June 10th to June 13th: Welcome and Introductions

Reading: None

You will understand Nouwen more deeply after you read Earnshaw.
 A new and wonderful contribution.
– Ron Rolheiser, OMI

A warm welcome to the Summer 2020 edition of the Henri Nouwen Society online book discussion. If you are a regular participant, welcome back. And if you are joining us for the first time, we’re glad you’re here. For the past decade, a caring community of believers and seekers has gathered each Advent and Lent to read and reflect on the writing of Henri Nouwen and to share our experiences, insights, and questions with each other. This year is our first summer book discussion since 2015 and we are excited to be back. It is also the first time that we will be discussing a book written by someone other than Henri Nouwen.

This past Lent we completed a deep and fruitful discussion of Henri’s best-selling book, The Return of the Prodigal Son – A Story of Homecoming. This summer we have the unique opportunity to go behind the scenes to discover how this spiritual masterpiece came to be written through the eyes of Gabrielle Earnshaw Nouwen scholar, founding archivist of Henri J. M. Nouwen Archives at the University of St. Michael’s College, Chief Archivist for the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, and editor of three recent Henri Nouwen books.

In Gabrielle’s new book, Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son: The Making of a Spiritual Classic, she expertly and insightfully explores and illuminates the interweaved stories of Nouwen’s spiritual journey and how the book came to be published nine-years after he first saw a poster of Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son in 1983. Gabrielle adds depth, color, and substantial new detail to what Nouwen himself has written about the writing of The Return. . . Through her insights we may come to see why Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son is, in Gabrielle’s words, “a book that readers find when they need it—usually when they are on their knees. It is also one of those rare books that reveals something new with each reading.” I know that is true for me, as my brief biography below attests.

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

Beginning on June 14th and for five consecutive Sundays, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page. The post will present a brief moderator’s reflection and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are 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.

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 and complete the box.  After you submit a new comment or a reply, either the moderator (me) or Will at the Nouwen Society 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 (follow link in the black bar above). If you have any questions about the blog, please don’t hesitate to ask either by submitting a comment or sending me an email at the address in my bio below.

As we begin our journey together, it’s always nice to learn a little bit about each of you. 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.

We begin Henri Nouwen & The Return of the Prodigal Son – The Making of a Spiritual Classic this Sunday, June 14th.  Join us to begin a spirit-filled and enriching summer 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 ray.glennon@1972.usna.com and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/@RayGlennon.

35 Replies to “June 10th to June 13th: Welcome and Introductions”

  1. Hi Everyone,
    My name is Mary. I live in New Jersey. I periodically feel called to read things by or about Henri Nouwen as part of my spiritual journey. I have been experiencing such a call recently and by chance linked to the Henri Nouwen Society from the Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s Facebook page. I am new to the group and very much looking forward to the discussion.

  2. My name is Susan and I live in a small town in southwestern Canada. I ordered my book weeks ago, but it hasn’t arrived yet. I’m hoping it will arrive on Monday, so I can join the discussion.
    I’ve followed along with many of the other on-line book discussions on this site, and have been reading Henri’s books for decades.
    Thank you Ray for your on-going generosity in leading another on-line discussion. I very much appreciate the way you use the gifts you’ve been given to encourage people to look more deeply into Henri’s writings.

  3. Hi
    My name is Perri. I am are retired professor of nursing who focused my research on spirituality of families and spirituality and wellness. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen’s writings by a cherished friend whose husband was a retired Lutheran pastor. After retirement they often read Nouwen’s works. I am renewed often by the daily meditations. I look forward to the discussions.

  4. As I watch the news most everyday, I see many knees bending….so getting my attention already is Gabrielle’s insightful statement included in the intro for this online conversation…..about “The Return of the Prodigal Son”…..”a book that readers find when they need it – usually when they are on their knees.” Anticipating hearing a voice from “behind the scenes” to help me understand something of God’s nature that is fresh and new, leading me to conversion.

    From rural, central Illinois, I feel like I’m returning to the gentle, pastoral voice of Nouwen, that has helped me so much in the past…..AND listening for the collective voices of God’s people, both near and far…..thank you!

  5. Greetings from Harbor Springs, Michigan, located in the northern portion of the lower part of the state. Having actively served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for 49 years after ordination into the Presbyterian Church USA, I found time to get acquainted with Nouwen (which should have happened in seminary as required reading). Having thoroughly been inspired by The Return of the Prodigal Son and visiting The Hermitage, I anticipate further inspiring enlightenment inthenectfeeweeks

  6. From Jana Heirendt
    My name is Jana Heirendt. I’m 68 and my husband and I live in our 34’ trawler “Grace” in The Pacific Northwest. We’ve been influenced by Henri’s books since we were young adults.

