Announcing: LIVE Zoom for Lent 2024!

Share this year’s Lenten journey with the Henri Nouwen Community!

Whether you are a faithful observer of Lent or you aren’t even really sure what Lent is, we invite you to join new Executive Director, Bruce Adema, and our Director of Development, Wendy VanderWal Martin, for LIVE Zoom conversations on the Sundays @ 4 PM EST leading to Easter. With a combined total of more than 60 years accompanying faith communities, Bruce and Wendy are eager to share this Lenten journey with you!

Guided by Henri Nouwen’s book, Show Me the Way: Readings for each day of Lent, we invite you to set aside this time to reflect as we journey together towards Easter.

Beginning on Sunday, February 18 through to Sunday, March 24, join us for our LIVE Zoom Conversations @ 4 PM EST.

Registration is FREE, so be sure to tell your friends. Whether or not you’ve read the book — everyone is welcome!


Use Crossroad Publisher Discount Code till end of April 2024: Nouwen25%


Dec 17th to 23rd: Third Week of Advent

Reading: Part II: Friday, August 5, 1994 to Sunday, August 21, 1994
(p. 79-128); Afterword, August 2022 by Laurent Nouwen (p. 129-139)

Henri, thank you for visiting Ukraine twenty-nine years ago, thank
you for giving me Andriy and many other good friends,
thanks for your diaries, thanks for making my life
worthwhile, thank you for your never-forsaken
belief that we are all free as beloved
sons and daughters of God.

—Laurent Nouwen (p. 138)

We have reached the Third (and final) Week of Advent in this shortest possible Advent season. Thanks to each of you for joining us on this Advent journey—those of you posting comments and those following along quietly. We are blessed by your presence.

In our readings this week, Henri and Nathan return to Ukraine with three other member of the L’Arche Daybreak community for what proved to be another fruitful two-week mission to a long-suffering nation. As well known as Henri was as a writer, Nouwen was first and foremost a pastor, and many people considered his greatest gifts to be his inspirational teaching and preaching. In Henri’s diary entries we join him as he and the team prepare for and participate in the weekend retreat and the leadership seminar. As a long-term Nouwen reader, I gained new insight into Henri’s careful preparation and sensitivity to his audience—two keys to effective ministry.

Henri continued to deepen his understanding of the Ukrainian people writing, “we had met many very talented young people with obvious leadership gifts, but… without a lot of encouragement and guidance it would be hard for them to claim these gifts… (due to) the low self-esteem not only of the individuals but of the group as a whole.” (p. 119) As Laurent Nouwen writes in the Afterword, the discovery of Henri’s diaries led to Laurent’s unexpected more than two decade mission to Ukraine. Laurent was able to see for himself and share with us the fruit that was born as many Ukrainians rose from “passive depression to positive action” (p. 137)—a trait that the world has acclaimed in their response to the Russian invasion. I’m confident that Borys, Zenia, and Henri’s other Ukrainian fiends would echo and expand on Laurent’s beautiful quote at top this post.

Once again, there are many ideas in our reading we could discuss this week. You are encouraged to share whatever touched your heart. As Henri wrote, “But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal.” Sharing your personal insights will enlighten and enliven us all.

Here are several ideas that touched me that you might consider for your reflections:

a) Henri defines hope: “although reaching beyond the present moment, allows me to live in the present moment with courage and confidence.” (p. 86) How do you understand hope?

b) Henri asks a question for us all: “Do I have the courage to call people to a radical call to Jesus and the Church?” (p.89) What is your response to Henri’s question?

c) Henri writes about churches in a way that rings true today: “Churches remind us about deep piety as well as painful divisions, of humble service as well as a lust for power…” (p. 97) How does Henri’s observation reflect your experience of churches today?

d) During the the retreat Henri, “spoke about claiming our identify as the beloved sons and daughters of God…” (p. 100) How do you claim your own belovedness?

e) Reflecting on the Ukrainian nation, Henri writes, “It is the handicap that comes from a broken history, from centuries of oppression and exploitation, from neglect and indifference of wealthy nations, from the social sins of injustice and greed.” (p. 128) Where in our world today do you see this handicap manifest? What can we do about it?

