Feb 28th to Mar 6th: Lent Week 2 – Bread for the Journey & Many Friends

Reading: November 1 to January 12, pages 46 to 86

I filled my last museum notebook with (daily meditation) number 387. . .
Writing these reflections definitely strengthened my love for Jesus
and renewed my commitment to proclaim the unfathomable
mystery of God’s saving work. December 1, 1995, p. 60

The first week of Lent was indeed fruitful and filled with many wonderful and insightful comments and rich and affirming sharing among participants. A sincere thank you to all.

In reading Henri’s diary entries for this period surrounding the Christmas holiday, we get a sense of the frenetic pace of Henri’s life–even while on his writing sabbatical. Henri travels take him to Boston, Cancun, Mexico, Watertown, NY, Peapack, NJ, San Diego, New York City, Holland, and Germany. He is presenting workshops and talks, visiting with his many friends, and, perhaps most important, taking a vacation with his father in Germany and then celebrating his father’s 93rd birthday. Henri writes, “Thirty years ago the closeness that now exists between us was unthinkable.”

On December 1st Henri completed his manuscript for what became the Bread for the Journey – A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. In this book Henri writes more directly than in many of his other works about Jesus as the center of our faith, about Word and Sacrament, and about the Church. In essence, while on his sabbatical and in what turned out to be the last year of his life, Henri wrote his final testament of faith and guide to living a spiritual life.

Continuing the approach suggested by Sr. Sue Mosteller, you are encourage to reflect with Henri, “on the meaning of a particular encounter, of the event in Scripture or the news, of the insights from a new book, or of the background shaping the concert or the artifact.” This process may help guide you.

  1. Select a few journal entries that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times. In your careful reading and reflection, consider:
    1. The experience, thought, or concept that stands out to you
    2. How does it relates to your personal experience?  Look at your experience with the benefit of Henri’s insight.  Does that help you to see things differently or to know yourself better?
    3. What is God speaking to your heart through Henri’s experience and words? How have you been touched, inspired, challenged, and comforted on your spiritual journey.
    4. How you will respond?  Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights you gained. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights and to move toward spiritual freedom in your life?  What changes will you make?
  2. Please share your reflection and insights with the group to the degree you are comfortable.

Finally, there were several entries that I found particularly meaty or challenging that I would call to your attention. I know I would personally be interested in your reflections and insights related to Henri’s ideas on any of the following topics: a) November 10th – Jesus and salvation; b) November 29th Eternal death or hell; c) December 4th – A day well lived; d) December 24th – Where is God?; December 25th – Power and piety; January 6th – Henri and his father.

We have another rich week of sharing ahead of us and we look forward to hearing from many of you. And, of course, the items above are only a guide. We want to hear whatever touched your heart.

May the Lord give you peace.
Ray

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43 Responses to Feb 28th to Mar 6th: Lent Week 2 – Bread for the Journey & Many Friends

  1. Martha says:

    I am a bit behind in my readings, still on week two. However, it never ceases to amaze me how Henri’s experiences resonate with mine. My fears, insecurities, need of friendshops and fear of being ignored or abandoned are so ever present in me. However, what is remarkable to me is that he models for us ways of how one can overcome such emotions by actibly making positive and gentle decisions so we can move into a life giving action.

  2. Nicola Santamaria says:

    There were several passages that spoke to me deeply from the entries read this week. Some have already been commented on, and I agree with what others have said about the Church and the insights from Henri on how to do an ‘examen’ at the end of the day.
    Apart from these, I was particularly struck by how L’Arche has influenced Henri’s thinking so much. “Where is God?” he asks on Dec 24th and then answers the question: “God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless….. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.” So many years before Pope Francis there was the prophetic voice of Henri asking for the Church to focus on the poor.
    He then goes on to talk about the need to “stay close to the small vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. When we discover him we can truly rejoice.”
    The same theme is returned to on Jan 6th when, in his Homily, he “spoke about God revealing himself to us in weakness … whenever people are sick, elderly, dependent, and out of control.”
    Even more exciting to me was the suggestion that we should “live our weakness as a place of God’s appearance,” because while it is easy for us to look at people who are weak and poor and see God in their lives I, for one, forget to recognise God in my life when I am weak or poor in spirit.

