rich young man and was filled with love for him.”
        Imagine having that experience of being filled with this kind of love! That would be a great grace to pray for this Advent!

      • Katie says:

        Ray, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl is a favorite book of mine! His writings and his story inspire me greatly to choose well in my life to find the good, see the good, be the good.

    • Irene says:

      What a wonderful thread. Thank you for your reflections Barry, Ty, Ray, Pat, and Bev B. My first thought when I read Question #1 in the post was similar to Barry’s. Yes, we all can “make choices and make them according to their[our] own best aspirations” but our choices and aspirations are undeniably shaped by our circumstance AND by what we’ve been exposed to and learned from the time we enter the world. Viktor Frankl’s circumstance in the concentration camps was horrific, yet he was able to have his profound realization. I wonder though…if he had not grown up in a happy family and experienced love and goodness prior to the concentration camp experience, would he have come to this same realization? Pat, like you, I also believe that the real choice is the choice to love but can someone who has never received or tasted love make that choice? How does God break through for people who have never tasted and seen God’s goodness and love? These are some questions that came to my mind as I read this thread.

      As I think through this, I am moved and reminded how important it is to live out my belovedness and to “be-love” to all we encounter. Good reflection for me to start the day…

  27. Ray Glennon says:

    From Jerry Holt
    Hello,

    If you are reading this, then you are a fan of Henri’s writing as well as I am. I love the daily meditations I receive and have enjoyed reading a few of his books. I look forward to this endeavor, and reading other people’s thoughts.

  28. Ray Glennon says:

    From Meg Holt
    Hello fellow participants. I look forward to sharing this Advent journey with you all and am once again reminded of the connective tissue that is fed by our faith. So often I find my faith reinforced when I think of people I know and don’t know, both near and far who are reading, pondering and praying the same words from Scripture and sources such as Henri Nouwen.
    I was first introduced to Henri Nouwen when I went through Episcopal Confirmation classes, to be affirmed. I was raised and confirmed a Catholic, but have been an Episcopalian for about 14 years. I find myself looking forward to my Henri Nouwen devotionals each day and share them often with family and friends.

  29. Priscilla says:

    I enjoyed and gathered several insights from this reading. I love knowing that I am God’s beloved daughter. I know this is true, and I repeat this truth to myself over and over again, in order to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). Being God’s beloved is something I want to reject in myself. This self-rejection stems from my upbringing in a very conservative religious tradition to inundated us with a belief in ourselves as sinners. So my mind wants to contradict that I am God’s beloved daughter with the “yes, but” I am a wretched sinner, not worthy of God’s and I should be grateful that God sent Jesus to die on the Cross for my sin.

    How do I reconcile these two opposing messages? Am I a wretched sinner or am I beloved of God?

    I call back to the Romans 12 passage on being transformed by the renewing of my mind. Right before this statement my Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world….” Is continuing to see myself as a wretched sinner a “pattern of this world”? If so, then God’s word says to no longer conform to this pattern. Hmm…

    So these are my musings received by applying this week’s readings to my life situation. I am asking these questions for God’s answer, but if anyone wishes to respond, I would be grateful for your contributions in setting my mind straight.

    Have a good week, everyone.

    In many ways, my life hasn’t paralleled thought processes do not come from the secular world, but from the church.

    • Sharon Christensen says:

      Pricilla
      My background is different than yours (I was raised in a non Christian home), but I struggle with feeling loved. I do know people who have experienced abuse (can be unintended non verbal abuse) in their churches or religious families. My heart goes out to you because I never felt loved and was determined that when I had kids I would not repeat my parents mistake.

      The answer to your question is yes to both, we are sinners and saved by grace; however God doesn’t want to make you feel unworthy or wretched. Gods draw is love. Those thoughts are from the enemy because when you feel condemned or miserable you don’t focus on God and his unconditional acceptance and love. My children are not perfect, but I would never tell them, “you are bad and you are not worthy of being my children”. Who wants to be go to someone who is always reminding them that they are not worthy? Not me!!! And it was love that drew me to Jesus.

      Sorry this is so long, and if you ever want to exchange emails, I’d love to talk more. I have spent years to have the message of unconditional love sink in. Read Romans 8:1.

      • Priscilla says:

        Hi Sharon,

        Thanks for responding and for confirming God’s word through Romans 8:1. God has used that verse in my life to bring truth and healing to my soul. Coming from a rule-based religion, it is great to know God’s grace. My mission to know the truth and be set free by it (John 8:32) is something that God uses in my life and in the lives of others every day. I have grown to be more compassionate toward and forgiving of others because of the freedom I have from knowing the truth.

        I appreciate your comment very much.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hello Priscilla,
      The passage you discuss from Romans 12:2 is one of my favorites and is a good one to bring into your musings in relation to Henri’s thoughts about God’s beloved. You are, indeed, God’s beloved daughter!

      • Priscilla says:

        Thanks for responding, Barry, and for the affirmation that I am God’s beloved daughter. The Romans 12:2 passage is one I have turned to throughout my entire life’s journey toward more intimacy with Jesus. As I hear Jesus say that I am the beloved daughter of God, I cry. A lot. Profuse lamenting. Throughout my life, these tears, the agony of lament, have been the cleansing balm. Do you know the old hymn: “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sinsick soul”? I believe tears are that balm.

        I wish followers of Jesus and serious readers of the Scripture focused more on lament as a cleansing balm. The Church seems to overlook that, in my opinion.

        Thanks again for your comment.

        • Tim Nelson says:

          Where was God when Jesus hung on the cross?

          On the cross!
          “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”

          The Gospel is not that God so hated sin. It is that “God so loved the world.”

          “Could it be that you would rather die than live without us?” ~Michael Card

          These are some thoughts that remain at the forefront of my faith, though this hasn’t always been the case. The really good news is that God is really good!

          • Priscilla says:

            Thanks for helping to reconstruct my sin mentality, Tim. Love the Michael Card quote. There has been many a time when I have flippantly said, “Oh well. God is good,” and never gave any thought to the implications of this good news. God is really good.

            Thanks for some food for thought.

