June 28th to July 4th: Welcome and Introductions

Reading:  Foreword by Wendy Wilson Greer and Preface by Sue Mosteller
(Note: The complete Reading Schedule is available by following the link in the navigation bar located directly below the photo at the top of the page.)

A very warm welcome to each of you–friends who have journeyed with us before and those joining us for the first time.  You will find here, in the weeks ahead, a wonderful group of seekers who encourage each other in their desire after the heart of God.  This summer we will be reading and discussing Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit, a collection of four short Henri Nouwen essays  that complement each other wonderfully.  I’m glad that you will be joining us as we follow Henri’s lead on this spiritual journey.

Those of you that have participated before already know how rich and rewarding the exchange of ideas within our online community can be. If you are a newcomer, rest assured that your appreciation of this book will be deepened by the comments and insights shared among this welcoming group.   As the facilitator my role is to prepare a space and scatter a few seeds that, when joined with the seeds sown by each of you and nurtured by the group, will grow into a rich and fruitful exchange among a special and caring community.

Here is how we will proceed.  Each Sunday a new “post” will be added to the blog’s homepage that will include a title shown in bold, a reminder of the reading being discussed that week, and a brief reflection with several questions that may help to get our discussion started.  You can then add your comments to the post for the current week and reply to the comments posted by others.   What you share in your comments is totally up to you.  You may choose to respond to one or more of the questions, to share your reflections on the reading, or to comment more broadly from your life’s experience.  And if you would be more comfortable participating by reading along  and reflecting on the comments of others without posting yourself, that is fine as well.  Always click on the ‘comments’ link immediately below the current post (i.e., the first one you come to at the top) to leave your comment.  In this case, it is immediately below Ray’s brief bio.  Note:  To leave a “new comment” (i.e., not a reply to an existing comment by someone), scroll to the bottom of all existing comments to the “comment box” and enter your new comment there. 

Please note that when comments are submitted they are held for moderation so it may be a few hours before you see your comment posted.   If you have any questions about how to use the blog, please feel free ask.  You may contact me at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com or Maureen at admin@henrinouwen.org.

With that background out of the way, let’s get started!    You are invited to introduce yourself and to reflect on the Foreword and Preface.  In your introduction you may choose to share:

  1. Your general geographic location
  2.  To whom or what you dedicate your days and energy, and why
  3. Whether you’ve participated in previous book discussions, or if you are joining us for the first time.  For the first-timers, how did you learn about this book discussion?
  4. In the Foreword Wendy Wilson Greer writes, “Our journey, then, is a journey to discover the perfect love that only God can give us.”  What might “finding my way home” mean to you in the current stage of your life and spiritual journey.

I look forward to hearing from each of you as we share this wonderful book together.

Peace and all good,

Ray

RAY GLENNON: Ray is a lifelong Catholic who lives in Columbia, Maryland and is active as a lector and in his parish Confirmation and adult faith formation programs. He and his wife are also members of a Catholic charismatic community. Ray first became familiar with Henri’s work over 20 years ago; he came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he found The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass at the cathedral in Singapore at an important point in his life. Ray has participated in these book discussions since 2010.  You may contact him at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/@RayGlennon.

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 100 Comments

We Begin a New Book Discussion June 28th!

Bookcover_FMWH_422X597Please join Ray Glennon and the Henri Nouwen Society as we embark on an exploration of Henri Nouwen’s Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit. We will begin June 28th and conclude the week of August 2nd.

How does our book discussion work?
On Sunday June 28, our facilitator, Ray Glennon will introduce himself on the blog and invite you to do the same. Ray will post reflection questions on the blog each Sunday through to August 2nd in keeping with a reading schedule we have posted on this blog (see top menu for link to reading schedule). There is no need to register or sign-in.

Read, reflect, share your thoughts – participate at your own pace and in whatever way is most meaningful for you.

Need a copy of Finding My Way Home?
Click here to purchase in US$
Click here to purchase in CDN$
Click here to purchase in the UK from Darton, Longman & Todd

Finding My Way Home is a collection of four short essays, three previously published by Crossroad Publishing and here revised, that looks at different aspects of our spiritual life: The Path of Power, The Path of Peace, The Path of Waiting, and The Path of Living and Dying.

