Nov 23rd to 26th – Introductions

Reading:  “Love, Henri” – Preface, Foreword and Note from the Editor

Dear Reader,

I hope and pray that the Lord will deepen our faith during these weeks of Advent and will fill us with a peace and joy which belong to his kingdom.  Hope is not optimism and I pray that we all will be able to live hopefully in the midst of our apocalyptic time.  We have a promise and God is faithful to His promise even when we are doubtful and fearful.  As Paul says: ‘Our hope is not deceptive because the Holy Spirit has already been poured into us.’ I wish you … a very blessed Christmas.  Keep me in your prayers.  I pray for you. 

December 1980

The warmest of welcomes to you!  We are so glad you’ve decided to join the group as we journey through Advent together.  If this is your first time joining an online book discussion you may be wondering how it all works.  We’ll get into the details in a minute, but for now rest assured you will have a wonderful opportunity to learn, connect and grow during this time.  Most importantly, Henri never fails to remind us to turn our eyes upon Jesus.  Which is what we hope to do together as we prepare to celebrate His birth this Christmas.

We have chosen the book Love, Henri – Letters on the Spiritual Life for our discussion this Advent.  It is a recently published collection of letters written by Henri Nouwen to close friends, colleagues and even strangers.  In some ways this book is dramatically different then a book written by Henri on a particular topic.  For one thing, it is much longer and, for that reason, we will read and discuss the first half of the book during our Advent journey and the remainder in a future discussion.  More importantly, similar to his books, through these letters Henri both models for us, and specifically instructs us on how to draw deeper into the heart of Jesus.

We have selected a set of letters for each of the three main weeks in Advent (see reading schedule).  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 letters.  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 Will, Ray or Brynn need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page.  The instructions on how to submit and reply to comments are also included at the bottom of the reading schedule.  If you have any further questions about how the blog works, please feel free to ask.

Over the next few days we invite you to take a few minutes to 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) How you came to “know/read” Henri Nouwen and whether or not you’ve participated in a previous discussion
d) Insights you gained in reading the Preface, Forward, and Editor’s note
e) What you hope to experience during this Advent discussion

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you!

Be sure to check back here on the Home page on November 27th!

In gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

RAY GLENNON: Ray volunteers in his parish Confirmation program and other ministries. He and his wife are members of a Catholic charismatic community. Ray 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 has been helping to preserve Henri’s Legacy for the last several years, mainly through her role as project coordinator of the Nouwen Archive Letter Project, and also by co-facilitating many of our online book discussions. Brynn is  the founder of Abundant Life Coaching. If you have any questions for Brynn, please feel free to contact her through her website.

44 Replies to “Nov 23rd to 26th – Introductions”

  1. I am new to this on-line book discussion. I live in Austin, Minneosta where I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I am supporting my soon to be 99 year old mother with running errands, giving rides to medical appointments, getting groceries etc. I first became aware of Henri Nouwen while in seminary. I am glad to read these letters. This Advent is a time in which I can leave the disapointment of the elcion season behind and focus on the love and peace of the Season.

  2. I am Maggie Bjorkquist from west side of Wisconsin alongside the mighty Mississippi River. I have been part of on of HN book group in the past and I joyed it so much. I am late getting started because technically is always a challenge for me, so I procrastinated. I am keeping this post as I remember how too do this again.

  3. Good morning from Advance, North Carolina I first read Henri with a Monday night women’s study group over 5 years ago! Seven of us read many of Henri’s books and discussed them together! I find great comfort and peace in studying his words! I have participated in two of the online book discussions. I am a retired school teacher working part time mentoring new teachers and loving the extra time I am blessed with my two granddaughters. After reading the Preface, I was reminded of Henri’s honest and open vulnerabilities which provide me with such a sense of peace!

    1. From Monrovia, CA.
      When I learned that today was the first day of Advent, I immediately searched to see if there was a Nouwen book discussion. I was introduced to Henri’s writings years ago by a friend.
      In the forward by Brené Brown, I read and identified with, “I spend an excruciating amount of time analyzing my demons and overcompensating for them rather than simply listening to God, loving God, and loving those around me as God has called me to do.”
      Connecting spiritually is of paramount importance to me. I look forward to the next month in the company of others, similarly seeking.

