December 18th-24th Epilogue

Reading: Epilogue by Sue Mosteller (p343)

Thank you, to each of you, for committing to each other in this Advent journey.  Your beauty has shone through, along with and through your questions, thoughts, sharing, and insights.

In this, our final week, we invite you to jump to the end of the book and read the Epilogue (we plan to return to the second half of this book in a future book discussion).

1) Sue wrote a wonderful Epilogue to this book.  As part of this, she reflects on a particular memory from her relationship with Henri that has stayed with her over the years. 
a) We invite you to reflect on this Advent journey and share your main “take away.”  What do you hope to remember and apply to your life going forward?

2) The Henri Nouwen Society and Legacy Trust would like to offer a special opportunity /gift to each of you. 

On the 20th anniversary of Henri’s death, the Henri Nouwen Society sponsored the Way of the Heart International Conference.  Gabrielle Earnshaw, the editor of Love, Henri, presented her unique insight into how this wonderful book came to be and actor Joe Abbey-Colborne offered a powerful interpretation of Henri the letter writer. This presentation is usually offered for sale as part of the conference proceedings. For the next two weeks the Society is providing the participants in this Advent discussion the chance to watch and reflect on Gabrielle and Joe’s presentation (53 minutes) at no cost by following this link: https://vimeo.com/henrinouwen/gabrielleearnshawlovehenri and entering the password LoveHenriAdvent

In her presentation Gabrielle offers a succinct and insightful summary of the book:  “Each letter stands alone, but together they tell a compelling story of one man’s efforts to live his life well—for himself, for others, and for God.”
a) Regardless of how many of his books you have previously read (many or few), what new insights have you gained into the life of Henri Nouwen from reading his letters and from watching this presentation?
b) How do those insights change how you view and live your own life?

Thank you once again to each of you.  Have a blessed Christmas!

Ray and Brynn

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31 Responses to December 18th-24th Epilogue

  1. Brynn Lawrence says:

    A warm thank you once again to everyone! Our Advent 2016 book discussion is officially wrapped up. We look forward to seeing you all again during our Lent 2017 discussion.

    Note, the link to Gabrielle and Joe’s presentation will only be available for a few more days.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Brynn and Ray

  2. Pat says:

    Thank you Brynn and Ray for having moderated our discussion group. I’ve been giving thought to what my “take-away” is: I’ve been recognizing things about myself that Henri Nouwen saw in people; and his acceptance of those others leads me to be accepting of myself.

  3. maggie says:

    Thanks to ALL who have made this Advent so fruitful!!! I will not name names because I don’t want to leave anyone out and I am needing to keep this short. I started out with such good intention, even shared some meaningful life experiences and then I became a silent participant … I write when I have more time … tomorrow … or I am just going to enjoy reading and reflecting on one ore two of Henri’s letters to night, I will write next time … etc. We are in the last hours of Advent, where did the time go? I truly have much to reflect on as we move into the longer lighten days.
    May each and everyone of you be Blessed this hopeful season and remember you are a beloved, that you are an essence … that God will move though … if only we are will to go with the Holy Flow… I think Henri said not to focus on our demands but on Love and being Loving.

  4. Miriam says:

    The main take away for me is just the love that Henri showed everyone and how he greeted everyone in the first paragraph of his letter. He openly expressed his love to many people in many circumstances.

    A couple themes that are very important to me as I sort out my life after Cancer is living with hope. “I think we can [live in hope] because our lord has given us his promise that he will stay with us at all times. ”

    The second one is to be compassionate with myself, try to prune out thoughts of guilt and shame because our Father wiped those out on the cross.

    Henri approaches everyone with honesty and authenticity and for those reasons it is very easy to read and to feel good when reading the letters.

  5. Joni says:

    I think my main take away from this Advent journey comes from Henri’s letter to Fr. Walsh: “…Being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and community is more important than individual stardom.”

    This is my third or fourth time participating in these discussions. Each experience has been a blessing–sometimes I have written quite often- one, a Lenten one I think, I barely wrote at all–but I was fed by the readings and the sharings of others on the blog.