Henri with friend and founder of the Henri Nouwen Society, Wendy Wilson Greer.

In the book’s Foreword, Wendy Wilson Greer writes: “In Finding My Way Home, Henri Nouwen writes about ‘journey’ in [this] way:

Our spiritual journey calls us to seek and find this living God of Love in prayer, worship, spiritual reading, spiritual mentoring, compassionate service to the poor, and good friends. Let us claim the truth that we are loved and open our hearts to receive God’s overflowing love poured out for us.

We look forward to a fruitful discussion with friends new and old! Questions? Contact Maureen at admin@henrinouwen.org

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 27 Comments

March 29 to April 4th: Epilogue and Conclusions

Reading:  Epilogue Living the Painting

1) In the epilogue Henri reflects back on his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting.  We similarly have the opportunity to reflect back on our encounter with this book – A Story of Homecoming.
a)  How this “encounter” has impacted you and influenced you on your journey?

2) Henri takes this opportunity to further explore and clarify his call to become the Father.  He writes, “True fatherhood is sharing the poverty of God’s non-demanding love.” (p 138)  And he concludes this way, “As I look at my own aging hands, I know they have been given to me to stretch out toward all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessings that emerge from the immensity of God’s love.” (p 139)
a) Has this Lenten journey changed your understanding of “fatherhood” or “motherhood”?
b) What can you do to stretch out your hands to your family and friends?  Your church and community?  Those you encounter on your journey?

3) Henri also encourages us to consider ways we are called to move forward on our journey.  Of his own experience he says “It is comfortable to be the wayward younger son or the angry elder son.  Our community is full of wayward and angry children, and being surrounded by peers gives a sense of solidarity.  Yet the longer I am part of the community, the more that solidarity proves to be only a way station on the road…” (p129).
a) You are invited to consider ways you may be lingering in a place of waywardness, anger, suffering, because it provides a sense of solidarity with others around you.
b) Where is God leading you to now?

We want to express our deep gratitude to all who have journeyed together this Lent.  It has been an incredibly rich time, and we look forward to hearing your concluding reflections this week.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 58 Comments

March 22nd to 28th: Becoming the Father

Reading:  Conclusion: Becoming the Father

We’ve been on quite a journey together over the last few weeks!  We’ve looked at the younger son in us, the ways we leave home, and the truth of our sonship/daughtership which draws us home again in true repentance.  We’ve explore the elder son in us, the call to liberation from resentments, and the invitation to the disciplines of trust and gratitude.  We’ve meditated on the depth of the Father’s love for us, and the unconditional love that invites us to joy in Him.  In this final stage of the journey Henri invites us to consider the call to become like the Father, which is perhaps the most challenging of all.

1) Henri writes, “…I came to realize that my spiritual journey would never be complete as long as the Father remained an outsider…”  (p 121)
a) Do you see the Father as an “outsider” on your spiritual journey?

2) “Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ … becoming the compassionate Father is the ultimate goal of the spiritual life…”  (p 115)
a) Have you ever considered this before?  What is your immediate reaction?
b) How can you become the compassionate Father for those in your life?
c) Has this Lenten discussion offered any new insights that may assist you?
d) How does the life of Jesus lead you to move toward becoming the compassionate Father?

3) Henri helps us to understand that becoming like the Father includes releasing all the ways we look for approval from others, and is instead to “dare to stretch out my own hands in blessing and to receive with ultimate compassion my children, regardless of how they feel or think about me” (p117).
a) How do you understand this challenge in your own life?
b) How would it change the way you interact with those around you?

4) Henri draws a distinction between the authority of power and the authority of compassion (see p120).
a) Have you ever known someone who lived with the authority of compassion?
b) What was it like to be around that person?  What did authority of compassion look like?

5) Finally, Henri offers us “three ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood:  grief, forgiveness and generosity” p120.  “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.  They are three aspects of the Father’s call to be home” (p123).
a) Why do you think grief, forgiveness and generosity are the ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood?
b) Towards the end of the chapter Henri reminds us that this transformation is the work of God as much as any other spiritual transformation we go through, so how might we open ourselves to His work in these areas?

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you this week.  Your honest reflections are an encouragement to both of us, and to all who are journeying with us this Lent.