  4. Hi from Southwestern Ontario.This is my first foray in to a discussion group such as this.I am looking forward to our journey through Advent together

  5. So lovely to hear from each of you! This is obviously a really beautiful group of people gathered here. Nice to see some familiar names, and of course nice to “meet” some new people as well.

    I sign in from Ontario, Canada where I live with my husband and son. Our son was born during last year’s Advent book discussion, and he has since turned into a toddler!! Naturally he is the focus of much of my time and energy, and I joyfully give it to him.

    Reading the Foreword I was struck by Brown’s comments about time. “…we have no time. No time for prayer… no time to be still. No time for connectedness with God.” On one hand, I know I am in a season where one doesn’t have a lot of time to oneself. But I also know there is more to it than that. In every season of my life I’ve had to fight to make time for prayer, time to be still before God, and I know that I need to renew my commitment in this season as well. I look forward to these letters, and to receiving Henri’s insistent reminder to make time for Jesus every single day.


  6. Good Evening all! I am very grateful and excited to share this Advent experience with you. I have participated in this group 3 or 4 times now. In the past, I was “Joni from Germany.”

    But now we are back in the States, for good; after 30 + years overseas. One thing I have learned from both my overseas experience, and sharing in this blog, is that we are truly “One in the Lord.”

    Looking forward to this month of preparing our hearts with Henri.

  7. Hello everyone! I live in Alberta, Canada. I have participated in many of these studies. They have made Advent come alive for me and have deepened my relationship with Jesus.
    I am a Clinical Educator teaching nurses and Health Care Aides.
    I don’t have my book yet but look forward to reading it. I first read Henri’s Reaching Out book at college in 1985 or so.

  8. Hello from the Land of Enchantment, Las Vegas, New Mexico. This is my first online book discussion. I’d read quotes and excerpts of Henri’s writings over the years and was introduced to his book on Discernment through our ACTS ministry. I’ve been reading as much as I can; his words touch my heart. I look forward to sharing this journey with all of you.

  9. Welcome to each of you. It’s great to see a number of friends from earlier book discussions again this Advent and to greet those of you joining us for the first time.

    I live in Columbia, Maryland (just west of I-95 between Baltimore and Washington, DC) and in my day job I work for a technology firm that is helping the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to acquire and manage their communications services. I’ve participated in these discussions since 2010 and have been blessed to serve as co-facilitator with Brynn since 2014.

    As I considered the Preface and Forward this week, several ideas came together as a possible framework that might aid my reflection on Love, Henri this Advent. Briefly stated in my words: We are moving from the house of fear to the house of love. It requires (spiritual) discipline—especially making time and listening. And Henri—as a psychologist, pastor, and fellow pilgrim—is a reliable guide. I’m looking forward to reading Love, Henri with each of you and to sharing the insights we gain. And in Henri’s words that Brynn selected to open this Introduction, may our time together, “deepen our faith during these weeks of Advent and will fill us with a peace and joy which belong to his kingdom.”

    We begin with the first selection of Henri’s letters on Sunday, November 27th.

    Peace and all good.

    Ray Glennon

  10. Hi to all from Beverly back in Louisville (from Boston). I’ve been reading Henri for nearly 20 years first when in seminary. A psychotherapist now, I give myself to people who suffer from trauma and abuse. Henri has been healing for me because he reaches beyond my mind and touches my soul. His words have grounded me when I’ve wandered off the path. His ucommon insight and deep compassion have always invited me to be my true self without pretense and grounded me again. I love Henri though I’ve never met him. He helps me feel at home in my brokenness, lonliness and messiness. But like Jesus he doesn’t leave me there, but beckons me to “befriend [my] pain and ultimately be redeemed by it (xiii, preface).”