  30. David V says:

    The last of the 4 questions regarding being intimately loved by the Father before anyone else in our lives is such an important question. I know many people, like myself, who have and still struggle with seeking approval from their earthly father. It has taken me years to realize the woundedness of my own father, forgive him for some of the things I experienced as I grew up, and to realize that there is only one source for unconditional love in this world – our heavenly Father. Learning to trust that truth in all situations has been a tremendous source of freedom in recent years. I am in constant need of reminder of this truth.

    • Priscilla says:

      Hello David V,

      I have read Nouwen’s book “Intimacy”and I recommend it for people who desire a closer relationship to Father God. I know how it feels to seek approval from our earthly parents only to learn that we were not good enough. Here’s a truth that set me free: It is impossible to be good enough for people here in earth. Like our dads. When I came to understand this truth in my heart that performance-based behavior began slowly to fall away. I’m not there yet, and do not expect to be until I see him face to face, but I am better than what I had become. I’m not athletic, so I’m not very good at jumping through hoops only to be told I need to jump through another one. God does not require that we jump through hoops for his approval. He sees us through Jesus’ shed blood, and it is through Jesus’ shed blood that we become “the beloved.”

      Thanks for your excellent comment and for giving me more food for thought. Have a great day!

      • David V says:

        Thank you Priscilla for the recommendation for Henri’s book “Intimacy”. It sounds like another worthwhile read and I have it on my reading list. Wishing you the best in our journey to embracing our “beloved-ness”.

    • Michael Butler says:

      Thanks David for your comments. I identified with the difficulties of accepting love from God when love was not forthcoming or misused in the context of family. For a very long time I thought, “If you really knew me, there would be no way for you to love me.” It left me empty inside and led downward to a path of addiction to alcohol. In my recovery, I read this book which reconnected me to the notion that I am Beloved (and so are you). It was a catalyst for helping me see my connectivity and relationship to God and to others. I eventually forgave and made amends to both my parents. Slowly, I saw that unconditional love was an option for me – and one I could extend outward to my own wife and children. Pain had, in fact, become the touchstone for personal development as I learned empathy and forgiveness. I am coming back to this book now 10+ years later and rediscovering relationship to the Father, to you, and with myself.

  31. Ray Glennon says:

    From Helen
    Hello,
    I have been a fan of Henri Nouwen for many years. So many of his works have strongly influenced my spiritual journey and taken me through dark times. With Open Hands, The Inner Voice of Love, Turn My Mourning into Dancing, Bread for the Journey, and You Are the Beloved are among my favorites. I have followed discussion groups in the past and have the pleasure of being in the same parish in Maryland with Ray Glennon, the discussion leader.
    I look forward to reading Life of the Beloved and sharing the comments of others, especially during these tumultuous times.

  32. MaryBeth says:

    Hello to all, my name is MaryBeth, from Cecil, PA
    As I read the insightful guide questions, and the many wonderful & meaningful comments & stories in relation to Fr. Henri Nouwen’s book… It causes me to reflect on the universal and timeless Truth, that we are all the “Beloved”. In our current chaotic/suffering world, with so many divisions, my hope is that these unprecedented times provide a Holy opportunity, and perhaps even an Awakening for coming together as One, (as surely this community represents). Regardless of our individual experience and Traditions, we are all One, with God, Who Is LOVE!
    I’m truly looking forward to continuing my spiritual journey with all of you

  33. Ty Sharron says:

    Q1) “I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. . . . and waste much of their life complaining.” (p. 16) What is your reaction to Henri’s statement? Looking back on the choices in your life, which ones did you make with your best aspirations? How did you feel about them? How did you feel if you didn’t make such a choice?

    ANSWER: This is a convicting one. I can’t even explain how strong I can relate to the bitterness that I’ve struggled with as a result of my own un-pursued aspirations…usually with little more than fear and prospective inconvenience to deter me…hardly a reason to not pursue them. One of the challenges of growing up for me is that every stage of life has brought more of a perceived need for stability and security, but often at the expense of pursuing my aspirations or taking real risks. It feels soul crushing, and I’m still young and wide-eyed (maybe naive?) enough to feel the tension and to not bury it under the cultural expectations of how an “adult” should be. I still want to chase those dreams!

    Q2) (Fred) felt strongly that his own experience and that of his friends required another tone, another language, another spiritual wavelength. (p. 20) This was written nearly 30 years ago. Has the situation changed for the better or worse in recent years? What ways have you used or are you aware of to reach out spiritually to those in the secular world like Fred, that today we might call the “Nones.” Are there others we need to reach?

    ANSWER: I think the core of Fred’s sentiment remains unchanged; the context, however, has changed greatly. The rise of the “nones” has exploded in an unprecedented way in recent years. At the same time, I feel like an openness to spirituality has also exploded, which can be a very positive thing. People are realizing that the “utopian” vision of technology, politics, and cultural “progress” might not be delivering on its promises, with people being more anxious and depressed than seemingly ever before. This leads many to the reality that maybe something is missing…maybe the idea of “God” is more real and important than ever before.

    This makes it more important than ever for followers of the way of Christ to order their lives counter-culturally, and to be formed in the image and mindset of Jesus. The secular world needs to see this and the freedom & power within it. They also need it simplified, in plain language, free from the “Christianese” that itself may not be wrong (after all, every culture has its own language), but can often alienate the “un-Christian,” or “un-spiritual.” That’s not my way of advocating for a stripping of the language and differences that make us Christ-followers…I think it’s beautiful…but there needs to be an awareness that we no longer live in a culture that identifies as “Christian,” and therefore, as Nouwen has done with this book, there needs to be an initial Pauline practice of trying to become “all things to all people.”

    Q3) Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. (p. 33) What do you think about Henri’s description of self-rejection and arrogance and their relationship to our belovedness? Is this contradiction something you experience in your own life and how do you respond?

    ANSWER: This is one of my favourite parts of the chapter. What a brilliant analysis that both self-rejection and arrogance are both expressions of an inability to live as accepted and loved for who we are! I have experienced both sides of this many times. Often times my sensitivity and arrogance are rooted in a pursuit to appear better than I am because I struggle deeply with self-rejection. And other times, but self-rejection just makes itself readily apparent, especially in my inner world. Both this book and “Return of the Prodigal Son” have gone a long way to start a slow reorientation of my understanding of the heart of God towards me, especially after growing up in a largely moralistic and punitive way of doing Christianity.