Sincerely,

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 52 Comments

March 15th to 21st: The Father

Reading:
Rembrandt and the Father (p87)
The Father Welcomes Home (p93)
The Father Calls for a Celebration (p103)

We’ve been on a remarkable journey so far, with deep and rich times of reflection,  sharing and encouragement.  We’ve considered the younger son, we’ve reflected on the elder son, and now we turn our attention to the father.

1) Henri writes “As Rembrandt’s own life moves toward the shadows of old age, as his success wanes, and the exterior splendor of his life diminishes, he comes more in touch with the immense beauty of the interior life” p 89
a) In your own life journey have you experienced the shift from looking to outward success/ beauty to seeing and celebrating the beauty of the interior?
b) What facilitated this shift in you?

2) Henri invites us to expand our understanding of God’s love, and consider our response to His love.  “The elder son’s dilemma is to accept or reject that his father’s love is beyond comparisons; to dare to be loved as his father longs to love him or to insist on being loved as he feels he ought to be loved…Will the elder son be willing to kneel and be touched by the same hands that touch his younger brother?  Will he be willing to be forgiven and to experience the healing presence of the father who loves him beyond compare?”  (p97).
a) Do you still insist on being loved as you feel you “deserve”?
b) Are you ready to dare to be loved as your Father longs to love you?  To experience the healing presence of the Father who loves you beyond compare?
c) How might this non-comparing love lead you to an experience of deep gratitude? (see p99).

3) In the chapter “The Father Calls for a Celebration” we are reminded of the deep joy that God wants to give us as we live each day. “Wouldn’t it be good to increase God’s joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly?… Can I accept that I am worth looking for?  Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?” p101
a) What emotions, fears, thoughts come up for you as you consider the possibility of living with joy?

 4) Finally, Henri gives us a hint as to how we can welcome joy into our lives, by giving us an example of how his friend lived it.  “I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness…. He tells about the small wonders of God.  At times I realize I am disappointed because I want to hear “newspaper news,” exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends.  But he never responds to my need for sensationalism.  He keeps saying: ‘I saw something very small and very beautiful, something that gave me much joy'” (p107).
a) What do you learn from this example about how to open your heart to God’s joy?
b) How might you practically begin to live this?

You all have truly astounded us with your thoughtful and honest sharing, and we look forward to hearing from you again this week.  As always, there is so much to be explored in this text, feel free to share what came up for you.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 34 Comments

March 8th to 14th: The Elder Son

Readings:
Rembrandt and the Elder Son
The Elder Son Leaves
The Elder Son’s Return

Welcome! Before us is another week of rich exploration through which Henri takes us to a new understanding of ourselves as the Elder son, and leads us once again to lay our hearts before God.

1) Henri writes that both the younger son and the elder son needed healing and forgiveness and to return home to the father’s love.  “…it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home.” (p 66)
a) Have you ever been lost while at still home?
b) Now that we have read about both the Younger and the Elder son, do you agree with Henri that the the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home? Have you experienced this in your life?

2) “Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive… Once the self-rejecting complaint has formed in us, we lose our spontaneity to the extent that even joy can no longer evoke joy in us… joy and resentment cannot coexist…” (p 68)
a) Henri links our complaining with the self-rejection.  Have you experienced this?
b) How did you turn from self-rejecting resentment and complaining to acceptance of the Father’s love and the resulting joy?

3) Henri points us to the great hope of liberation from such resentments.  He gives us the very important reminder that “I can only be healed from above” and that “Jesus is God’s way of making the impossible possible – of allowing light to conquer darkness” (p71, p82).  He encourages us that we can prepare ourselves to be found and brought home through the disciplines of trust and gratitude.
a) In order to practice trust, how can you regularly remind yourself of the truth of God’s love for you.  How can you claim it? (We also talked about this last week).
b) How do you understand the discipline of gratitude?  Have you found a way to choose gratitude every day?
c) Henri reminds us of the Estonian proverb that says “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.”  You are invited to choose something in your life, and share your sense of gratitude today.

4) Henri touches on his relationship with his father.  He recognizes he was looking to his earthly father for a kind of love that could not be found through an earthly relationship.
a) Do you have such a relationship in your life?  How might you take a step towards releasing that expectation, and instead opening yourself to a true dependence on the divine Father who says “You are always with me, and all I have is yours” (p78).
b) How might this free you to give and receive love?

As always, there is so much to be explore in this text.  We very much look forward to hearing from you about whatever comes up for you as you read and reflect.

In gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 54 Comments

March 1st to 7th: The Younger Son

Reading:  Part I The Younger Son (p21 to 53)

Last week was an incredibly rich time of sharing and reflecting together.  Henri did a marvelous job of preparing us to enter more deeply into the parable, and this week we focus our attention on the younger son.  There is a lot to reflect upon in the text, so please feel free to share whatever comes up for you.

1)  Henri writes, “Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my beloved…’  Yet over and over I have left home… searching for love.” (p. 37, 39)
a) Is there a special place in your life that is “home” for you?  Are there times that you have been unable to “hear” God’s voice and have left home?
b) How and when did you hear the call to return?

2) “Even in the midst of his debasement, he had clung to the truth that he still was the son of his father… The sword was there to show me that, although he came back speaking as a beggar and an outcast, he had not forgotten that he still was the son of his father.  It was the remembered and valued sonship that finally persuaded him to turn back” (p42).
a) Is there a Bible verse, a symbol, something in nature, that is a reminder to you of your place as the Beloved child of God?  How can you keep it with you always?

3) Henri distinguishes between “a self-serving repentance that offers the possibility of survival” (p47) and a repentance that involves a breaking “away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrendering myself so absolutely to God’s love that a new person can emerge…Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing” (p 48).
a) How do you understand the difference between these two kinds of repentance?
b) Have you experienced the latter?  Can you share your experience with us?

4)  Henri calls the Beatitudes (Matt 5: 1-12) a self portrait of Jesus and says they “…offer me the simplest route for the journey home…”  (p 54) He then presents Jesus as becoming the prodigal son for our sake—a portrayal that goes beyond the traditional interpretation.  “The young man being embraced by the Father is no longer just one repentant sinner, but the whole of humanity returned to God.”  (p 58)
a) Does considering the Beatitudes as Jesus’ self portrait help you to better understand the Beatitudes? Jesus?
b) How do the Beatitudes point the way for humanity to follow Jesus and return to God?

We eagerly await your comments on these questions or anything else in the reading you would like to share  and we look forward to the gifts that will be revealed through each of you in the week ahead.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 62 Comments

Feb 22nd to 28th: Encounter with a painting

Readings:
The Story of Two Sons and Their Father (p 1-2)
Prologue (p 3-15)
Introduction (p17-20)

Welcome to a new week!  The Parable, the Prologue, and the Introduction of this book offer a great deal to reflect on.  Please feel free to share whatever came up for you through the readings.  You may also choose to reflect on some of the questions below:

1) For Henri Nouwen, Rembrandt’s painting is a window through which he can step into the Kingdom of God.  As you read the parable of the prodigal son, take in Rembrant’s painting and listen to Henri’s story:
b) Can you see areas where you have been the younger son?  …the elder son?  …the father?
c) Do you sense a calling to enter the mystery of homecoming in a way you never have before?  What excites you about this prospect and what scares you?

2) In reflecting on the painting, Henri says seeing  “… the old man’s hands—as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before” (p4).
a) How have you been touched by the hand of the Father in your life?   How did your life change?

3) Henri was given a very unique opportunity to view this painting, an experience which God used in a profound way to invite him and many others home. 
a) Can you recognize ways that God has gone to great lengths to arrange details,  circumstances and experiences (including painful ones) in such a way as to draw you home?
b) How might these experiences of your life also be used to draw others home?

4) Henri very honestly explains that “certainly there were many hours of prayer, many days and months of retreat, and countless conversations with spiritual directors, but I had never fully given up the role of bystander” (p 12)
a) What do you think keeps you in the role of bystander, instead of taking the next step towards being in the center of God’s love and plan for you?
b) What if you decided to take one step closer to the center?  What would that look like?

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you this week!

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 112 Comments

Feb 18th to 21st: Introductions

Reading:  no text assigned for this week.  You can find the link to the reading schedule in the black navigation bar, which is located directly below the photo on the top of this page.