  11. As we begin the season of Advent tomorrow, I look forward to sharing this book discussion – “Love, Henry” with all of you. I have participated in several book discussions during Advent and, also, the Lenten season, which I have enjoyed very much. I consider it a blessed time to grow in our spirituality.
    I live in PA, I have been widowed for six years. I have always been involved in church ministry.
    My daughter was in college and working for La’Arche when she introduced me to Henri and I have been reading his books since that time.
    May we experience God’s Blessings during this discussion.

  12. Native St. Louisan living in suburban Chicago …

    Looking forward to slowing down my daily life for a few moments and taking time for reflection with Henri and friends

  13. Greetings from Lake Charles, Louisiana! I have been fed often in the past from HN’s meditations and when this book was presold I immediately ordered 3 copies-2 to share.
    I felt as though I would be given a deep insight into HN’s heart, mind and soul, thus this would lead me (in simple ways!) to a deeper relationship with my Lord.
    I shall probably participate silently as one of my goals this Advent is ‘more solitude; more listening’.
    I can already see the value of sharing and hope my fellow travelers don’t mind as I gather ‘pearls ‘ from their shared insights.
    Merry Christmas Y’all!

  14. I live in the Big Apple or better known as NY city. I find my “sacred space” in the morning. The wonderful book, Magnificat, helps me to focus. I like “Living Faith” booklets as well. The website “Sacred Space” helps me to hear, reflect and pray the daily Gospel. My aim is to connect with the One who leads me along life-giving waters. In the morning as I open the curtains, “Be a light unto my path and a lamp for my feet.” I participate in the Benedictine “Monastery of the Heart” website sponsored by the Benedictines of Erie, PA. May the love letters from God write themselves into our hearts and into every little space of our lives. Thanks for this group and those who lead us.

    1. Liz,
      How wonderful to read that you, too, are a participant of Monastery of the Heart! I belong to the group called Heartlinks and have been a member for 5+ years. May your study of Love, Henri bless you during this Advent season.

  15. I live in Chicago area and this is my first discussion group. Looking forward to centering in on what God has to teach me this Advent through this reading and discussion.

    I am a staff pastor at a Nazarene church.

  16. Hello. My name is Linda and I currently live in Indiana. I find the slower pace in the Midwest refreshing and peaceful. After work, I dedicate my volunteer days to serving women as a Spiritual Companion both in prison and jail . As Dorothy Day once commented ” I meet my Lord in these women who are broken, lost, abandoned and unloved.” I came to know Henri when I began my Masters Degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care in 1997. This is my second HN discussion group. I love the thought of growing into a second childhood during my senior years. The Lord definitely calls us to come to him as “Little Children”. During this Advent Season, I hope to respond to the birth of our Lord as only a child would greet him. Peace and prayers be with all of you.

  17. Good day from sunny Columbia, South Carolina. It is delightful on this “Black Friday” when many Americans are shopping to be instead joining you by reading your introductions and sharing my own. I am a retired Catholic Sister with the wonderful blessing of serving as my religious community’s representative (prayer and other support) for our sponsored SC ministries. What also energizes and gives me life is forming and supporting Associates of my religious community as well as involvement with interfaith groups. I participated in one previous Nouwen reading/sharing group and was blessed by others’ reflections but did not contribute my thoughts. This time I hope to enter into the dialog more fully. Joyfully, with eagerness, I hold us all in prayer.

  18. Hi fellow pilgrims on the journey. I am from the UK but living and working in Ecuador. I am a religious and belong to the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph. I have been a lover of Henri Nouwen’s books like so many of you for over 25 years.
    I have participated on a few of these online discussions before either quietly or actively and found them life giving. Am very much looking forward to the journey with you all.
    Peace and good