    We went through a very difficult time in our marriage, and miraculously survived through counseling, 12 Step Groups, and a commitment to total honesty. That is when I recognized I’d been “the older brother” my entire life! It obviously wasn’t working! The privilege of embracing my brokenness and freedom in the Father’s unconditional love was phenomenal-especially since id always considered myself a Christian! Little did I know the tiny picture of Gods Grace I had believed! My life story IS THAT I AM THE PRODIGAL SON. And it’s finally glorious!

    Thank you for offering this discussion. I’m very excited!


  7. Hello I am a grandmother and avid reader with Henri Nouwen being one of my loves. I think the first book I read of his was Genesee Diaries. Recommended to me by my daughter who at the time was doing her masters in divinity. Since then I have enjoyed many of his books… and she, has children of her own now.
    I live on an island in northern Ontario Canada called Manitoulin.. in the bush but near lots of water! Gardening grandchildren and glory are close at hand.
    Times of learning* and contemplation are dear to me and I so look forward to uplifting discussions during these difficult times

  8. Hi friends. I came to Yale Divinity School to begin my studies for the M.Div in the fall of 1974, exactly Whewn Henri joined the faculty. He single-handedly transformed the culture of that institution with his lectures, chapel services and inimitable presence. His lectures in the Spirituality and Ministry course were the rough drafts for many of his early books in America. The Wounded Healer stands out in my memory. After graduation from YDS, I continued my reading and study of each of Henri’s books as they were made public. A lot of his thoughts were embedded in my sermons during 40 years as a Lutheran pastor. My hometown is Toronto, Ontario. When he came to Daybreak in nearby Aurora, Ontario, he and I sometimes met for lunch on my trips back home to visit with my parents. So, you can say I’m a “Nouwen groupie” eternally grateful for his influence in my life and ministry.

    I look forward to the interchange with that looks like an interesting collection of other people of faith who have been influenced and directed by Henri Nouwen.

  9. I came to know Henri’s work in the late 80s. The first book I read was The Genesee Diary. I have almost all of his works in my library and find myself reading thm over and over, particularly in a season like this.
    I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn more and hopefully grow deeper.

  10. My name is MaryLee from St. Louis, Mo. I’ve not participated in any of these book studies and am very much interested in reading and discussing this particular book. I have been a great admirer of Henry Nouwen’s work for many, many years.

  11. I have the book and will read along and participate in private. No comments but do appreciate those who are able to respond. Henri has influenced my life and a new view of his great book will be inspiring.

  12. Hello Everyone,
    My name is Sandra,I am 30 years old, so grateful to be here. I just found out about the Henri Nouwen Organization only a month ago. I live in Cairo, Egypt, I am a women health doctor and have been dedicating all my energy currently in seeking inner healing and enlightenment.
    Henri Nouwen words speak to me and my present a lot.. in a way that I can’t describe.
    I am looking forward to learn from all of you.
    Happy Reading : )

  13. Hello
    My name is Lainie S. My husband and I live in Bentonville Arkansas. My husband has just retired in the last few months and I am currently self employed with a small business and plan to retire in a few years.
    Also, I am a spiritual director for the Diocese of Little Rock. I co-facilitate Retreat In Daily Life Ignatian retreats and I guide individuals on their spiritual journeys.
    I was introduced to Henri Nouwen’s writing when I began my director formation training in my classes.
    I am very excited to participate in this discussion to receive more insights.

  14. Hi everyone, my name is Dodie Smith and live in the Triangle area of NC. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen through a quote from the “Life of the Beloved,” used by a Baptist teacher (of all people!) whom I respected. (I can say that because I’m a Baptist!) Henri’s writings have been my lifeline to grace and peace. The Wounded Healer was required reading when I trained to become a hospital Chaplain. It was life-changing. Return of the Prodigal revealed to me my proud heart…I could go on, as most of you could, too. I’ll try to stay tuned. I’m not very good at these online groups, but my heart is with you.

  15. I have always been attracted to the humility, warmth, compassion, and accessibility of Henri Nouwen. He has helped me to use my own woundedness not a reason to beat myself up psychologically or to throw up my hands in despair but as a way to connect with the sufferings of others and to discover the healing power of forgiveness. I have been participating in these book discussions for several years, and I always benefit from the insights and inspiration posted here. Most recently I sent a copy of Henri’s BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY to a young woman in prison with whom I have been communicating for several years. In a recent letter she told me that she has been sharing some of the entries with her roommate and a few others. Henri really has a message for almost anyone who can be receptive.