    This Advent has felt like coming home, for several reasons.

    (1) I know the format, the flow, and I recognize many of you from earlier discussions. I started off this Advent with a certain excitement regarding who we would be meeting in the weeks ahead. Also, I began this time with a very special prayer in my heart for those who silently join us. I was there once and know how much it meant to me to be included in the community even when I was not quite able to share my heart.

    (2) Reading the letters so often felt like sitting with Henri–this week’s video with Gabrielle and Joe intensified that experience (thank you for this Advent gift!) but even before watching, I often felt like I was with him as he wrote. I have always been very drawn to Henr; his writings and a Retreat I was able to participate in with him, have had a direct and lasting impact on my own spirituality- but this sharing of his letters with all of you has taken it to a different level for me–both deeper and more personal. The intimacy of the letters and this community is definitely counter-cultural; but a huge blessing.

    (3) My final point about the coming home experience is more difficult to wrap in words because it is more of an experience of the heart. Henri’s letters have given me not only a window into his own heart and soul, but also into my own. His relentless struggle with self-honesty, guilt, shame, anguish, depression–alongside his relentless faith, hope, and trust in a God who longs to be with us in the midst of all of it, and his amazing willingness to share his journey with his community of friends–this, to me, is what coming home is all about.

    As a result of this Advent experience I feel increasingly at home with myself and my own journey. I feel at home in this little community of 21st century people who believe in God and each other.

    Thank you Ray and Brynn, Gabrielle and Joe, and all of you who write and those of you with us in spirit if not words! Merry Christmas to all. Looking forward to meeting again for our Leneten sojourn! Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, Joni

  6. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I would like to second Ray and express my deep gratitude to each of you! This has been a rich and beautiful Advent discussion. Thank you.

    I have two thoughts that have stuck with me, and are my “take aways.” The first is to talk more about Jesus. Not because I “should” but, because I love Him! I’ve often thought about how Henri was able to create such a sense of hospitality towards all people (of all faiths or no faith), while he was always talking about Jesus Christ. I would wonder how he did that. Through some of these letters I see that it is at least partly because he didn’t set out to convert people to Catholicism. But he did truly and deeply believe in Jesus, and talked about Him out of his love for Him, without apology.

    The second take away is to constantly live in and express gratitude. A little story… last year just a few weeks before my due date our car broke down completely (as in we had to leave it at the mechanic’s). We were in a rush to find another one, and had very little experience in shopping for a car. I have no doubt God was with us, and led us to an excellent used vehicle for a good price just a day or two into our search. I am very grateful for it. Although generally in very good condition, sometimes there is a rattle/squeek in one of the vents on the dash. It is the type of sound that could be irritating to drive with… but instead, every time I hear it I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the car! I think there is much more room for this sense of gratitude in my life.

    Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas.

    Yours in Jesus,

    Brynn

  7. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends and fellow pilgrims,

    As we come to the end of another book discussion and prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus, I want to express my deepest thanks to each of you for sharing your Advent journey with us. As many of you have expressed, reading and reflecting on Henri’s letters offered us incredible insight into the heart and mind of a person who truly succeeded (as Gabrielle’s wrote), “in one man’s efforts to live his life well.” This was so beautifully captured in Sue’s Epilogue. As always, your participation in this discussion to whatever extent you choose enriches our understanding of Henri’s timeless words and how they apply in our world and our individual lives today.

    My take away for Advent is found in the letter to Ed on July 13, 1988–the last letter assigned for this discussion. I find myself at a crossroads in my professional life for several interrelated reasons and Henri’s advice to Ed spoke to my heart, “I would very much like to encourage you to take that very seriously and ask the Lord fervently to show you where He is calling you… Be sure never to let your life go flat. Always know that God is calling you to ever greater things.” And the words Henri wrote to Bob Wicks on May 19, 1988 apply directly to me today: “I feel that He calls me to a more generous prayer life and a more fearless ministry.” My challenge in the coming year is to prayerfully discern and to follow the Lord’s call.

    May the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and yours throughout the Christmas season and in the New Year.