Once again, thank you for joining us for our Advent book discussion of Ukraine Diary. We look forward to hearing from you throughout the week—in response to one of the prompts or anything that touched your heart. On behalf of the Henri Nouwen Society, I want to wish you and yours a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Peace and all good.

Dec 10th to 16th: Second Week of Advent

Reading: Part I — August 1, 1993 to August 14, 1993, p, 21 to 78

I offered a few words about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus as we
live in the storms of our century. . . . Mostly I wanted to express
my conviction that with a clear spiritual focus we won’t
drown in the fearful insecurities of our lives. (p. 61)

Thank you joining us on this Advent journey. Your thoughtful comments have prompted a rich and fruitful discussion . Last week we followed Henri and his friend Nathan Ball, Director of L’Arche Daybreak community, as they completed their preparations to travel to Ukraine for their two-week visit and mission. I found this comment by Nadiia, a “forced” immigrant from Ukraine in 2014, to be especially noteworthy because her personal story gives Nadiia a unique perspective in our group. She writes: “(Ukraine Diary) is one of the best pieces of literature that helps readers, including Ukrainians like myself, look inside the Ukrainian nation’s soul to grasp all its beauty and immense suffering. . . .Henri got to the very core of Ukrainians with such an overwhelming love and care that I hadn’t yet encountered.” Her observation reinforces the ideas expressed by Robert Ellsberg in the Preface and Archbishop Gudziak in his Introduction. I think the truth of Nadiia’s comment will become evident in our reading this week.

Henri describes in considerable detail and depth the things he experienced and the relationships he formed during his brief twelve days in the newly-independent Ukraine in the East (of Europe) and he shares his initial post-mission reflections after returning to the West. There is so much to discuss and we want to hear from you. Please share whatever spoke to you or touched you in the reading. Here are just a few ideas that may prompt your thinking.

a) For me, the experience of reading this book is like sitting across the table from Henri listening to him share his enthusiasm, observations, ideas in a friendly conversation more so than “reading a book” about Ukraine. I come away feeling that I know Henri differently and more personally than before. Did you have a similar experience?

b) In her comment Nadiia wrote, “Henri got to the very core of Ukrainians.” Based on our reading this week, do you agree or disagree and why? What insights did you gain into the Ukrainian people and how does that affect your perception and understanding of current events in Ukraine?

c) Henri immediately noticed the physical and emotional/psychological changes in his surroundings after the “huge move from the West to the East.” (p. 22) Later on he reflects on how poverty has had a different effect on the people of Ukraine than those in Latin America (p.42), or even those in Ghana (p.74). Henri writes, “(P)overty in Ukraine strikes me as a poverty that has extinguished the spirit of the poor.” (p.42) What is your response to these differences Henri noticed?

d) On the first day of the retreat, Henri told the attendees that to God, “we are as beloved as his own son, Jesus. . . we can claim our new identify as the chosen children of God.” (p. 56) This is Henri’s core spiritual insight. As we approach Christmas and the coming of Emmanuel (God with us), what can you do to accept and faithfully live out this great truth?

e) The quote at the top of this page about “keeping our eyes on fixed Jesus” taken from the homily Henri preached on the Sunday of the retreat is as true today as it was in 1993. What does it mean to you to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in our difficult world today? What steps are you willing to take in your life to make this happen?

f) After leaving Ukraine, Henri reflects on his friendship with Nathan, writing: “Nathan and I had taken an emotional risk in making the Ukrainian trip together. Our friendship during the past seven years has been intense and complex.” (p. 72) What Henri doesn’t write here is that the challenges of his friendship with Nathan contributed Henri’s emotional breakdown that he discusses in his spiritual masterpiece, The Return of the Prodigal Son. (“A friendship that at first seemed promising and life-giving gradually pulled me farther and farther away from home. . . . When the friendship broke down completely. . . ” The Return, p., 49-50) Does Henri’s reflection give you any insight into your own friendships or relationships? Share to the extent you are able.

Once again, the prompts above are simply ideas for your consideration. We are most interested in whatever touched you in the readings. We look forward to hearing from you.

May the Lord give you peace.