A very warm welcome to each of you!  You will find here, in the weeks ahead, a caring community of people who encourage each other in their desire after the heart of God.  Henri Nouwen is our guide, as we study his books and legacy.  We as facilitators do our best to make the space for this community to form, and it is truly each of you that actually creates it.  If you’ve joined us before you’ll know how incredible these times are.  If this is your first time – welcome!

This Lent we are very excited to be studying The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Some of you may remember that we studied this same book two years ago.  We believe you’ll find it well worth while to study the book again at this time.  If you are the type of reader who likes to underline and make notes, you might consider getting a fresh copy of the book.

Before we jump in, it is always helpful to provide some information on how this online discussion flows.  Each Sunday you will discover a new “post,” indicated by the bold title, on the blog’s Home page. This post will have discussion questions based around the week’s readings. It works best if you always add any new comment to the newest post, even if you are referring to an earlier post. That way, everyone will see your comment. After you submit a comment, either Maureen, Ray or Brynn need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any further questions about how the blog works, please feel free to ask.

After that long introduction, we would love to hear from you!

Please introduce yourself.  You may choose to share:
a) Your general geographic location
b) To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why
c) Whether or not you’ve read The Return of the Prodigal Son before, and if so, how it was significant to you at that time
d) Considering the analogy of a “homecoming,” where you feel you are currently at in your journey with God

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you!

In gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

RAY GLENNON: Ray actively volunteers in his parish Confirmation and Adult Faith Formation Programs. He and his wife are members of a Catholic charismatic community where he also chairs the school board. Ray first became familiar with Henri’s work over 20 years ago. He came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he found The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass at the cathedral in Singapore at an important point in his life.  If you have any questions for Ray, please contact him at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/@RayGlennon.

BRYNN LAWRENCE: Brynn is a life coach and an experienced group facilitator. She has been helping to preserve Henri’s Legacy for the last five years, through her role as project coordinator of the Nouwen Archive Letter Project, and also by facilitating many of our online book discussions. Brynn is a Strategic Intervention Life Coach, and the founder of Abundant Life Coaching. If you have any questions for Brynn, please feel free to contact her at nouwen.letters@utoronto.ca or through her website.

 

Note on Comments:  This post is now closed to comments.  Please come over to the newest post, and add your comment there (including an introduction if you are just joining us).  The newest post can be found by scrolling to the top of this page and clicking on the word “Home” found in the bar just below the large image. On the Home page, the newest post is always at the top, and indicated by the bold title which will always include the current week’s date.

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 208 Comments

Journey With Us This Lent

We are so pleased and grateful to welcome back Brynn Lawrence and Ray Glennon as co-facilitators for our upcoming book discussion on Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. We hope you will join us from February 18th to April 5th as we explore and reflect on the three parts of Henri’s encounter with Rembrandt’s painting: “The Younger Son”, “The Elder Son” and “The Father”. Please note that we have had to change our initial choice of Home Tonight to The Return of the Prodigal Son. We encourage those who already have Home Tonight to work through that either on your own or in conjunction with The Return of the Prodigal Son; these two books are deeply complementary.

We invite you to participate in this Lenten journey with us in any way that is comfortable and spiritually nourishing for you. There are no requirements, no registration, no obligation for you to post. You may prefer to keep a journal this Lent or gather friends in a ‘face to face’ group. This is a worldwide community of compassionate and thoughtful readers and seekers who desire to deepen their experience of Lent and to connect with and support others on the road home.

So, find your copy of The Return of the Prodigal Son and return to this blog on February 18th. Brynn and Ray will introduce themselves, invite you to do the same and then they will post some questions for reflection. New questions will be posted here each Sunday and you will find the link to the reading schedule on the top navigation bar of this page.

PLEASE NOTE:
To purchase Henri Nouwen’s books in Canadian dollars, please click here.

To purchase Henri Nouwen’s books in the UK, please click here.

Questions? Call toll-free 1-866-226-2158 or write to: admin@henrinouwen.org.

Many blessings,

Maureen's signature

M.E. Wright
Nouwen Legacy Manager

 

Our Lenten discussion is now underway.  You can find the newest post by scrolling to the top of this page, and clicking on the “Home” tab – which you will find directly below the image.

The comments section for Journey With Us This Lent  is closed.

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 65 Comments