    Given the suffering and distress in our world right now, I am grateful for the timing of this book discussion. Ray, thanks again for facilitating. I know this will be a powerful experience for all of us.

  16. I am Jim and live in Santa Barbara, CA. I believe it was John Dear or the Catholic Worker that introduced me to Nouwen over 20 years ago. I have not looked back. The Return of the Prodigal Son is my favorite Nouwen book and I am sorry I missed that discussion. Nouwen’s willingness to share his struggles, doubts, joys and pains have mirrored many of my own. Or maybe they just helped me face mine in a more positive manner. I have received my book and look forward to sharing these discussions. Thank you for the opportunity.

  17. Hi everyone! My name is Janet Hoben. I am 62 and on permenant disability due to multiple spinal fusions, fibromyalgia, and other issues. I am very involved in my church community. I really discovered reading Nouwen during this pandemic. I want more!

  18. Hello everyone,

    I’ve been impacted deeply by several of Henri Nouwen’s books. Particularly, Return of the Prodigal Son and Wounded Healer. I’m looking forward to a time of soul-refreshing and inspiration during these turbulent times of social unrest in America.

    At 71 years of maturity, I am a Life Coach and Consultant with the privilege of nurturing and guiding the lives of youth and adults in an educational setting. I am a container for many.

    I’m looking forward to a deeper exploration of the life and writings of Henri Nouwen.

  19. I am so excited to read what promises to be such an insightful book into the background of how “The Return of the Prodigal” came to be written. I’ve seen threads of Henri’s story woven through his other writings and it seems that the “Prodigal” is an integration or summation of his life themes.

    Everytime I read Nouwen I learn something about God and myself. His writting has been spiritually formative in my life. It’s not too much to say that he is my patron saint. “The Prodigal’s Son,” “Reaching Out” and “Following Jesus” have overlapped with much of my own struggles. So in this Covid forced fast from so many things, it’s a thrilling to think about what Henri has in store for me and us all to see for such a time as this.

    I look forward to learning from each other’s stories and comments. It’s so good to be companions together on the Way.

  20. My name is Dawn and I live in Texas. I was introduced to Nouwen, 20 years ago at a Episcopal Church in San Antonio. I love his books and look forward to connecting with fellow Christians

  21. Hello, everyone. My name is Sharon and my husband and I live in Southfield, Michigan (an inner ring suburb of Detroit). I first learned about Henri Nouwen from a Stephens Ministry Caregiving Class I took. His writing and spiritual meditations have always been very helpful to me. Especially, the way that he went to the community to Pastor challenged people, his sharing of that experience and how he grew spiritually and relationally through it and in his relationship to God. The first person I gave care to, under supervision from the Stephens Ministry group, was a very disabled elderly woman who was on a ventilator and a feeding tube and I found much of Henri Nouwen’s gleaned wisdom applicable also to me and my relationship to Alice. My time now is spent in trying to achieve a sewing/design certification in order to start a small home-based business of sewing for elderly/disabled in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I am expecting this book reading blog and the discussion arising from it to be very thought-provoking and constructive and helpful to me, especially spiritually.

  22. Hello from Phoenix, Arizona! My name is Michelle and I am new to this blog. I have been reading and re-reading Nouwen’s materials for many years now, recently acquiring and enjoying his The Genesee Diary which tells of his seven-month stay in a Trappist monastery. I appreciate Nouwen’s heartfelt desire for God, and his honesty regarding his own insecurities and inner conflicts. When reading Nouwen, I feel accompanied and inspired on my own spiritual journey as he feels like a true friend and companion. I look forward to sharing this reading journey and further discovery of Nouwen with all of you.

  23. Hi my name is Julie. I have loved Henri’s writing since I was in school for my Mdiv degree . I was so blessed to hear him speak in Illinois where I live some 30 years ago. I just did a spiritual direction training program and many of his books were part of the ciriculum. It will be nice to listen to other perspectives on the writing of a very powerful book. Thanks for the opportunity.

    1. Julie, how wonderful that Nouwen’s books were part of your spiritual direction training program. If you don’t mind sharing, which program did you do?

  24. Hello, My name is Tony
    I am very excited to join this discussion. Several years ago, while on a retreat with three other men to Assumption Abbey, in Ava, Mo. It was decided that we would start a book study on the Return of the Prodigal Son. I even sent for small versions of the cover of the book so we could use it as bookmarks. I found in the journey through that book, that I had something to learn. I live in Columbia, Mo. and have read many of Henri’s books. His writing style speaks to my soul.