  3. Carl Riedy says:

    Good morning on this the Third Sunday of Lent. This is the point in the Lenten Season when I fear I have not been practicing diligently enough and / or advancing my spiritual journey as much as I would like. Thank you for the opportunity to walk with all of your in our own way through this diary.
    Throughout the 40 pages, there were these simple but profound questions that forced me to stop and formulate at least immediate and superficial answers. The first was “How much longer will I live?” followed with the more critical ones, which challenged me on the way I should live my life every day. (p.61). At 72, I hope longer and more importantly, there’s vast room for improvement.
    There was Sue’s question: “What does it all mean?” (p68). This will be a great question to ask my friends who have met together weekly since the pandemic began as we celebrate our first year anniversary Thursday.
    The next one was, “How can we love the church today?” (p73). As a Zoom, Eucharistic service begins shortly, followed by our annual parish meeting, my short answer would be where a beloved community exists. Then, I think of the Pope’s visit to Iraq. He and the Ayatollah are at least offering symbols of love, tolerance, peace, reconciliation and inclusivity, while reminding us all that it began around Ur. I wonder if individual answers have changed as a result of the pandemic.
    Henri asks another question, “Where is God?” (p.71). My immediate thought was, He is Everywhere in Everything! May we all see God’s presence and the Spirit’s grace this day and throughout Lent.
    The last one is “Why should I ever think or say something that is not love?” I ask for forgiveness for all the times I have failed.

    As I type these, I wonder f I will I ask myself these questions throughout the remainder of Lent and beyond to develop more reflective answers and hold them closer to my heart.
    Hope so.

    My father has been dead for over 20 years. I think of him often. Henri’s days with is father and the evolution of their relationship, brought back fond memories. My father holds a special place in my heart. It also made me think of Nouwen’s book The Prodigal Son, as I wrestled with the relationships with my two sons and daughter.

    In sum, midst all the journal entries of this trip and these friends, there has been many reasons to reflect quietly on my own life and the many people who have and continue to touch it.

    Lenten Blessings.
    Carl

  4. LA says:

    Learning how Henri wrote BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY makes this book even more special to me. I have reread these meditations several times and every time I have learned something to help me in my spiritual journey.
    The entry that I found most challenging is the following: “The less I want to change him the more he enjoys being with me and sharing his vulnerability”. What a profound and valuable insight with words I’m trying to live by in my relationship with my sons. Henri’s ability to communicate his most inner self is inching me closer to living in the present.

    • John T Smith says:

      I ordered a copy of this book which just arrived. I am looking forward to it.

    • Gina says:

      That entry also spoke to me, not in relation to my father but in my relationship with my single adult son. He has gone through a difficult journey of addition and depression and I have learned to enjoy whatever time we spend together. If I don’t “advise” him but just “enjoy” him I also see him open up more to me and actually he sometimes even asks for “advice.”

  5. Ray Glennon says:

    From Eddie Dunn
    Having been raised and having become a minister in the conservative southern Church of Christ I can totally identify with Henri’s growth and change over the years. That church likewise taught us to believe that all those on the “outside” were lost. Also like him I find myself, ceasing to be a minister more than 50 years ago and now in the Catholic Church, to increasingly believe that “all human beings can walk through that door (to God’s house) whether they know Jesus or not”. That this alienates me spiritually from many friends and family members is still a challenge for me. Also, music being so central to the experience of joy in my life, like him I too can find myself brought to tears by listening to both classical and contemporary Christian music, and so I love his descriptions of his own such experiences. Again like him, I once had the experience of having a friend reveal to me a prayer list with my name on it! It was a singular blessing I have never forgotten and it has encouraged me to let others know when I am praying for them or when they are on my mind. I was taught by my mother the importance of even the briefest of messages to let others know we both love them and think of them and I, like Henri, use postcards and now text messages to do this. I applaud his assertion that “God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small, and dependent… where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless”, and this defines the church for me, so thankful to be a member of such a body of people! Seeing a cathedral as a “place where power and piety meet”, one can’t help but wonder what Jesus would say about such a union! Oh, how wonderful that Henri was able to spend loving time with his aged father, time that was “beautiful, simple, and deeply intimate”. As it had not always been so for him, I too had a similar inadequate relationship with my own father but, sadly, was unable to have such conversations before he left us. Thankfully, I was able to express my love for him before that, even if he was medically unable to respond. I admire Henri’s response to Ursula’s “tirade” against the church, feeling that I still lack the desired courage to always similarly respond to such attacks on my own faith. Finally, my experience of the Eucharist has clearly been deepened by Henri’s observation that therein God “reveals Himself to us in weakness” and that “we only live our weakness as a place of God’s appearance (It was the day of Epiphany) when we truly believe that we have been loved since before we were born and will be loved after we have died”!

  6. Sharon says:

    The description of a life well lived (Dec 4) caused me much soul searching. Did I offer peace, bring a smile to someone’s face, say words of healing, let go of my anger and resentments, forgive, love? I will use these particulars as I examine my life at the end of each day.