    Q4) We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us. That is the truth of our lives. (p. 36) Do you believe and live this truth? Why or why not? What will it take to make you believe it?

    ANSWER: I’m learning to believe it. It’s difficult enough to learn this on its own. It’s even MORE difficult to learn this when we live in a largely individualistic and consumerist society, where sometimes even our most sacred relationships (parents, siblings, friends, lovers) fall into transaction-based patterns of interacting and relating. I have often been the worst perpetrator. Yet, it can make it difficult to feel that anyone actually just loves me and wants to know me purely because they do. But I’m learning that God is so far beyond my capacity to love and receive love. He’s so far beyond the capacity of my friends, lover, parents, and siblings in his ability to love. It’s just very difficult to reprogram my brain to NOT judge God and his view of me based on my experiences with others (particularly the negative experiences.) I don’t know what it will take to make me believe it, but the last two years of my life have shown some slow progress to learn how to be “beloved.”

    Great questions! Looking forward to hearing from everyone.

    • Priscilla says:

      Hello Ty,

      I can really relate to your response to Q3. I have used arrogance in my life as a cover up for the moralistic reality that I am defective in God’s eyes. How could I possibly be God’s beloved when I am such a flawed human being? I am on a quest (it seems lifelong!) to reconcile this contradiction so that I can live as a “new creation,” beloved daughter of God.

      Thanks for sharing your honest insights and have a great week.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hello Ty,
      I really appreciated your in-depth responses to this questions. In particular, I liked your discussion of what you describe as a brilliant analysis” regarding self-rejection and arrogance. I am guessing that many others have lived both sides of this coin, stemming from our unwillingness or inability to accept the “sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence” (p. 33.
      Fine insights!
      Barry

  34. Eleanor Joseph says:

    Thank you for all that was shared.
    Hello, I am Eleanor Joseph. I too live in N.Y.
    I have journeyed with Henri spiritual words for many years. I am a nurse and have been gifted and blessed to see Jesus through the eyes and hearts of many. Children in the streets of Calcutta, the whistling of young brave Autistic men, women and men who struggle daily within the darkness of addiction and young children trapped in the chaos of the pain of mental illness.
    Every person the opportunity to encounter love.
    I am blessed to journey with my beloved husband of 29 years and learning to adjust to a retired lifestyle. I look forward to hearing these words that will break open my heart once again for Our Lord and Savior to dwell…to help us be the beloved He so desires.

    • Priscilla says:

      Yes, Eleanor! Yes! Yes! Yes! You have stated the goal of this study for me: that these words will “break open my heart once again for Our Lord and Savior to dwell….” I desire this so much. I am greedy with my relationship to the Lord. I want more of him!

      As a side note, I am also learning to adjust to retirement. It’s weird to be at this stage of life! Golf? Cooking? All well and good, but no, thank you. I want to be retired with a sense of purpose in helping “the least of these.”

      Thank you for your wonderful gift of words.

  35. Judy says:

    As a cradle Catholic growing up in the pre- Vatican II church, my life choices were always based on conscience and feelings of guilt. I was refreshed as an adult to understand that following Jesus and personal spiritual growth were more vital to my life choices than strict adherence to the “rules” of the institutional Church. Having read several of Henri’s books over many years, his reflections have inspired me in times of great loss and great joy. Even though I am 73 years old and suffering from chronic pain, I understand that I am beloved by my God and Savior.

    • Ty Sharron says:

      I love this observation, Judy! Thanks for sharing that wisdom. I was raised in a Protestant church system that had a similar effect. No doubt it meant well and was full of great people, but not many FREE people who understood their “belovedness.” As a result, I was trained to “climb the mountain of holiness” by all the rules and regulations, motivated by guilt and fear of some sort of punishment, rather than love. I’m still learning to detox that upbringing, but it’s inspiring to see the joy you’ve found, even amidst trial. Praying for healing from your pain, but also continued love and growth in the meantime!

      • Judy says:

        Ty: I still struggle with Catholic guilt but have realized that I will be forgiven and God’s love is always with us to give us hope and solace. Thank you for your kind comments.

  36. Susan says:

    Hello, I’m Susan from Leesburg, VA.
    I discovered the writings of Henri Nouwen around seven years ago, and knew then that I found what my soul longed for. His writings evoke deep thoughts and emotions and have caused my relationship to the Lord to grow and flourish. I am grateful for another opportunity to learn with all of you. Blessings!

  37. Ray Glennon says:

    From Holly
    Sorry that I’m late to the introduction phase. So happy to join all of you in the study of this wonderful gem.

  38. Ray Glennon says:

    From Jerry Lynn Luckie
    Hi there,

    I am a big Henri Nouwen fan and have really enjoyed the richness of Advent and Lenten studies around his books.

    Looking forward to being part of this reading/discussion during this season of not-yet, waiting!

    Peace! Jerry Lyn (Raleigh, NC)

  39. Pat Schwimer says:

    Hi all I am Pat from New York City. I have loved Nouwen for 30 years when gifted the book With Open Hands, then Genesee Diary.
    I am reading Beloved for the 1st time loving it. I have been the queen of self doubt and low confidence for most of my 74 years. I have worked diligently to overcome this with much success. The passage from Isaiah about God knowing me before I was created has often inspired my growth. Today I journalled about the first question and how my choices may have been externally directed by family needs but met aspirations in the long run.
    My career choices for nursing was fulfilled. My dreams of having children a struggle but achieved through adoption. My life has been challenged with many serious struggles but they gave me strength and growth in empathy.
    I am delighted to be a part of this group

  40. Ray Glennon says:

    From Ynes
    Good morning everyone!

    I live in Clearwater, FL . I dedicate my energies 8:00 – 5:00 pm to work (telework). In the afternoon I love to go for a walk or biking. When not at work , I dedicate my energies and life to GOD. How I would love to be a Saint the task that God want us to consider.

    I discovered Henry N. in the web looking for spirituality authors, then come that a friend priest introduce Henry’s book and I fall in love with him.

    I’ve never read “Life of the Beloved”, so I hope to learn, grow spirituality , get new friends while reading the book and participating in this community.

    • Ellen says:

      Ynez, It strikes me that you are living the life of the Beloved as you devote part of your energies and life to God. Why not take it a step further, and devote to God the whole of your life, including the time you spend at work?

  41. Elaine M says:

    As a Catholic elementary student decades ago, I too often felt like a “nobody” as I measured my goodness against that of child saints who risked martyrdom when they were my age. The sisters sometimes painted a picture of a just God, one who must punish us for our sinfulness if we did not confess our sins and mend our ways. Though my parents did not dispute the message of my teachers, I still felt more “beloved” at home, where my parents cared for me “with patience and perseverance…[and] encouraged me to keep going.” I recently read through a collection of the letters my parents had sent me when I went away to college and I was simply awed by their persistent messages of love as I railed against my loneliness, my distress over the shocking behavior of my dorm mates, and my parents’ insistence that I try to stick it out until the end of the school year. I didn’t always get it then, but now as a mother and grandmother, I can now more fully appreciate my dad and mom, after their long days of work and finally getting my younger siblings to bed, sitting down to write these long, long letters of love and support. I think of all the times they modeled for my siblings and me what it means to forgive and move on. We are all works in progress, no matter our age. Through reading Life of the Beloved and so many other works by Henri over the years, I see a God with this same kind of love, understanding, and willingness to forgive over and over. So when Fred asks Henri to “speak to us about hope,” Henri responds with a message about a God who sees our belovedness despite our many imperfections. In this season of thanksgiving and Advent hopefulness, I want to recall all the people in my life who have themselves given me an earthly glimpse of the unimaginable love and forgiveness of God.

    • Ty Sharron says:

      This is a beautiful picture you have painted Elaine. The way you speak of your parents has me emotional over here, and I aspire to that level of love for my child (and potential future ones). Thank you for your comment!

    • Priscilla says:

      Hello Elaine,

      I am seeing a pattern from several of the responses I have read thus far. Regardless of the Christian religious tradition in which we were raised, several of us live from a perspective of “holiness” rather than “wholeness.” I repeat the sounding joy that I am — once and for all — completely forgiven and free to live in God’s love without shame holding me back.

      Thank you for your many good insights.

    • Sharon Christensen says:

      Elaine, a shout out to your parents. I did not receive encouragement or patience from my parents, but as a parent I have tried to be supportive and to remind my kids how important they are, how valuable they are, and to extend love and forgiveness. I thank God for excellent Christian Authors like Henri Nouwen.

    • Tim Nelson says:

      Elaine,
      What you wrote evokes a memory of mine. My dad’s parents lived down the street from my Dad when I was a child. Sometimes if I was sick or had the day off of school, I would spend the day there and sometimes spent the night. My grandma had a ritual while sitting by me. She would pat my back as she recited all of the people who loved me. “Your mom loves you. Your dad loves you. Your Uncle Tom loves you. Your grandpa loves you….” Kind of like the great cloud of witnesses.

  42. Sharon Miller says:

    Hi, I’m Sharon from Florida. I purchased and read this book many years ago. Before I learned that it was the this group’s chosen writing for Advent this year, I had picked it up off a dusty shelf and read it again. I was profoundly moved, and my being the Beloved was exactly what I needed to hear and feel at this time. I am happy to read it once again and gain new insights from the reading, and from the reflections of this group.

  43. Ray Glennon says:

    From Cynthia Hellyer-Heinz
    Hello all,
    I am from a community outside of Chicago. This is my first online book club and it seems so right for this time of possibilities. Henry Nouwen was introduced to me by a dear friend who is also participating in this journey. Every morning I read the meditations and feel they are speaking directly to my heart. The intersection between my work and as artist and educator, and the deep dive into spiritual, soulful introspection is making a profound difference in life. It is not getting easier, but recognition of becoming awake is present. I am grateful to be here now.

  44. Ray Glennon says:

    From Sue Henry
    Hello from Fishers IN. I am retired from the work force but I am and have been a Stephen ministry Leader for over 20 years. This is my passion…caring for others. I became acquainted with Henri Nouwen through Stephen Ministry. His books speak to my soul. I am wanting to be walking as close to the Lord as possible and look forward to reading and discussing with you all. He is our HOPE!

  45. Ray Glennon says:

    From Suellen Nelson
    I only see two people from New York. I am retired and live near the Hudson river in Beacon, NY. I love Henri’s writing. Delighted to see so many people joining.
    Suellen

  46. Ray Glennon says:

    From JoAnn Whitley
    Hi, I am JoAnn from a small town in northeast Massachusetts. I am retired, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a care giver etc. I was introduced to Henri and Life of the Beloved by a friend and I have read it through once. I am excited to reread it and dig around a bit this time.
    If someone asked me two months ago if I was His beloved…I would have said no. How can I be the beloved of Christ? Saved yes, beloved? not so sure. But I read now that it is a journey, just like our sanctification and I look forward to pursuing that journey with all of you.

  47. Ray Glennon says:

    From Mary Roth
    Have many of Nouwen’s books. Love them all and so identify with his struggles. So looking forward to reading and sharing with fellow followers

  48. George Welch says:

    I just found this group as you go into the heart of the beloved. I met Henri in 1975 when he was at the Abbey of the Genesee. He came up to St. Bernard’s seminary in Rochester NY and gave o week’s retreat on compassion. His empathy and vulnerability reached out to all of us to be vulnerable. He invited us to journey with him. Later in 2002 my spiritual director was as a friend of Henri whom he attended the Meminger Institute with. I live in Pine City NY. I am struck by how Henri was like Jesus drawn to the disinherited. His message that Jesus was the beloved, I am the beloved and we are the beloved resonates. The beauty of this message is like in 1975 when shared with a community of the beloved it makes more since and here now 45 years later I can still see their faces and hear the voices which are beautiful.