  19. I have participated in these book discussions several times and have enjoyed the camaraderie and wisdom of fellow seekers. I have been lifted up by their affirmations of me and challenged by their inspiring lives and words. In this, our initial online meeting, I can say that I share Lee and Christine’s identification with Henri’s words about “fear, anxieties, apprehensions and preoccupations.” I too would like to “move from the house of fear to the house of love.” Like Jack, I find it interesting, if not remarkable, that Henri stayed faithful to the Church. While I remain in the Church, bolstered by Pope Francis’s call for mercy and openness to the diversity of our brothers and sisters, I most admire those who call themselves sincere and honest “searchers,” regardless of religious affiliation. I hope to learn from Pat, who practices meditation and understands that the gift of time is the gift of love. Pat, I have much to learn in this area of spirituality. Finally, I love that Susan too identifies with the role of letter writing as an “integral part of friendship.” To counter the acrimony of the political climate in the United States, I wrote Thanksgiving letters to loved ones affirming my admiration for their works of love and social justice, and I would like to approach this study of Henri’s letters as a series of letters to all of you and Brynn and Ray in thanksgiving for the time and wisdom that you bring to this joint endeavor.

  20. My name is Lee from Franklin, TN. Thank you for offering this opportunity for spiritual growth during the Advent Season through the study of Henry’s new book Love, Henry- Letters on the Spiritual Life. Henry’s books lead me on introspective journeys that result in a deeper understanding of my dependence on our Heavenly Father. The quote in the preface page xvi beginning “hardly a day passes in our lives without our experiences of inner and outer fear, anxieties, apprehensions and preoccupations………and ending “through the spiritual life we gradually move from the house of fear to the house of love” provides great hope in overcoming daily challenges to become the best version of self which is the desire of my loving Father. I look forward to reading posts by fellow travelers on this spiritual journey.
    Blessings and Happy Holidays,

  21. Hi, my name is Andrew, from BC Canada. I’m a countertop fabricator and recently our family finished a term with MCC in Africa. I previously participated in the online discussion 1.5 years ago on “Finding my way home.” This time I procrastinated ordering the book and am still waiting for its arrival in the mail. 🙂 I do enjoy Henri’s insights into God’s character and our hearts. Hoping to make Advent more meaningful this year.

  22. From Linda Carter

    I am looking forward to this Advent adventure. I first discovered Henri Nouwen’s books thru the Cokesbury bookstore so many years ago I don’t remember when. I’ve not participated in a blog or on line book discussion but willing to learn. I am a recently retired nurse. I worked in nursing homes and assisted living for the past 34 years and have learned so much from their wisdom and life experiences. They have been a blessing. I live in the St. Louis area.

  23. Greetings to all from Minnesota, where winter is trying to show its face. I have been aware of Henri since college, and enjoyed being part of the group here when the book was “Return of the Prodigal Son.” I used to teach, and I used to work in a chem lab. Now I am retired and have started a little business that should help me to be productive as life goes on. For this also I can be inspired by Henri.

    In the preface it was noted that Henri did not leave the Church. I find that remarkable. I used to call my self a Christian, now I’m a searcher hanging on to a tiny thread of my formerly active life as a parishioner. I join this group with the intention of setting aside time with all of you to find some joy and meaning in my spirituality that is attuned to great mysteries. I anticipate the sharing of kindness, generosity, insights, and solidarity from far corners of the world. I give thanks.


  24. Located in central IL, I am already a bit overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season. Henri Nouwen has offered me, over the years, much pastoral care through his writings. I look forward to reading his letters……grateful for his honest, intense faith and passionate zest for life in relationships/friendships.


  25. Hi All–

    I was invited to join by a wonderful friend so this is my first online book club. I am very much looking forward to getting to know Henri and you. I have read snippets of Henri’s work and am ready to dig in to deepen my faith this Advent season. I pray I get to know Christ, myself and you on this journey and learn to listen to God a little more in my life.

  26. Hi! I’m Susan and I live in a small town in western Canada with my husband. Since we are retired, we spend our time enjoying nature, savouring time with each other, our children, grandchildren and older relatives, and serving others in small, encouraging ways.
    I started reading Henri’s books over 20 years ago, and now have a shelf full of his books. I turn to his books, like I turn to a good friend. I found it meaningful to participate in the Lent book discussion earlier this year, and was excited to hear about Love Henri as the Advent book discussion title.
    In the Preface, Gabrielle Earnshaw observes that for Henri “letter writing was an integral part of friendship.” This resonated with me as I have enjoyed writing letters since I was a girl. At Christmas time, I handwrite notes in our homemade Christmas cards, and like Henry I “experience a deep love” while I write. Writing letters is a form of contemplative prayer for me, so I make a point of writing when I am unhurried and can really think deeply about the person I’m writing to.
    My hope as I enter into this Advent book discussion is to be like Mary listening to Jesus speak through each of you as you read Henri’s letters. It is easy for me to be more like Martha, who is distracted and overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done. Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.” And to that, I say, “Amen.”

  27. My name is Catherine Mullaney and I am beloved child of the King of Kings. I am full of gratitude and I will be getting on a plane in the morning to go celebrate Thanksgiving with my daughter and our friends. When my older daughter was an 18 year old, she introduced me to Henri and I immediately found a friend.
    This is my second advent discussion on HN. I hope this year I can be more involved in the actual discussion. I am great about reading the book, but I want to share my insights, ask good questions, and glean wisdom from others this time around.

  28. Hello from Cape Cod! I am looking forward to again joining the discussion and growing deeply into Henri’s book and this discussion. I am a clinical social worker in a large mental health clinic nearby. I am long past ‘retirement’ age ( whatever that is) but continue to learn and grow in the work. There is a significant opiate problem here. People are seeking a spiritual release and can overdose trying for a certain feeling. I am always hoping for a deep presence to connect with the recovering clients without preaching. My own path is always made more evident by being part of this group.

  29. Greetings from Vancouver Island.
    I have followed the book discussions, mostly quietly reflecting, finding them very rich, nourishing yet challenging. Looking forward to this Advent season for some guided, reflective moments much needed in my life today.
    A quick glance through the book leaves me with ‘wonder’, ‘question’, yes, real letters, how will this unfold? I’m ready for the journey.

  30. Hello! My name is Martha, I´m from Guadalajara, Mexico. I have participated in some book discussions before. I´m a wife and mother of three college boys. I dedicate my life to God trying to live a mission of peace, unity and reconciliation. I´m a Minister of the Holy Communion and to this day I still wonder how it is possible to hold the essence of the universe in my simple hands. I have been reading Henri Nouwen´s books for 15 years and I see him as a dear friend who is always inviting me to new forms of compassion and hospitality. Two years ago I started a reading group with 10 of my friends in order to share the spirituality of Henri Nouwen. At this moment we are reading The Beauty of the Lord.
    Since this book we will start (Love Henri) is very personal and profound, I hope ho hear the message of God through his beloved Henri and be able to take it into my life and share it with people who need healing and love.
    I really want to be part of this community again, learn from all the participants and make new friends united in prayer and study during this Advent.

  31. Hello everyone,

    I’m from Portugal.
    I’m very glad to share with you the deep thoughts of Henri Nouwen. I’m sure this will give me a new understanding of what Christ means in my life and how I can benefit others with so great insights.
    Sorry if my english is not perfect. My intentions are sincere.
    I dedicate these advent weeks to the growth of the sacred in the daily life of all humans. Fears and vulnerabilities surround us, may all who are near us benefit from our efforts to to adjust our conduct reading this inspiring book.

    1. Welcome Isabel and the others that have joined us thus far. We’re glad you’re here. And in this wonderful online community we understand that none of us is perfect–in English or anything else.(smile). Here in the U.S. tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for the chance to share this Advent journey with each of you.

      God’s blessings to all.
      Ray Glennon

  32. This is my 2nd Henri book discussion. I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend time in spiritual reading and reflection this Advent season. It is always interesting to see how many different outlooks there can be from such a variety of life experiences from all the readers. I find it helpful to challenge me and encourage growth in my spirituality.

  33. Hi Everyone,
    My name is Gilly I live in the UK and am a lay minister in a small village church in the Midlands.
    I have participated in book discussions before sometimes quietly sometimes making contributions. I always enjoy learning and sharing in fellowship especially at this time of year. It keeps me rooted.