    • Sandra Dickau says:

      Sharon this also resonated with me. Some days are easy for me to offer peace, a genuine deep smile (even with a mask on these days- the eyes convey God’s love) healing words, letting go of anger resentment…
      Meditation has been a gift to me and I practice this even when I don’t feel like it. Sadly I seem to feel EVERYTHING and have had to reflect deeply on my perceptions of things – are they true, from God or am I responding emotionally to an event, a person. God has guarded my mind, my heart and soul in this regard and for that I am profoundly thankful to God for challenging me and giving me wisdom to sit with how I have a life well lived.

    • Nicola Santamaria says:

      I also found this checklist of Henri’s very helpful. Rather than going through an examination of conscience that looks for the things I have done wrong, it seems better to me to ask, have I done these good things today? I also liked what he wrote on Dec 26th when he asked “Why not always give and forgive, encourage and empower, give thanks and offer praise? Why not?”

      • Sharon says:

        I am finding the checklist gives me a positive attitude going into my day. I have a plan for good each day. Much better than wondering what I will do wrong today.

  7. Sharon says:

    Several ideas in Jan 6 entry were of special interest to me. His experience celebrating the Eucharist with his family reminded me that spiritual intimacy between us is dependent on a shared faith and not biological connection.
    “The less I want to change him the more he enjoys being with me and sharing his vulnerability.” is an insight I think we can universalize to all our important relationships.

    • John T Smith says:

      This passage also resonated with me. Concurrently, with participating in this online book discussion, I have joined a Circle of Trust retreat based on the work of Parker Palmer. One of the Circle of Trust’s touchstones is, “no fixing, saving, advising, or correcting.” It is amazing how this little mantra improves relationships. This is not the first time I have noticed common ideas that have emerged from the writings of Parker Palmer and Henri Nouwen.

      • Carl Riedy says:

        Thank you John. I, too, am a fan of Parker Palmer. I will try to find one of these Circle of Trusts retreats to see if it makes sense for me. The mantra caused me to pause … I could have used that long ago.

      • Sharon says:

        I’m not familiar w/Parker Palmer but I like the mantra.

  8. Sherman Bishop says:

    As I began the reading on Sunday I was intrigued by the moderator lifting up the themes of “salvation” (November 10) and “hell” (November 29). Both are concepts I have long been interested in, and like Henri, have observed a change in how I think about both of these theological points over the years. “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not.” (Nov. 10) “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Like Henri I was raised to understand that verse as “proof” that one had to be a Christian, and so the logical duty of all Christians was to bring others to Jesus. The “way” of Jesus. Is it a path open only to those who have somehow established a connection with Jesus, be that via baptism, membership in a church, or having “asked Jesus to be one’s personal and particular Lord”? The Greek word, “hodos” is translated in the “Theological Word Book of the New Testament” as “way, road, manner of life”. I have come to think the broadest meaning of that word finds the greatest resonance with who Jesus was. Considering this most broadly, one must look at the entirety of Jesus’ life and witness. One noticeable trait was how he was continually widening the circle, extending the gifts of God to those who need it, regardless of how well they were succeeding at living a “right Jewish life” or even if they were members of that covenant community. What dominates Jesus’ actions is not one having the “right credentials” or any sort of membership status, but mercy, love and acceptance. Ideas that Henri lifts up on Dec. 4 about living each day well: “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentments? Did I forgive?”. The “way of Jesus” is marked with being a peacemaker, a giver of joy, a healing presence and one who is transformed by reconciliation. Such a one is a witness to salvation. Such a one is a visible sign on the road of life to the reality of heaven. When I meet such a person, even if he/she was raised in a religious tradition greatly different from my own, I recognize a member of the family of God. But what does that require us to say about hell and judgement?
    The entry for November 29 prompts Henri to reflect a bit about hell and judgement. That reflection was spurred by the images in the Revelation of John about a “new heaven and a new earth” in chapter 21 of that book. Within a glorious and affirming description of all that is new one also has to read verse 8, and the description of a burning lake, a second death. Henri concludes in his journal entry that both salvation and judgement must be held in tension. My thinking about this changed when I finally broke free of a tendency to take all images in the Bible in their most literal sense. As a pastor (Lutheran for those who like categories) I have likely taught Revelation more than almost any other book, simply because it is so often requested by the laity. One wise scholar offered this statement about Jesus’ parables, which I find true for John as well, “He (Jesus or John) doesn’t say what he means, he means what he says”. What image would you choose to describe life connected with a loving, gracious and forgiving God? The New Jerusalem, the River of Life, the orchards of fruit for all seasons is one that I could embrace. What image would you choose to describe a life cut off from such a God? Death, oblivion, separation from God and all life, what form might that take? The “lake of fire” may work as an image of such a reality. It also has the added benefit of the element of suffering and pain, which I am unwilling to attribute to God, but rather think is reflective of the human desire for some sort of retribution. C.S. Lewis wrote a “space trilogy” in which one character is fed up with other people, and desires to be rid of them. So he gets on board a rocket ship and blasts off into space by himself. His ship is pointed toward the vastness of space, and his aloneness, for a time, fulfills his need not to be troubled by other people. But the moment comes when it dawns on him that his aloneness is now his future, and he begins to understand his need for community, a need that cannot be fulfilled. His “solution” has become his “hell”, and he is cut off from any hope of altering that reality. Henri says if we believe in heaven we must also believe in hell. I’m not so sure of that, and it is where my current struggle is centered. One more day’s entry, December 24.
    Henri reflects on the homily by the assistant priest in the church he attended this day. He thinks (and I agree with his thinking) that God makes known the Divine presence in our encounters with those who are poor, weak and vulnerable. “If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.” Who is more poor than the one who is cut off from Christ and from God? My Christian tradition places an emphasis upon “grace”. I am not saved (or one might say, “connected with God, with Christ”) because I’ve been kind to the poor. I am saved in spite of my selfishness, as a gift, free and undeserved. I wonder, just how powerful, how far reaching is such grace? Can it be extended also to those who reject it? Can it embrace those who struggle against any responsibility to live with right relationships to others? Can be life giving to those I am completely unwilling to forgive, my enemies? If grace is grace, and if God is grace-giving, who stands beyond the life giving reach of God’s hand? If indeed God would choose to become incarnate among us, who is beyond the pale of God’s desire to “reconcile the world to Himself”? (See John 3:17).

