Dec 20th to Dec 26th: 4th Week of Advent & Christmas – Living as the Beloved and Epilogue

Reading: Living as the Beloved and Epilogue (p. 129 to 149)

God not only says: “You are my Beloved.” God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes” to our inner truth. That is the
spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth. (p. 131)

In one of my favorite scripture passages, St. Paul urges us to “live in manner worthy of the call you have received.” (c.f. Ephesians 4:1) And what is that call? Throughout our Advent journey, Henri Nouwen showed us that we are called to be God’s Beloved. In these remaining days before Christmas, he offers a heartfelt meditation on living as the Beloved and tells how Fred responded to the book and how it came to be published.

Henri encourages Fred and each one of us to “claim your spiritual truth and to live in the world as someone who doesn’t belong to it.” (p. 130) Henri emphasizes, “If you really want to live in the world, you cannot look to the world itself as the source of that life. . . . the world is not the source even of its own life, let alone yours.” (p. 132) And Henri challenges me to what St. Francis of Assisi (Nouwen’s favorite saint) would call penance and today we call conversion or change, saying, “The change of which I speak is the change from living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing “Yes” to the truth of that Belovedness. Put simply, life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are. . . to say “Yes” to the one who calls us the Beloved.” (p. 133) This is my takeaway from our time together: At every moment of every day I have a choice. I can look to the world as the source of life and be disappointed or I can live as the Beloved and become who God created me to be. What will I choose today?

Rather than suggesting questions this week, I encourage you to reflect on the readings and your experience during our time together. To the extent you are comfortable, please share your thoughts and feelings, the ideas you are taking away from our discussion, or changes you would like to make in your life.

Here is something we don’t usually do but I hope you find it as meaningful as I did. I have a friend named Sean who is a long-time friend of L’Arche Daybreak where he came to admire Henri during the last years of his life. An avid reader of Henri’s books, Sean was discussing Henri’s life with a friend of his. He and she were reflecting on Henri’s skill as an exceptional listener and how he helped those around him to experience their own Belovedness–something that Henri had difficulty doing for himself. In a poem he wrote for his friend, Sean captured this probing snapshot of Henri and life as the Beloved. He gave me permission to share it.

I Give You a New Commandment
Cherishing others
Encouraging them to be themselves
To speak their stories simply and truly
We eagerly take in what they have to say
And take away their unspeakable shame


These are our constant companions
These are the tools we use
To help others re-remember
Who they have always been
Although they did not know it at the time

Feeling the pain
Holding up the joy
Loving the whole thing
Skillfully practising alchemy
That comes easily to us, doesn’t it?

Telling our own stories
Finding out who we have been
Becoming visible ourselves
That’s not so easy for us

But we have to remember
We’re not so different from those whose stories we hear

Actually, I think we may have just stumbled upon
A new commandment

Love yourself as your neighbour

And if we can pull that one off
Well, that would be something

We also have an Advent and Christmas gift from the Henri Nouwen Society. At the bottom of this post is 30 minute recording that Henri made about the same time he was writing this book. I hope you enjoy hearing Henri describe what it means “To Be the Beloved” in his own voice. Some of you may have received this link in your email on Saturday too.

Looking ahead, in 2021 the Henri Nouwen Society will mark the 25th Anniversary of Henri’s untimely death at age 64 with a series of events and activities. For our Lenten book discussion (begins Ash Wednesday, February 17th) we will be reading and discussing Sabbatical Journey, Henri’s journal written during the last year of his life. I hope you will join us.

Finally, I want to thank each of you for what has been an extraordinarily rich discussion. The sharing was open, honest, insightful, inspiring, and deeply moving. Your presence and participation has made this Advent more meaningful for us all.

Wishing you and yours a Blessed and Merry Christmas. With gratitude,

Dec 13th to Dec 19th: 3rd Week of Advent – Becoming the Beloved, Part II

Reading: Becoming the Beloved, III. Broken, IV. Given (p. 85 to 125)

There is a mysterious link between our brokenness and our ability to give to
each other. . . . Our brokenness opened us to a deeper way of sharing
our lives and offering each other hope. Just as bread needs to
be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives. (p. 110)

Thanks to all for another incredible week of sharing! So many thoughtful, insightful, and touching reflections. It is a great blessing to be sharing this Advent journey with each of you. We have another fruitful week ahead so let’s get started.

What does it mean to live as the Beloved? This week we read, “Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others. . . beyond all our desires to be appreciated, rewarded, and acknowledged, there lies a simple and pure desire to give.” (p. 106) Henri is describing what Bishop Robert Barron calls, citing St. Pope John Paul II, the spiritual law of the gift. “Giving your your life away for love increases life within you. You partake in the flow of the divine life. Hence, happiness is found in loving acts.” And how does that happen? Last week we were learned we are taken (or chosen) and blessed. This week, Henri will help us to understand that as God’s Beloved, we are broken so that our life may given as a gift for others. As a result, “The fruitfulness of our little life, once we recognize it and live it as the life of the Beloved is beyond anything we ourselves can imagine.” (p. 122-3)

I found these two chapters to be particularly challenging with many ideas worth exploring. Here are several examples. After saying “. . . the suffering of which I am most aware on a day-to-days basis is the suffering of the human heart,” (p. 89) Henri offers a deeply personal insight into his own interpersonal addiction that led to his long depression. Later on, after telling us about how the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi (died 1226) is still alive today, Henri says, “death can, indeed, be chosen as our final gift of life” and he encourages us to make it so. You are invited to share and reflect on any ideas that touched your heart in our reading this week. As always, here are a few excerpts and questions you might consider. Please share to the extent you are comfortable.

  1. In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised, and left alone. (p. 89) Do you agree with Henri? Have you had this experience yourself? How did you handle it? What did you learn?
  2. The great secret of the spiritual life, the life of the Beloved Sons and Daughters of God, is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity. (p. 96) Henri goes on to say that “. . . real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy.” How have you helped someone on their journey? How were you helped on your journey? In both cases, how did this make you feel?
  3. (T)here is a mysterious link between our brokenness and our ability to give to each other. . . . Our brokenness opened us to a deeper way of sharing our lives and offering each other hope. (p. 109-110) Have you experienced this in your life or seen it in the lives of others? How did the brokenness lead to deeper sharing?
  4. We tend to forget that our real gift is not so much what we can do, but who we are. The real question is not “What can we offer each other?” but “Who can we be for each other?” (p. 113) How are you living this truth today? What changes might you consider in how you live your life as a gift?

Thanks again to everyone joining us in this Advent community, those posting and those following along in silence. We’re blessed by your presence and we look forward to another week together. Be safe and be well.

Peace and all good.

Dec 6th to Dec 12th: 2nd Week of Advent – Becoming the Beloved, Part I

Reading: Becoming the Beloved, Enfleshing the Truth, I. Taken, II. Blessed (p. 43 to 83)

From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced
with the call to become who we are. Becoming the Beloved is the
great spiritual journey we have to make. (p 43)

What a remarkable and wonderful first week of Advent! So many thoughtful and enriching comments! And the sharing of ideas and encouragement among participants is especially rewarding. We’re deeply grateful to each of you for joining us on this journey.

On page 44-45 Henri writes, “. . . we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved; . . . If the spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming, what then is the nature of this becoming?” We will be considering this core question for the next two weeks. Henri will use four words that he says summarize his life as a priest and as a Christian—taken (or chosen), blessed, broken, and given—to explore our becoming the Beloved.

Before moving on to our discussion for this week, here are two YouTube videos that were meaningful to me as we ponder Life of the Beloved. The first is the song You Say by Lauren Daigle ( that Grant Rickard mentioned last week. Grant said he turns to it in times of doubt or self rejection because it helps him to remember that he is the Beloved. And in this clip from The Lion King (, Simba is told to remember who he is as he embarks on a journey to become what he is called to be—the Beloved child of his Father. Isn’t that our life journey too? You are invited to share your thoughts and comments on how these videos may be related to our being and becoming the Beloved.

Now let’s turn to this week’s reading. Once again, there is a wealth of wisdom to contemplate in these chapters about accepting our belovedness and becoming the Beloved. You are invited to share your thoughts and reactions to the reading. You may choose to reply to one or more of these questions or to share your reflections and whatever is on your heart.

  1. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. . . . you were already “chosen.” (p. 53-54). In the Letter to the Ephesians we read, “God chose us before the world began. . . He predestined us to be his adopted (children) though Jesus Christ, such was his will and pleasure.” (Ephesians 1: 4-5). What does it mean to you to be chosen by God and what is your response? Why is being chosen the first step to becoming the Beloved?
  2. (W)e have to dare to reclaim the truth that we are God’s chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. (p. 57) Henri offers three guidelines in this struggle: (a) keep unmasking the world about you for what it is (p. 59); (b) keep looking for people and places where your truth (as the chosen one) is spoken; and (c) celebrate your chosenness constantly (through gratitude) (p. 60). What have you done to claim your your chosenness? How did you respond when confronted with difficulties or the voices in the world?
  3. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness. (p. 69) When have you given or received a blessing? How did that make you feel?
  4. The feeling of being blessed is not, it seems to me, the feeling that we generally have about ourselves. (p. 73) Henri provides two suggestions for claiming our belovedness: prayer and presence or “attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day.” Try this exercise. Be intentional about following Henri’s two suggestions for the next three to four days. Then share your experience with the group to the extent you are comfortable.

We have another spirit-filled and fruitful week ahead. We are all God’s Beloved and we have the opportunity to grow spiritually and to support each other on our journey. Thanks for being here and we look forward to hearing from many of you.

I’m blessed to be walking with you through Advent.