    Best Wishes


  34. HI!
    I would like to join you in discussing Henri Nouwen’s book concerning his letters ~
    Love, Henri.
    I have followed Henri for over 20 years and find this book quite a treasure.
    Have a wonderful holiday!

  35. Greetings,

    I am a recently retired teacher and I live in the Caribbean. I belong to a Charismatic lay community and also teach at a Bible School for adults. Having practiced Christian meditation for the past five years I am currently assisting in introducing children to meditation. On two prior occasions I’ve journeyed with this book discussion and was abundantly blessed by Nouwen’s writing and the rich and inspirational sharing of my fellow participants. I look forward to this Advent journey with you and I pray it would greatly enrich all our lives.

    This passage from the Forward of the book reflects my most recent inner struggle and the hope and longing I want to bring before God this Advent season:-
    “You have asked me if I’m willing to give to God, the people I love, and even the experience of suffering the most precious, unrenewable resource we have – time. My answer is yes. I will make time. For God. For love. For contemplation. For mystery. For justice. And, for the wisdom that pain brings.”

  36. I started reading Henri 40 years ago and I was on the Nouwen Society Board for awhile. I live in Springfield, Illinois, and I’m kinda weary from this fall’s election season. I’m hoping this Advent and this discussion helps me find renewed energy and I hope I can reflect a hopeful outlook for a fraying world.

  37. I’ve been looking forward to participating in this time of Advent with our online community as I’ve found it to be a great source of strength over the last few years. I currently reside in Denver, Colorado, and most of my energy is spent as the income earner for my husband and I. He is chronically ill, although doing well right now, and I cherish the time I have with him. I’ve recently started a new business with the hopes of quitting my full-time healthcare IT job to work from home, allowing me to spend even more time with my beloved husband.

    In reflecting on Henri’s words in his preface, I resonated with the fact that it is precisely in our struggles, we ultimately find God (Christ) and come to know ourselves better and our God more intimately. That is my ardent hope as we journey together this Advent season.

  38. I am looking forward to this discussion. I have participated in other reading groups here, some more actively than others. Whether actively contributing or quietly reading along, I have found these discussions to be thoughtful and thought provoking.

    I’ve been browsing a bit through the book since receiving it a couple of weeks ago and already have the sense that these letters may give me a better understanding of Henri Nouwen’s faith journey at a very personal level. Though history marches on and times have changed in the twenty years since Henri’s death, the core of his faith and his way of putting words to that faith speak strongly to me now.

    His words, quoted in the preface from a letter written in 1995, in response to the “dark powers” of “fear, anxieties, apprehensions, and preoccupations” provided comfort and guidance to me this morning: “Still it is possible not to belong to these powers, not to build our dwelling place among them, but to choose the house of love as our home.”
    Those words seem to me a wonderful place to start an advent journey. I am looking forward to sharing that journey with those who are gathering here.

    1. CHRISTINE the same quote from the preface struck me as being profound. I too believe this is a blessed starting point for our advent journey. May we all grow closer in communion with our Father and our neighbor.
      Fellow traveler Lee

      1. Yes, those words seemed to jump off the page for me. I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to be trapped in fear, especially if there seems to be no hope on the horizon. Yet in advent, we look ahead to the promised hope of our messiah; and with his arrival fear is overcome and replaced by a love that surpasses our understanding and fills us with “all he fullness of God.”

        1. Same here…I relate to Henri’s response to the “dark powers” of “fear, anxieties, apprehensions, and preoccupations” His words provided comfort and guidance to me this morning: “Still it is possible not to belong to these powers, not to build our dwelling place among them, but to choose the house of love as our home.”
          How easy it is to be captured by fear, anxiety, difficulty of our world events media-blasted to us by various voices which might block out the voice of the Prophet Isaiah:
          “Come let us climb the mountain of the Lord.” May we go up to a high place for a new view of life, perhaps we will change course and go the Way of the Lord.”

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