  25. My name is Bradley and I live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I spend my time as a deep listener and partner; specifically, I am a personal & executive coach and a spiritual director. I read “Return of the Prodigal Son” seven or eight years ago when I was seeking a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father and for new ways to be in ministry. The book – and the wisdom of Henri Nouwen which comes alive through its pages – had a profound impact on my life, my spirituality, and my ministry. I’m looking forward to taking this journey with you.

  26. I was introduced to Nouwen’s writings 30 years ago and they are an important part of my spiritual journey. His wisdom, compassion, and honesty make his words not just mwaningful, Truth. I look forward to reading about how his wonderful study of both the parable of the Prodigal Son and Rembrandt’s masterful depiction of it came to be.

  27. I am new to the blog. I LOVE and have lived the Return of the Prodigal Son. I live in Virginia Beach in a CCRC which has just tested 1100 staff and residents – 100 % virus free. A real miracle. I have a couple volunteer leadership positions here. I am a cradle Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Ecumenicalist. Founded a volunteer program 42 years ago named after my daughter. After retirement I went back to school to become a hospital associate chaplain. I volunteered her with patients and families in the health care here before Covid-19. I have an “interesting” son.

    1. I have read and loved Henri Nowen for years. I am a wounded healer, and took a course here last year. I was referred to his daily posts a couple of months ago.

  28. Hello, Everyone
    My name is Carol, and I live in a suburb of Jacksonville, FL. Most of my time is spent caring for my husband and sisters. I receive the Henri Nouwen daily meditations and find them quite moving. I have not read The Return of the Prodigal Son (but have read and listened to podcasts about it). Is this recommended? I look forward to being part of this group.

  29. Hello Everyone,
    My name is Ross and I live in Victorville, California. I am a dual language middle school teacher. Because of the pandemic we are experiencing, I have been able to dedicate a good chunk of time over the past several weeks to my spiritual quest, through reading and writing. I learned of Henri Nouwen many years ago and have always been drawn to him because of his willingness to be open about his own struggles and his commitment to put God first in his life and inspire us to do the same. I look forward to joining with you to share, learn, and grow together.

  30. Hello everyone, my name is Debby. I have lived on the east coast of the United States for my entire life until now. Four months ago, I moved to southern California.

    In May I participated in a Soul Companioning course offered by Centerquest. It was during this course that I found out about the book and began to be more acquainted with Henri Nouwen. I just finished reading his classic and am looking forward to Earnshaw’s book about how it came to be. I have never participated in a book club like this before.

    As I have been in employment transition along with Covid-19 shutdown, I spend much time reading and writing. I have enrolled in Centerquest’s School of Spiritual Direction, cohort 5, which will begin in January.

    I’m looking forward to taking this journey with people from all over the world. Blessings to you all!

    1. Debby,

      What a pleasure to meet another Quester! I’m not sure where on the East Coast you came from, but I lived on the North Shore of Boston most of my life (I am now in Louisville, KY).

      I was in cohort 3 of Centerquest. May the Holy Spirit companion you on this life changing journey with Centerquest and this deeply engaging book discussion diving into the heart of Henri Nouwen.


  31. Hello all
    I’m from a little town in Derbyshire, UK called Belper – you’ll never have heard of it! My time is dedicated to my family and my work in school as a pastoral worker. I also dedicate my time to my local parish as a member of the pastoral council and playing guitar in the music group. Pilgrimage is becoming more and more of a passion. The nature of pilgrimage is that it is as much a journey inward as forward. I’ve participated in the Nouwen book discussions for a number of years. Henri’s wonderful writing has greatly inspired my inward journey. I look forward to this book to glean even greater insight into one of my most cherished books. As always, I look forward also to the wisdom and insight gained from this community.

  32. Hi everyone

    My name is Charlie and I live in Australia. I am really looking forward to this discussion group. I am still waiting for a copy of the book, hoping that it won’t take much longer to arrive in Australia.

    I dedicate my energy and resources to my contemplative life, my intimate relationship, my helping work and to looking after my mother who is living with dementia.

    How I came to ‘know/read’ Henri Nouwen was initially through a web search which landed me here. I have had a deep resonance and connection with Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son for many years, which I am longing to see and experience.

    I haven’t been part of a discussion group before so I am really looking forward to my first group.

    I hope to experience an exchange of reflections, insights and ideas about the human being Henri Nouwen, to learning more about his humanity, psychology and spirituality, and his relationship to the painting, how it impacted and shaped him, as well as to sharing ideas with other like-minded people from around the world.

    That’s me for now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *