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.