  49. Barry Sullivan says:

    Greetings to all from Barry in Minnesota
    I have been reading Henri Nouwen for many years, and now in my semi-retirement years I am reading some of his works a second or third time! I have a daughter who has also read several of his works. My wife and I are in a church small group. Our last book was Henri’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, which has been my favorite over the years.
    I look forward to our conversations.
    Barry

    • Sharon Christensen says:

      Barry
      I am also fromMinnesota. My husband and I are so fortunate to have found a church that is grace filled and loving. No guilt (subtle or outright) from the lecturn. We had a woman’s retreat that was based on Nouwen books.

  50. Lee Ann Perin says:

    Q1. We all have to live with the consequences of the choices we make. I’ve never been one to regret my “poor” choices, but have always tried to learn from them. God loves us warts and all.
    Q2
    How do we reach the “nones”? That’s a great question! I feel like many want clear answers, they want a checklist that will indicate to them they are on the right path for salvation. The best way I know is through modeling; loving, caring, believing, forgiving.
    Q4 (Yes, I know I skipped 3)
    This…
    Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

  51. Libby Young says:

    I am Libby from South Carolina. This is the first Henri Nouwen book I am reading. I am familiar with who he is and some of his writings. I always try to find something special to increase my focus on God during Advent, so that is I why am joining the book discussion. Looking forward to it.

  52. Charlotte Monconduit says:

    Hello Everyone, I am Charlotte from Newburgh, Indiana. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen by my parish priest and am currently in a book study of Henri Nouwen, Jesus, a gospel. I am also a benedictine oblate candidate of the Immaculate Conception Monastery in Ferdinand, Indiana. Hopefully this course will continue to further my understanding of God in my life.

  53. Lydia says:

    Question 4) The truth that we are only completely and perfectly loved by God. Until we embrace this truth – accept our completeness in the God’s love – we will continually be wounded, resentful, discouraged and disappointed by people that we think and feel should complete us. Not only that, we ourselves are open to wounding and disappointing those we love. When Jesus tell us, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” He is affirming the Father’s love is whole and exhaustive – the entirety of all our needs and desires. The recognition of ourselves as beloved by Father allows us to forgive ourselves and others for their deficiencies.

  54. Chaz says:

    Greetings to all. Thank you for sharing your words. I think reaching out to the secular world/ non believers requires them to see beauty and goodness from us the beloved to them the beloved.Self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life. As Henri said Aren’t you, like me ,hoping that some person,thing, or event will come along to give you that feeling of innner well being you desire?I have found that those are not our identity.In Luke chapter 3 God gives his Son his true identity as the beloved. Sure enough in Lukes very next Chapter the beloved Is tempted by the devil trying to lead him to the above false identity.So it is with us. Should we be available to to the lover as the beloved?The one who probes us,knows us,understands our thoughts from afar. The one who formed our inmost being and knitted us in our mother’s womb.I choose to live from and believe in this truth. From the lovers presence where can I flee? As a sinner I get lost. But living from this identity I find my way back.I can flee to the false identity that I am what I do, what I have, and what people say I am. I have that choice. My ego will be served. However ,it will disappoint. I will not be the beauty and goodness that I was created to be nor be able to see the beauty and goodness I was created to see

  55. Cindy says:

    Just as Fred made choices about his career as a young person, so did I. Fortunately I was passionate about my work most of my life. However, I now understand many of my choices and success filled false needs. It has taken me a lifetime to find my identity in God as his beloved daughter. This has been so freeing as now I can slough off others approval and criticism. As I reflect on the “nones” I feel sadness that they have not experienced the unconditional love of God. I do know God is continually seeking us, so yes they may be found yet. I so loved the paragraph on page 37, “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well int he desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper.” Oh how ture this is.

  56. Diane says:

    Greetings everyone! Henri’s writings have inspired me in times of joy and times of sorrow, and once again entering into the Advent season, I am praying for ears to hear and eyes to see what the Spirit would say..
    I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan

  57. Rick Strong says:

    Both Shari and Roger Snyder each commented with things that resonated with me.
    Shari is reading about enneagram types and said, “Don’t we cover the best of ourselves with a protective ego?” Roger was answering the question, “We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us.”

    I think that these two thoughts are looking at the same thing only in different directions. Yes, I think we are loved long before we receive love from other people. That love comes to us by being the Beloved.

    The thought I want to state here is those people in our lives who show us love whether that is our parents, teachers, spouses, children or friends can wound us, unintentionally sometimes, even when they think that they are showing us love. They lead us into doing and acting in certain ways to continue to gain that love. This causes us to (as Henri says) “work at different jobs, not very satisfying at first” We are looking for approval and recognition thinking that can gain us that love from others. That may be what Fred was doing. Somewhere along the line he received approval and love because of what he had done. In looking for more of that love he did things similar, to continue to see and gain that love. On the next page Henri says, “As we both grew older and became a little less concerned about success, career, fame, money and time, questions of meaning and purpose came more into the center of our relationship.” My thought was this, when we do not get that love or approval, do we not “cover the best of ourselves with a protective ego?” That way we do not get hurt or wounded more. As we grow older we can become less concerned with that approval for doing and acting in certain ways. We can become less concerned and look more towards just living into that love we had long before we had to do and act. We can live into being the “BELOVED.”

  58. Responding to Q4, I believe without question that “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us.” (p. 36). I believe it because I have experienced it and I see it in scripture.

    Many of us grow up in homes with parents who were physically or emotionally unavailable. Without unconditional love, it’s difficult to experience a secure base that empowers us to take risks, have healthy self-esteem or maintain sustainable relationships. Though I didn’t have that language as a child, it seemed unfair to me that some children came from loving homes and others did not. I prayed about it a lot.

    Reflecting on my baptism, over time I knew God provided “all things necessary for life and godliness” (I Peter 1:3). Since I am baptised into Christ, I too am called the Beloved. This is a breathtaking truth that levels the playing field and draws me into wholeness and healing.

    That said, no matter how old I get and how often I affirm that truth, I will be practicing this core identity for the rest of my life. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Henri Nouwen’s writings have so underscored this ancient and life changing truth.

  59. Linda MacQueston says:

    I Love Henri! I have a poster of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and I often look at it as part of my meditations. Henri has changed my heart. Sometimes God speaks to me in faint whispers. Such as “God is Nuts About You.” And sometimes directs me through
    People. God has given me Dignity and Grace. Have a Blessed Advent.
    Linda from Massachusetts

  60. Linda Teuwen says:

    I am a recent member of the Henri Nouwen Soc. and live on Cape Cod. I would like to thank all of you for your inspiring words today that I will carry with me through the week.

    Today I was struck by the topic of choices, which lead me to meditating on my own personal choices that I have made throughout my life. As I meditated it’s astounding how God has always placed me where I was suppose to be even when most doubtful of my choice. .

    Tip: At St Cecelia’s church in Boston there is a virtual Mass on Sunday @ 10 AM. It is said by the Pastor, John Unni a very dynamic homilist who has a very large following on line and throughout the City. Website: stcecliaboston,org

    • Elaine M says:

      Linda, thank you for the tip about Father John at St. Cecilia’s. He is indeed a very dynamic homilist. Now that I am attending Mass only online, I have adopted the practice of viewing one Mass and then listening to 3-4 homilies on the same Gospel reading from pastors I personally have known or others I happily discover online. I have found richness in the Masses of Monsignor Ray East at St. Teresa of Avila in Washington, DC, Father Mark Payne at Blessed Sacrament in Milwaukee, Father Jim Revello at St. Joseph’s in Golden, Colorado, and Father Woody McAllister at Our Lady of Lourdes in Vancouver, Washington. What strikes me about all of them is their joy in celebrating the Eucharist: the warm smiles as they offer the prayer of peace, the final blessing to go forth, the Gloria and the Hosanna–all of which can be viewed up close thanks to online video technology. I have always sensed this joy in Henri, joy in the knowledge of being the Beloved. “Alleluia, go forth to serve the Lord.” Henri makes that “alleluia” seem totally warranted.

  61. Norma says:

    Advent Greetings! I am Norma. I live in Cherry Hill, NJ. Look forward to our journey together through the season of Advent. Shalom and blessings!

  62. Sharon K. Hall says:

    In these beginning pages, there is already so much to reflect upon. When I read Henri Nouwen’s summarizing Fred’s and others questions/demand (pages 22, 23) in my book, I immediately felt a kinship to Fred and believe many of my family and friends would too. On an earlier page, when I read that Henri was able to pull out a book from the scriptures that he felt Fred would find relevant and meaningful to him personally, I was impressed. Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes). These kinds of things already make me feel that Fred understands that Henri loves him and also Henri understands that Fred loves him. The really blunt description of people living alienated lives in today’s culture gives a point of reference as to why people are asking questions/demands for greater meaning and relevance in our lives. One extraordinary quote from the book, “Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the COMMON REALITY OF EXISTENCE (my capitalization) and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult.” My observation is that greater or at least some understanding of this is necessary by practically every institution in our society–including the Church. And finally, toward the end of this week’s reading (pages 36, 37 in my book) the words that Henri Nouwen hears at his center, they are words from scripture that I could also recall, to my ear they are the Word re-presented by Henri Nouwen himself. I have spent a lot of time being impacted by liturgy and also reading about it, being impacted by scripture and also studying it, I would have loved to have been able to be participating at a worship Mass which Father Nouwen presided at!!!!!!!!!

  63. In the Holy Name of Jesus I GREET You and Too ASK for His BLESSINGS upon this community of Brothers and Sisters seeking Divine Intimacy with Him who IS LOVE…the “Lover”. Together may we walk…come to know Heavens moat compelling invitation.

    I join you from Memphis, a most unique expression of OUR Fathers Heart. While momentary “home”, I am immensely BLESSED through profound Christian Community that knows solidarity of heart, HIS. I am humbled and look forward to taking this journey at each of your sides. Come Holy Spirit!

  64. Alberto J Negron says:

    Loving the opportunity to journey through this book again and again!
    I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. . . . and waste much of their life complaining. (p. 16)
    For the last 2 years, I have been trying to consider truth from the vantage point of a person of color. Complaining doesn’t necessarily negate that there is something that needs addressing. How I am addressing it though? Am I addressing from a position of strength (Beloved) or from a position of weakness (victim)? I sometimes feel a visceral reaction to truth like this, and am tempted to discount truth by my anger and dissatisfaction. I have recently found, however, that it is more restful to be beloved, even as I address a perceived inequity. Does this make sense? I cannot share belovedness from a position of an angry victim – nor can I receive it. Yet, I must receive it to grow and thrive spiritually. Thanks for providing this forum.

    • Chaz says:

      You , my friend have taken back enemy territory. Good work for God’s Kingdom. In Ezekiel 36 : 2 God said because the enemy said about you ,Ha!the ancient heights have become our possession. As you read further , God clearly promises to reclaim that territory.The enemy plants his angry victim flag in our hearts thinking he has dominion over our heart. By living from the identity of the beloved we can allow God to reclaim that territory in our heart that was lost leading us back to peace one soul at a time.Not an easy task but is doable with the Holy Spirit.

  65. Joyce Petrich says:

    Hello Everyone! I am on the edge of a desert-type terrain in west Texas (desert west and wooded area east)! I’m one of those “ordinary” people living in a wonderful town near my immediate family.
    I love Henri and he has had a profound influence on my thought not long ago of creating a “few” week study for us folks in the last stage of life. I searched for “give my death away” a phrase I heard at a retreat in 2018 and of course Henri popped up as he was probably the originator of that phrase!
    So, as I begin to read with this group beginning our Advent journey this year, I see BELOVED as part of the study I’m working on and a confirmation that “ordinary” is not really a description of me or any of us — we are BELOVED!
    I am blessed.

  66. Nancy A Walter says:

    Self-rejection is so poisonous to our sense of being The Beloved, and is so common. We live in a world of competition and achievement in which we are judged by what we do and how we do it. It’s sadly easy to turn against ourselves. This starts in childhood and makes us into adults like Fred, searching for the sense that they are more than what they do.

    I was there for many years until I had a moment of awakening, during a support group meeting, when I felt a deep sense of God’s love for me, just as I was. It marked the beginning of my healing.

    The temptation to doing is always present, but once I knew myself to be The Beloved it doesn’t hold nearly the appeal it once did.

  67. Ray Glennon says:

    From Grant Rickard
    Good morning all,
    My name is Grant and I live in San Diego CA. I look forward to these groups. All of you inspire me and I look forward to hearing what God is teaching me and all of us this advent season

  68. Ray Glennon says:

    From Juliette Vail
    Hi All, I live in Bozeman MT and have been reading and listening to Henri since my life was changed by the Holy Spirit when I was 18. His book Out of Solitude spoke to me as I was working in Grand Teton National Park and spent much time in beautiful Creation enjoying God and feeling beloved. Since then I have found much solace from Henri’s books and realism on my journey. I have many of his books on Audible and call it my runs with Henri when I am out for a jog. Currently I am working on my MS in Theology in Chaplaincy with a hybrid to a Doctorate in Clinical Pastoral Psychotherapy. I am interested in healthcare chaplaincy and working with trauma as a counselor. Happy to be here to celebrate this time of year with so many around the world. Community is such a gift right now!

  69. Ray Glennon says:

    From Justine
    Hello, I’m Justine from Saskatchewan, Canada. This is my first book discussion! I was first introduced to Henri Nouwen’s writings by my mother. I’ve recently added a number of Nouwen’s books to my personal library (including the Life of the Beloved). I find his writings simple to read but extremely profound and relatable – oftentimes it feels like he is speaking directly to me. An introvert by nature, I may not comment much, but I’m excited to connect through shared reading with fellow believers around the world.

  70. Ray Glennon says:

    From Chris Walton
    Hello everyone. My name is Chris and I’m joining in from Vancouver, Canada.

    I am a special education coordinator supporting exceptional students in grades K-7. While I find meaning and value in my work it is not my life’s passion. My passion is for prayer, contemplation, connection and creation (both large and small ‘c’ creation).

    My first experience with Henri’s work was in, ‘The Inner Voice of Love’ which led me into, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’, and ‘The Selfless Way of Christ’. I was struck by the honesty and gentleness that shone through in his writing.

    For me, it is this quality to Henri’s writing (and of his life story) that most resonates with me. His desire to experience an authentic encounter with the love of Christ on a daily basis and his longing to share this love with others through acts of kindness and attention inspires me as a model for my own life and faith.

    This is my first time in a Nouwen book study; I’m looking forward to journeying through Advent with this community.

  71. Ray Glennon says:

    From S.Roselit Madappallil
    I am looking forward for this book discussion during Advent. I love Henry Nouwen books. I am a retired nurse lives in Jacksonville FL.

  72. Shari says:

    Hi Retired educator here…I’m again reading the enneagram and see the self-rejection in all the “types” manifesting in different ways. Don’t we cover the best of ourselves with a protective ego? Seems Fred was doing this.

  73. Frank Pavlak says:

    Hi. This is Frank from Colorado. I attend The Church of the Beloved so this book is close to my heart.
    Making choices or as I say making important decisions affecting your life can be so hard to do. What is the right or best decision to make? Some choices/decisions are clear if they are morally/ethically wrong or life threatening.
    But for others I normally say there are no right or wrong ones just different choices with different consequences. Too often after a life changing decision one may look back and see that the other decision/choice would have been a better one. But one does not know that since we don’t usually think that the other choice could have been far worse than the decision we ended up making. After healthy discernment the choice/decision that you make is the best one for you at the time. Just go with it and make the best of the consequences.

  74. Roger Snyder says:

    “We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us.” While I’ve known this in my head… the scars are melting as this message reaches my heart. My prayer is that while this is healing, that clinging to this love will be empowering. Knowing this love intimately and carrying it into “battle” of the world may change my reaction and outcome as new pains try to be introduced. I’m not sure I articulated that well?

  75. Roger Snyder says:

    Searching to re-phase ideas for different ears to hear often leads to a more familiar understanding!

  76. Roger Snyder says:

    It was interesting that Henri encouraged Fred for further development while, in the end, Fred encouraged Henri to further development. I’ve often seen blessings multiply in unpredictable ways. It’s getting in that counts!

  77. Rosemary Knox says:

    Hello! I’m Rosemary from Colorado. This is what I’m searching for now. To feel beloved. The secular world has made me feel “unbeloved.” I am ready this Advent to listen to God’s voice speak to my heart and remind me I am unique and beloved! Thank you and I pray for all on this Advent journey.

  78. Linda Lytvinenko says:

    Henri’s daily meditations always speak to me, call me out, touch me. Reading the first few page of this book brings great comfort, aha’s, and joy at being Beloved. I’ve already re-read those pages several times, and think I will many more times. Being part of this shared discussion promises being part of a community based on love.
    Approaching retirement, there is special meaning in contemplating the right choices before me.
    thank you from North Carolina

  79. Harry Ford says:

    Hello, I am a Secular Franciscan from Maryland and am looking forward to gining new insight. First read Nouwen when taking classes on becoming professional youth minister and then again when going through Pastoral Counselor training far too many years ago. I’m looking forward to the intersations, we haven’t had a real in-person fraternity for over 6 months.

  80. Sonja spikman says:

    I was introduced on a spiritual retreat day in our school board. Henri was our speaker and it touched my life deeply. Since that day back in the early nineties I have learned so much about self rejection, shame and the joy of knowing I am a beloved child of God. Often needing to refresh when the storms of life occur. So grateful this season to be doing this reading . A gift.

  81. Eddie DUNN says:

    The question Henri asked, “What do you really want?” raises lots of memories and feelings for me, as does the guide’s question about past “choices”. I think in particular about my decision to become a missionary to Finland, where I spent 10 years. I now see it was part of my story which began in a very legalistic denomination, where I thought I had to sort of “earn” my salvation. What could be the most spiritual thing I could do with my life? A missionary, right? Now 50 years after leaving Finland and subsequently the professional ministry here too, I came to realize I could live free as “the beloved”, finally accepting grace, and free to be who I really am. I’m still on that journey, even at the age of 83, learning as Fred said to “speak (and live) from that place in your heart where you are most yourself.” I’m excited to see the unfolding yet to come!

  82. Jenifer says:

    Reflecting on being beloved never loses it’s power. It is an anecdote to the voices we hear around us, and in our own heads. I’m looking forward to spending this Advent waiting as the Beloved daughter of God, learning from Henry and hopefully being able to pass on some of this love.

  83. Kathy Bilskie says:

    I, too, practice Centering Prayer. The notion of using the word Beloved as my prayer word is something I will pray with. I am called Beloved by God and I can call God Beloved.

  84. Lee says:

    Hello, I have been an Henri Nouwen disciple for many years. After an mental & emotional breakdown 4 years ago, my spiritual life took a different form as I struggled to regain self after a 2 years of compounded loss and the aftermath which brought additional losses. Nouwen’s book the Inner Voice of Love was a companion for the journey. Life of the Beloved is timely for me to reconnect to this Advent. Thank you for providing this forum and community. I too will probably be a more silent sojourner. Blessings and Grace to all.

  85. Heidi S says:

    “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us. That is the truth of our lives.”

    Our understanding or internal experience of “love” may be distorted from our childhood experiences and primary caregivers. Thus, to tell someone they are “the beloved” and “loved” may take on a different meaning from person to person based on experiences with those that previously “loved” them. Henri Nouwen communicates love in such a gentle way, it just might be a new experience for some in what it means to be loved. God expresses His love through others – and His love expressed through Nouwen, may mean a deconstructing of distorted images of love and reconstructing of new paradigms of what it means to be loved, and to love.

  86. Ray Glennon says:

    From Roger Snyder
    Hello! I’m Roger Snyder from north west Pennsylvania. Henri Nouwen’s writings are insightful and comforting. I’m pleased to be able to join this group as part of our journey together!

  87. Dennis Cahill says:

    The statement about making good “right” choices being possible for all of us is so true — as is his statement that so many of don’t make those choices and then complain about our life direction after we have made the wrong choice. I spent 8 years in Federal prison for a series of bad choices — but quickly met Henri through his books and programs in the Chapel there, and resolved never to complain about the results of my choices — and, for the most part, have managed to live up to that resolve.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Dennis,
      Thank you for your honest sharing. I also met Henri in a powerful way after a series of bad choices. I found Henri’s The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass when I was in Singapore on business at a very difficult time. It was life-changing.
      May you continue to be blessed on your journey.
      Ray

      • Ty Sharron says:

        I agree with you both, Dennis and Ray. I found “Return of the Prodigal” son after a series of bad choices in my life that lead to a very difficult, but important season. It’s been slowly reorienting my spiritual life ever since.

        Grace and peace!

  88. Ray Glennon says:

    From Robie Sullivan
    Good morning everyone. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Kansas City, Missouri. I work with individuals and couples who are suffering with mental health concerns and relational difficulties. In my work, I encounter many stories of trauma and I witness trauma’s on impact the human soul. Henry’s work has been a key part of my own healing as I have addressed my own stories. I keep one of his books on my bedside table always. The word “beloved” has become a centering prayer/mantra as I grow in the discipline of mindfulness practices. I am thankful for the opportunity to deepen my faith in this community through the Advent season. Blessings!

  89. Margaret Nichols says:

    Hi I’m Margaret, a long time fan of Henri Nouwen. He has been my spiritual director since I read my first book. Return of the Prodigal Son is my favorite. It reflects my life story. I don’t plan on posting many comments but want to respond to Helen. Her desire reflects my desire for my advent journey. Thank you Helen.

  90. Ray Glennon says:

    From Melinda Meshad
    Hi, I am Melinda. I live in Los Angeles and am a psychotherapist in private practice. My under-grad degree is in Religious Studies and it has been years since I read Henri Nouwen. I am fascinated with areas such as neurological science, psychology, and spirituality… the intersections that enlighten who we are and what drives us. I look forward to taking the time to focus on this book and how it will encourage me in my own journey.

  91. Ray Glennon says:

    From Liliana
    Better late than never! I am joining from Connecticut. I hail from Argentina, but have lived in the USA most of my life. I am a great lover of everything Nouwen, having read The Return of The Prodigal Son, first in Spanish and then multiple times in English. My seventh grandson was just born on Thanksgiving Day, and I don’t know when I am going to get to meet him. But all is well. Tomorrow is my 73rd birthday. I am currently in the final edit of my first novel, Death Flight. All the best to all, and may we all bask in the glory of the season.

  92. Ray Glennon says:

    From David V
    Hello all. I am semi-retired and live in Orlando, FL. I’ve read a few of Henri’s books and have read the daily reflections I Bread for the Journey for the last 10 years. I love his deep and yet relatable spirituality. I look forward to participating with you all in the study of a new book I haven’t read.

  93. David V says:

    After many years in the corporate world, I can relate to Fred’s reality. Complaining was a way of dealing with frustration with things that couldn’t be controlled. In those days I needed more spirituality. Thankfully, since leaving the corporate world and spending more time in prayer and study, I have released much of my need to control things. Amazingly, my complaints have reduced – not disappeared, but significantly reduced.

  94. Liliana says:

    Self-rejection: maybe the true story of my life. No matter how much I succeeded, I always found myself chasing after something else. I did not realize that “something else” was within me, not without. I had a successful career and was often a public figure, quoted in the press, sought after by financial news, and appearing on TV. It never seemed to satiate me, as the very image of myself on TV gave rise to feelings of dejection, as well as to my seeking to obtain approval, particularly from my mother. I wanted more than “just being on TV, or on the front page of the New York Times.” Little did I know that I was The Beloved the second I was born, or even before that, and that I did not need anyone else to express that love. That I need not do anything to obtain that love, because God’s love for me is the true meaning of grace: free for anyone who just says yes. While today I continue to “self-reject”, I am also much more aware that even behind my rejection is a God that calls me His Beloved. And that is all I need!

    • Roger Snyder says:

      I hear you Liliana! It feels to me like the work of trying to prove myself is dramatic and distracting from the simple truth of being God’s beloved. My works cause chaos and disorder while God’s love brings order and peace.

  95. Heleen van Huyssteen says:

    Good day, I am Heleen from South Africa. I have a deep desire to become quiet and to reflect after this difficult year. And to hear the Lord’s voice during Advent.

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