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

Feb 22nd to 28th: Encounter with a painting

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

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 and you can follow him on Twitter at

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 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.