    Ray Glennon

    P.S. Plan to join us for our Lenten book discussion that begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017. The selection for the Lenten book discussion will be posted on the Henri Nouwen Society website and this blog page by mid-January.

  8. Nuala Doherty says:

    Wow!!! What pearls we have received through this discussion. How rich was the testimony of Sue Mosteller! How brave she was to share from her vulnerability and how caring, respectful, prayerful and full of wisdom was Henri’s response to her! I have much to learn just from this!
    Through reading the letters (of Henri and the honest and wise sharings of my companions in this community) and listening to Gabrielle’s wonderful talk I have come to realize the depth of Henri’s friendship. He had the remarkable gift of assuring his readers that they had been “seen” and that they had been ministered to in a profound and loving way. He was truly present to them.
    I have learnt how powerful words are in communication and that I too need to choose my words carefully and prayerfully. I have learnt that I need to befriend my struggles and paradoxes and even be grateful for them. I need to accept and rejoice in the truth that I am the Father’s beloved daughter “in process”. And I need to communicate all this to others when I am given the opportunity.
    Thanks immensely to Ray and Brynn for facilitating this discussion (to Brynn for your tireless work in gathering together the letters), to Gabrielle for choosing (discerning) which ones to bring to print and to your very good selves, fellow pilgrims on the journey, for being my virtual community this Advent.
    May God grace all of us this Christmas to be instruments of light, peace and joy in this “brutal society”

  9. John says:

    Dear Friends in Christ,
    Thank you all for your kind words in your personal letters during this Advent. I know it’s a busy season and we are easily distracted but the time taken to read Henri’s letters and yours have been a reminder of the glory in this season. Thank you Ray, Brynn & Gabrielle for caring enough about us to share your gifts with us. Merry Christmas to all.

  10. Gabrielle Earnshaw says:

    Hello! Gabrielle, the book’s editor, here. What a treat it has been to read and listen to all the comments made during this discussion. Thank you to everyone who has participated. As I read along these past few weeks, I was aware that my prayer for the book has been answered. This is what I had before me each day as I worked: “I pray for all the people who will read this book. I pray it will touch their hearts and be meaningful for them. May it continue Henri’s service to others and contribute to healing our brutalized society.” Beverly mentioned Henri’s letter to George about living in an apocalyptic age in which Henri uses the term “brutalized society”. When I read this letter I KNEW it had to be included. Written in 1980, in reference to George’s concern about nuclear arms proliferation, it continues to be instructive for us today. Henri suggests that George live in hope. On this eve before the eve of Christmas may Henri’s words guide our own choices for how to live into the future.

    Blessings to all.
    p.s. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them!

    • Don says:

      Thank you, Gabrielle, for your note and for your work on this volume of letters from Henri. I have read all of the letters over the weeks of Advent and agree with Sue Mosteller’s comment: “It is for me, a spiritual autobiography” (346). I have read a good number of Henri’s books over the years as well as earlier biographies. This collection allowed me to see some of the development and progression of his life and thought expressed in the warm and guiding words of his letters to friends and acquaintances. I plan to read it again, slowly, and perhaps develop my own “index” of key ideas and concepts that could be shared in situations of pastoral counsel. Overall, reading the letters has been a great refresher course in spiritual development and formation. It has encouraged me to trust God for all the future!

      Thanks again to you—and to Brynn and Ray for their leadership in the online discussion. I’ve enjoyed all the comments and insights made by everyone who has contributed throughout Advent. Blessings and grace to all!

      • Gabrielle Earnshaw says:

        Thank you Don! I hope in the next edition we’ll have an index. I agree, it would be so helpful.

        Blessings,

        Gabrielle

  11. charles says:

    my take home will be from his lines”when i think about my life and work i think about it more as a way of being present to people with all that i have. i have tried to respond with whatever my own life has taught me.” Henri was truly invigorated by relationships. i would like to get in the mode of being present with people with all that i have. i can only do this if my story is united with the master story. so my life is full of teaching moments from the master. With his grace to become free, humble, at peace ready to love in all situations.Merry Christmas to all.

  12. jerry kirks says:

    Hello all, What a wonderful way to get to know someone. The letters express the real emotions and feelings at the time. Next session should be great.

    Sue’s words are just the right summary for the way I felt. They express the method and natural way Henri responded. He listened and reflected on her problem; had her think about it in terms of her own teachings; Had her reflect on it in this context; and then accepted her decision.

    In all cases, Henri has accepted the person and their feelings, but given them a different more spiritual way to view. He accepted her decision and her circumstances, even when he didn’t agree

    This book is like a summary of his beliefs and thoughts he expressed in his more formal works. He continues to struggle with his own beliefs and feelings, while using this to answer and guide.

    He is still my spiritual director. As I enter this area, I only hope I can be in his shadow and follow his guidance.

    Thanks to all and Happy holidays

    Jerry

  13. Elaine M says:

    As in the last week of previous discussions of a book by Henri, I am experiencing that bittersweet feeling–the sweetness of sharing Henri’s wisdom with all of you, who are also people of great wisdom and vision, as well as the sadness that this current journey together is coming to an end. Ray, I am happy to read that we will be taking up this book again in the future, and once again I thank you and Brynn for facilitating a meaningful spiritual experience.

  14. Marge says:

    I have been given much to ponder…..thank you, there were times when I felt Henri writing directly to me……so grateful. And Sue…sharing so vulnerably, such a gift. Henri’s care for her, so humble, yet persistent, so respectful, yet honest….”draining the wound”….I desire to “listen deeply” as a starter….in Jesus’ name….to all, thank you so much!

    End with Henri’s writing on 1/29/1990……”There is a bridge there. You are walking on it. There is another side. Trust it. Some trees are weeping. Others are reaching up to heaven. You stand between those trees. Be sure, all will be well, very well indeed.” m

    • Pat H says:

      Thank you Marge for your sharing expressed what I was experiencing and thinking. I was not able to share much during this discussion but I read everyone’s responses and was truly inspired. My most significant insight from this book thus far is that I too must ‘listen more deeply’.

      Thank you again, and I wish everyone deep joy, abiding peace and faithful love.
      Pat H

  15. Beverly says:

    I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me to ‘wait’ with you all in this Advent season. Since last Advent I’ve anticipated our discussion again and the solidarity in this virtual community. For me its only grown richer and deeper and become a kind of ‘holding place’ where I can express my heart and live into my true self without judgement. That’s a great gift in the world we live in today. To that end I encounter Jesus in our conversations which draws me deeper into communion with God. I think this kind of community is what Henri longed for in intimate friendships and an ongoing search for “home.” This little bit of heaven on earth is countercultural to a world that defines our worth by what we do rather who we are. Henri’s emphasis on being rather than doing moves me from fear to faith echoing Bonhoeffer’s similar vision in “Life Together.”

    Henri’s model of community experience in our virtual conversations is a main take away for me. It goes to his musings with George re living in this apocalyptic age: “I really don’t know if our civiliation will survive the century…But important for me is not if our civilization will survive or not but if we can continue to live with hope” (45). Being together in this way on-line is something I never expected to help me live a more hopeful life. But it has/does. Henri said to Nathan: “I have given all my friends a copy of the Icon which I also gave to you…of the deep affection of Jesus for John” (130). This deep affection modeled, experienced and practiced in community so fills me with God’s love that the natural overflow is to want to love others in the same way. “America is such a world in need of Jesus…I love you and hold you close to my heart. Henri” (p 131-32).

  16. Susan DeLong says:

    Thank you to all of you who have participated in this richly generous book discussion. My heart feels full to have received the gifts of your varied responses. How wonderful to share with you the many ways that Henri has touched your lives and encouraged you in your spiritual journey. During this discussion, I witnessed how we were encouraged by Henri’s letters to his many friends and acquaintances. I am thankful to feel that encouragement and sense of hope welling up in me.

    I plan to keep going back to Henri’s letter to Mark (September 4, 1982). As I reread it this evening the thought came to me: How is Jesus present to me in my struggles? I feel invited to notice how Jesus is present to me and to then open myself to following Jesus’ model. Henri says, God did not come to take our pains away, but “He came to share them.”

    In this same letter, Henri points to God’s unlimited love in the midst of our limited abilities to help each other. I find it uncomfortable to acknowledge just how limited my ability to help is at times. Again I feel an invitation to be present to others in my limited way rather than to turn away or run away.

    Know that I have received a blessing from this book discussion and for the love you all feel for Henri.

  17. Jack Sandberg says:

    Friends,

    I get the sense that, even if Henri was good at writing off the cuff (literarily gifted), he planned his letters in a sense before putting pen to paper, rather than just starting and rambling as I do. It appears that he thoughtfully decided: 1) what he had at that moment to bring to the other person out of love (as Elaine mentioned, even little gifts); and 2) what he intended to share (reveal) from his heart about his own pain, brokenness, or joy. This idea of thinking ahead before an encounter — finding something to give for the other and something to share of myself — is a big take-away from this reading group experience.
    The other take-away is simply the value of friendship. While I am not an insular person and generally can relate politely and amiably, over the course of my life, except for romantic involvements (including my marriage), I have never established, much less maintained, any rich friendships. I envy others’ ability and free tendency to do so. I feel inspired to do something about that this coming year, taking the lead from Henri: out of love for others and for my own sake.

    Thank all of you for sharing this year. I wish you all the best.

    Jack

  18. Ray Glennon says:

    Comment from Robert A. Wicks, “Bob” in Henri’s letter of May 19, 1988)
    He addresses his relationship with Henri and provides further insight on Psychological Perils of Spiritual Intimacy that was discussed in several comments.
    = = = =
    I would like to thank Ray for making me aware of the online conversation about Henri’s letter to me in the book, Love, Henri. Think it would have been even better if they included in the book, my letter to him.

    The discussion of possible books between Henri and I go back to the mid-1980s. I still remember sitting with him in his tiny kitchen in the apartment he lived while teaching at Harvard. Although we spoke about many things, one was a book I was planning to write tentatively titled: Relationships: Enjoying the Gift of Availability. He had read some of my early pages on it but reacted primarily to the title: “Most of us don’t see availability as a gift. We see it as a problem.” Needless to say, I changed the title to Availability: The Problem and the Gift. (Ave Maria Press, recently reissued this book but changed the subtitle.) He also was intrigued about what could be pulled from Scripture to give us an orienting point for the book. I asked him what he thought would be good and he said he didn’t know. However, a half hour into our chatting about my work with professional helpers and healers on the themes of resilience, self-care, and maintaining a healthy perspective, he suddenly became animated, and said, “I’ve got it. ‘Pruning’ is the word you want to embrace in writing this book. When you prune something it doesn’t blossom less, it blossoms more fully.” I did embrace it, not only in the book, but in my life and in my guiding physicians, nurses, psychotherapists, social workers, educators, relief workers, and those in full time ministry.

    With the above as a backdrop, it wasn’t unusual in a letter of support for him to also bring up a book I was considering writing. When we seek to be present to persons who are going through a dark time in their lives, after providing what encouragement and reflections we feel might be of help, I have felt it is often a good idea to include an area in which they can be of help. In this way, the person (in this case, Henri) was able to feel me by his side during a tough time but also that I hadn’t lost my belief in him and the respect I still had for him even during his own trial period.

    In terms of the phrase, The Psychological Perils of Spiritual Intimacy, the thought I particularly had was that many people don’t realize true spirituality changes things. It makes us lean back from our life so we can see things differently. When theonomy (God’s will) and autonomy (our will) intersect at those moments, our perception of what is important is altered.

    A simple example may be two people who become married with an eye to success, the good life, and possessing certain things. Both of them are religious people but have not accessed the contercultural aspect of what it means to seek the fullness of God (JN 10:10). Then one of the pair decides to enter spiritual direction. The person’s eyes are opened to seeing an abundant life in a different way. These values are brought home and find themselves in conflict with the couple’s original goals. There is possible, usually unforeseen psychological upheaval. The question then is: how can this couple move to a new place in their relationship and life? It is not easy and it is not straightforward. There are no simple answers.

