Nov 29th to Dec 5th: 1st Week of Advent – Henri Nouwen, Fred Bratman, and Being the Beloved

Reading: Prologue: A Friendship Begins & Being the Beloved (p. 11 to 39)

In the terrain of the spiritual life, we need guides. . . .
I would like to be your guide. I hope you are
still interested in walking along. (p. 39)

A warm welcome to everyone and special thanks to the many people that introduced themselves. Thus far our virtual global community includes participants from across the USA and Canada, Ecuador, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Egypt, and the UK. We’ve gathered to journey together through what promises to be a blessed and fruitful time of preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. This Advent we will be enlightened and enriched as Henri Nouwen guides his friend Fred Bratman – and us – to the realization that “the words ‘You are my Beloved’ revealed the most intimate truth about all human beings.” (p. 30)

In the Prologue, we learn how Henri and Fred met and we watch their friendship develop. It was about 1990 when Henri was living at Daybreak that Fred encouraged him to write something for “us young, ambitious, secular men and women wondering what life is all about after all.” (p. 21) In Being the Beloved, Henri gives us the word “Beloved” and he contrasts the voice that “speaks from above” with the negative voices of the modern secular world. He challenges us to make a choice and to claim the experience of being the Beloved as our core truth rather than seeking our self-worth through worldly success, popularity, or power.

Even at the outset of our journey, there is much to discuss. Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them. You may also share insights you gained from the reading, something from your personal experience, or feedback prompted by the comments of others.

  1. I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. . . . and waste much of their life complaining. (p. 16) What is your reaction to Henri’s statement? Looking back on the choices in your life, which ones did you make with your best aspirations? How did you feel about them? How did you feel if you didn’t make such a choice?
  2. (Fred) felt strongly that his own experience and that of his friends required another tone, another language, another spiritual wavelength. (p. 20) This was written nearly 30 years ago. Has the situation changed for the better or worse in recent years? What ways have you used or are you aware of to reach out spiritually to those in the secular world like Fred, that today we might call the “Nones.” Are there others we need to reach?
  3. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. (p. 33) What do you think about Henri’s description of self-rejection and arrogance and their relationship to our belovedness? Is this contradiction something you experience in your own life and how do you respond?
  4. We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved us or wounded us. That is the truth of our lives. (p. 36) Do you believe and live this truth? Why or why not? What will it take to make you believe it?

The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion and we look forward to hearing from many you. However, we also know that some participants choose to read and journey with us without commenting. We’re just glad you’re here whether you comment or not.

May the Lord give you peace during this first week in Advent.

Nov 25th to Nov 28th: Welcome and Introductions


Speak from that place in you heart where you are most yourself. Speak
directly, simply, lovingly, gently, and without apologies. . . .
Trust your heart.
Fred Bratman to Henri Nouwen

A warm welcome to each of you as we gather to share our Advent journey in this year unlike any other. We look forward to greeting 0ld friends and welcoming new ones in our virtual community where we will discover and reflect on Henri Nouwen’s core spiritual insight that, like Jesus, we are God’s beloved children. As we will learn, accepting ourselves as God’s beloved is not easy, but it is life-changing.

In his most popular book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri introduces his core insight: “During my time here at Daybreak, I have been led to an inner place. . . where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name and says, ‘You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests.'” Those of you that participated in our Lent and summer book discussions earlier this year have some appreciation for the deep spiritual and emotional struggles that led Henri to this insight over a period of years.

In Life of the Beloved – Spiritual Living in a Secular World Henri explores and expands on our belovedness in response an appeal from his friend Fred Bratman (see quote above) to present spirituality in a way that speaks to men and women in a secularized society. Henri wrote from the heart and his life’s experiences in the form of a lengthy personal letter to Fred. This Advent we have the chance to “listen in” to the words of a spiritual master talking to a friend.

Let’s briefly describe how our online book discussion works. If you’ve joined us before, this will serve as a review.

Beginning on November 29th, the First Sunday of Advent, and each Sunday through December 20th, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page. The post will identify the reading for the week, present a brief moderator’s reflection, and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are invited and encouraged to comment on the post by responding to the suggested questions, by sharing their own reflections, and by replying to the comments of others throughout the week.

To read the comments or to leave a comment of your own, scroll down to the bottom of the post.  If you don’t see any comments, click on the small link at the bottom that says
## Comments.  To leave a new comment, continue scrolling down and use the “Leave a Reply” box.  To reply to someone else’s comment, click the Reply link directly below their comment. After you submit a new comment or a reply, it needs to be “approved” either by me or Will at the Nouwen Society so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page.

You should always post your comment in the current week. If you are unsure, navigate to the current week by clicking on the Home link in the black bar under the photograph at the top of the blog. Then click on the bold title to open the post and any comments. Finally, the instructions on how to submit and reply to comments are also included with the Reading Schedule found by at following the the link black bar.

As we begin our journey together, we’d like to know something about our companions. Over the next few days you are encouraged to introduce yourself. You may choose to share:

  • Your general geographic location
  • To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why
  • How you came to “know/read” Henri Nouwen and whether or not you participated in a previous discussion.
  • What you hope to experience during this discussion

Welcome to each of you and I look forward to your introductions!

We begin our discussion of Life of the Beloved – Spiritual Living in a Secular World in earnest this Sunday, November 29th.  Join us to begin a spirit-filled and enriching Advent journey.

In gratitude,

RAY GLENNON: Ray came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass in Singapore. He began participating in Henri Nouwen Society book discussions in 2010 and has served as a moderator since 2014. He developed and led a six-week adult education course on “Henri Nouwen and A Spirituality of Living.” Ray volunteers in his parish Confirmation program and other ministries. He and his wife are candidates in the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS). You may contact Ray by email at and you can follow him on Twitter at