Advent Week 1: Nov 26th to Dec 2nd 2017

Reading:  Letters starting with the letter addressed to Jeff on July 13, 1988 (page 176 in book) through to the end of Part II.

Welcome to our first week of readings!  The letters we are reading this week cover a short but important period in Henri’s life from mid-1988 until December 1989.  To better understand this time in Henri’s life, read the introduction to Part II beginning on page 117.  The first letters we read this week are from mid-1988 as Henri is returning to Daybreak following seven months of intensive therapy at a retreat center in Winnipeg for clergy needing spiritual and psychological help. Henri shares with friends the personal and spiritual difficulties he faces as he returns to Daybreak.  Fortunately, he also shares some of the deep spiritual truths he has been learning through this time.

1. In a letter to Jurjen dated September 5, 1989 (p 225) Henri explores the practical application of the first and second commandments.  Henri reminds us that “Jesus calls us to… love without wanting anything in return.”  Henri also refers to the great Saints in history “who were so passionately in love with God that they were completely free to love other people in a deep, affective way without strings attached.”
a) How does one cultivate this type of love?
b) How is this different than the meaning of “love” commonly understood and practiced in our society?

2. If the concept of love highlighted above seems daunting, refer to Henri’s letter to Brian of February 6, 1989 (p 199).  Brian admits he feels incapable of loving people for who they are, rather than for what they bring him.
a) How do you understand Henri’s caution and encouragement to Brian in this letter?

3. Many of the people we are called to love are members of our church community.  In a letter to Rose dated March 12, 1989, Henri encourages us to continue to build the church despite obvious criticisms.  Additionally, in a letter to Seth dated September 26 1989 Henri affirms the church “will never cease to be also the way to God.”
a) If you’ve been struggling in relation to the church, what stands out to you from these to letters?

4. In love/relationships there is so often a struggle for power.  In a letter written to Ed dated June 23, 1989 (p 219) Henri distinguishes between a power that come from God’s love flowing through us,verses a power that relates to our own need for affirmation and success.
a) How are you currently experiencing power in your closest relationships?
b) Henri reminds us that in order for the power in our life/relationships to come from God, we must be deeply rooted in Him. As you consider this letter and many others in this week’s reading, what is Henri’s advice to us as to how to develop deep roots in the Father?

5. In a letter to Annice date October 31, 1988 (p194), Henri clarifies what he means by the concept of the Wounded Healer.
a) Based on these letters, how do you understand Henri’s concept of the Wounded Healer?
b) How does it apply in your own life?

As always, these questions are meant to get our discussion going, but please do not feel bound to them in any way.  You are welcome to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.


Ray and Brynn

Week 4: March 26th – April 1st

Reading: Chapters 5 and 6 – Adam’s Passion and Adam’s Death

These two chapters are a very tender sharing of Adam’s passion and death.  Not an easy topic to explore.  Yet, as in his life, also through his death, Adam was a strong and clear guide for Henri.  There is so much here to reflect upon, at such a deep level.  Rather than offer specific questions this week, we offer a few quotes and invite you to reflect on and share from them.

1_ “Adam clearly challenged us to trust that compassion, not competition, is the way to fulfill our human vocation.  This challenge forced us to reexamine all the basic assumptions our individual and action-oriented lives” (p90).

2_”That, to me, is the final significance of Adam’s passion: a radical call to accept the truth of our lives and to choose to give our love when we are strong and to receive the love of others when we are weak, always with tranquility and generosity” (p 91).

3_”It was as if he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Henri.  Let my death help you to befriend yours.  When you are no longer afraid of your own death, then you can live fully, freely and joyfully” (p 102).

3_”Death is such a mystery, forcing us to ask ourselves,
‘Why do I live?
How do I live?
For whom do I live?’ and also
‘Am I prepared to die… now… later?'” (p101-102)

We so very much appreciate the open and real sharing from each of you.  Please feel free to share whatever came up for you in these two very special chapters.  We also want to continue to remember those who are journeying with us quietly.  Thank you for being with us!

Yours in gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

December 18th-24th Epilogue

Reading: Epilogue by Sue Mosteller (p343)

Thank you, to each of you, for committing to each other in this Advent journey.  Your beauty has shone through, along with and through your questions, thoughts, sharing, and insights.

In this, our final week, we invite you to jump to the end of the book and read the Epilogue (we plan to return to the second half of this book in a future book discussion).

1) Sue wrote a wonderful Epilogue to this book.  As part of this, she reflects on a particular memory from her relationship with Henri that has stayed with her over the years. 
a) We invite you to reflect on this Advent journey and share your main “take away.”  What do you hope to remember and apply to your life going forward?

2) The Henri Nouwen Society and Legacy Trust would like to offer a special opportunity /gift to each of you. 

On the 20th anniversary of Henri’s death, the Henri Nouwen Society sponsored the Way of the Heart International Conference.  Gabrielle Earnshaw, the editor of Love, Henri, presented her unique insight into how this wonderful book came to be and actor Joe Abbey-Colborne offered a powerful interpretation of Henri the letter writer. This presentation is usually offered for sale as part of the conference proceedings. For the next two weeks the Society is providing the participants in this Advent discussion the chance to watch and reflect on Gabrielle and Joe’s presentation (53 minutes) at no cost by following this link: and entering the password LoveHenriAdvent

In her presentation Gabrielle offers a succinct and insightful summary of the book:  “Each letter stands alone, but together they tell a compelling story of one man’s efforts to live his life well—for himself, for others, and for God.”
a) Regardless of how many of his books you have previously read (many or few), what new insights have you gained into the life of Henri Nouwen from reading his letters and from watching this presentation?
b) How do those insights change how you view and live your own life?

Thank you once again to each of you.  Have a blessed Christmas!

Ray and Brynn