    I didn’t write this book although I think the ideas did show up in various ways in such books of mine as Riding the Dragon and Crossing the Desert. It certainly has found its way into my respect for “If your eye is good, your whole body will be good.” and is reflected in a secular way in my book, Perspective: The Calm within the Storm. The whole tenet of perspective which has been at the core of all my work is: It is not the amount of darkness in the world or yourself that matters…in the end, it is how you stand in that darkness that makes the difference.

    In the past year I have gone to Beirut to address caregivers who live and work in Aleppo, Syria as well as presented on resilience in both Haiti and the Philippines. As I encounter those good souls, we search together for what helps them maintain their healthy perspective amidst so much darkness. It often turns out to be both prayer and friendship–great gifts to unwrap as we encounter the psychological perils of spiritual intimacy with a God who wishes to call us to experience real fullness in the little time we have on earth, not what society would have us value.

    Well, a long-winded response, eh? Thanks again goes to Ray and Brynn as they and you who participate in this vibrant Advent discussion of Henri’s letters. Caring about these values as you do certainly reflects that you are good people seeing to do beautiful things in a world that can be quite stressful, anxious and confusing. Good for you.

    • Elaine M says:

      Thank you, Bob. You have given us new insights about Henri’s relationship with his friends and his messages for all of us. Bless you for your own work with those who try to shine a light in the darkness–a fitting message for our Advent study.

      Ray and Brynn, wouldn’t it be great if we could hear from others whose letters are referenced in Henri’s book? I gained so much from Bob’s letter to us.

      • Ray Glennon says:

        Elaine,
        Thanks for the suggestion. As always in these discussions, we primarily focus our attention on Henri’s writing. We reached out to Dr. Wicks because several of you had questions about Henri’s interest in Bob’s work. His thoughtful response indeed provided so much more including his insight into his relationship with Henri.

        As noted in the post this week, we plan to return to the second half of this book in a future book discussion. When we begin planning for that discussion perhaps we will consider engaging some of Henri’s other long-time correspondents.

        Blessings,
        Ray & Brynn

        • Linda C. says:

          Although I have not been able to comment weekly, I wanted you to know that my introduction to Henri was through Dr. Wicks who was one of my professors. In reading Henri’s letter to Dr. Wicks, I felt connected to both of them although I never met Henri. He had passed before my initial introduction to him through his books. Gabrielle’s and Joe’s presentations were amazing. I actually could feel Henri’s presence through both of them. The Divine has definitely touched my heart and soul through Henri’s letters. I feel blessed . I plan on reading his letters over and over for wisdom and strength . I am at a turning point again on my earthly journey and this book discussion is actually what I needed to help me discern the road God wills for me at this time in my life.

    • Marge says:

      Oh my goodness….rather OH GOD’S GOODNESS…….thank you so very, very much! Your comment relating your personal experience with Henri, explaining/using example of married couple helps me so much, and quite frankly, I believe God is about doing a new thing and giving me direction for 2017…..on my church board I wonder how God will move us, hopefully together, into a new place?”

      “it is not the amount of darkness in the world or yourself that matters…in the end, it is how you stand in that darkness that makes the difference” I just read this S.m. In Isaiah 7:9b…..”If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” Earlier in the chapter, God tells Isaiah to say to king Ahaz….”be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…….” Henri, and now you, give me a gift….to walk, little step by step, into the unknown, with perspective and “prayer and friendship….great gifts to unwrap as we (I) encounter the psychological perils of spiritual intimacy with a God Who wishes to call us to experience real fullness in life…..”

      As a caregiver, I feel like you have ministered to me, though not nearly in as dire straits as those in Aleppo….I am so glad to know that behind the scenes there, as seen through the media, that God is about doing what only God can, through those who call upon God. Hope….what a surprise this Advent journey has been…”With God all things are possible” so very, very grateful to all….there’s a phrase in a song entitled “We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer”(by the way, the tune – a Dutch folk song in Nederlandtsch Gedenekelanck, 1626….”when perils overtake us, escape Thou wilt make us, And with Thy help O God, our battles we win”……m

    • Pat says:

      Many thanks, Bob, for your good letter above; I feel as though I have entered the wardrobe and found myself in Narnia. As though I am included in the conversations between Henri Nouwen and others. I seem to have experienced the psychological perils of spiritual intimacy, but as my daughter tells me often in the midst of her struggles, “It is what it is.” I accept the risk of perils. I’m realizing that I have been resisting true spiritual intimacy with God. I am what I am, but I live in hope that I will be more.

      • Joni says:

        Pat, have to smile at your comment “I feel as though I have entered the wardrobe and found myself in Narnia.”. I have been wrestling with myself to put a name on what this Advent book blog is stirring in me, you have put words around the experience for me! It is like entering into a very up close and personal world with Henri and his friends, and to feel like I am now part of that intimate circle.

        I have so much more I long to say before our Advent journey ends, but for now, this is enough. God Bless.

    • Jack Sandberg says:

      Thanks for your note, Bob. I like what you said about trying to make letters, or any encounter for that matter, reflexive — offering something for the other and then opening up an opportunity for the other to give back something.
      I also note that while you talk about darkness, Henri used the term brokenness. I applaud you for seeking out dark places and working to help. As you indicate, and as Henri emphasized, going to the broken ought to be not just to help, but (perhaps even mainly) to grow into and find a place to live well. I think in our time and even in a Christian relief efforts, for example, this is often overlooked or at least not emphasized enough, as people mainly want to serve and give aid.

      Jack

  19. Miriam says:

    I didn’t get around to posting last week but the letter on p 199 to Brian sounds like the letter could be written to me. Henri says, “As I reflect on your struggle, I simply want to ask you to be very, very compassionate with yourself. The older we become, the more realize how limited we are in our ability to love, how impure our hearts are and how complex our motivations are……..Indeed, we cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us.

    This has been true for me struggling to put my experience with having Cancer behind me. For whatever reason, I lost a lot of confidence through the ordeal and am now mostly having to extend myself a lot of compassion and a lot of encouragement. He also talks about allowing people to love us, and letting go of our desire to be perfect lovers and allowing God to love our people through us.

  20. Elaine M says:

    Here are just a few lessons I have learned from reading Henri’s letters:
    1. Empathy, patience, and listening are key to his ministry. He respects his correspondent enough to offer counsel but also to empower the person to find his/her own way in his/her own time.
    2. Henri’s message is consistently about the love and forgiveness of God, but he personalizes the message for each correspondent. He connects with each reader’s specific life challenges, gifts, aspirations, and current place in his/her faith journey. He encourages but does not cajole. He further enhances the personalized message by often including special little gifts (pictures, books, etc.) with his letter.
    3. He forms a connection with each correspondent by sharing his own spiritual struggles and human vulnerabilities but without trying to burden his reader or taking the focus away from his reader’s current challenges.
    4. Henri draws upon the Eucharist, art, the Scriptures, and wide reading to inform his own views and to find spiritual sustenance. His reading is eclectic, expansive, and ecumenical. While he remains faithful to the Catholic Church, he respects the beliefs and values the friendships of people with other beliefs.
    5. Finally the quotation at the end of the epilogue is a fitting capstone to what Henri has come to mean to me, especially now that I too look at “my aging hands.” I pray that, like Henri, I may someday know that “they have been given to me to stretch out towards all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessing that emerges from the immensity of God’s love.” I am not there yet, but I am grateful for Henri’s inspiration.

  21. Pat says:

    My comment is actually a response to the letters from last week. The ones selected by Ray and Brynn were the ones that I was giving most thought to as they seemed connected to me personally in some way. Reading the comments of others yesterday and today has also been helpful to me — so many gems of wisdom in them. However, I am still confused about spiritual and psychological intimacy; what is the difference between them? Are these different ways of being intimate with the same person, for example? Both seem important to Henri Nouwen. Is it too late to ask?

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