    • John T Smith says:

      Wow! Thank you, Sherman. You have prepared the response I had hoped to write. As I was preparing to join the discussion for this week’s reading, I was drawn to the same entry from the Friday November 10 entry. I decided before I wrote anything, I wanted to read some of the responses in the discussion. I was also drawn to the November 10 and the December 4th entries for the same reasons as you have so articulately laid out. I currently find that the idea of “widening the circle” more in keeping with the message of Jesus Christ. It is the commands to love God and love each other that I find most compelling. Whether it be the Roman Catholic influences from my youth or my current “religious” experiences with my wife’s home Southern Baptist Church, the idea of ‘the one true church” is troubling. Henri describes “using my little daily reflections to articulate my own theology of evangelization, mission, salvation, and redemption and of the experience of The Gathering as forcing him to think through his own religious convictions. This is exactly where I am today, but I cannot help but think that a life in Christ requires that we constantly revisit and think through our religious convictions, no matter how strongly held. In the meantime, I will also focus on the questions required of “living well” from the December 4th entry, “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentments? Did I forgive?”.

    • Marybeth says:

      Thank you so much for relating the inclusiveness of the Bible and Jesus in God’s circle of eternity… I’ve heard it said in various ways that hell is the denial of God, and rejecting his Spirit within us and all creation, the death of the soul. But I believe that God never gives up reaching out with that gift, that grace… even at the hour or minute of ones death. These are perhaps the poor of spirit, many never having experienced the true compassion and love of God. (In or out of the church) My prayer is that good and awakened people of various faith backgrounds (as represented here) can continue to be the catalyst, the example of that Spirit, that helps the poor, the lost, and the suffering of those without any experience or knowledge of the Truth of God in them… Reading all the inspirational reflections posted heightens my hope that more will be attracted to this journey of heaven beginning here on earth!! I am truly growing in my faith journey with your help as we reflect on the richness of Fr Henri’s writing.

    • Jim Willis says:

      Those two dates Nov 10 and 29 drew my attention – the one for the 29th on hell brought to mind one of Billy Graham’s classic messages – 4-Nov-1986 “Indecision in itself is a choice…not to decide is to decide not to… time will always decide against you”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inLmaG6qR7E

  9. I so resonnate with this sequence of questions for our readings: 1) concept that stands out, 2) how it relates to my life, 3) what God is speaking in this, 4) and how I respond. This rythum of questions is like lectio divine and integrates my heart with my head.

    The concept that grabbed me in the readings was “paradox” particularly as it relates to end of life issues. Reflecting on the Beatles and Princess Dianna, Henri concludes that “human happiness has little to do with money, success or popularity but everything to do with friendship, love and a purpose in life” (Nov 25). His following entries pull out this same strand of paradox as he reflects on “victory and humiliation” (Nov 26), “dying and immortality” (Nov 28), “heaven and hell” (Nov 29) and onto Sen Hafield’s retirement (Dec 2). This threaded together for me like blinking lights because where Henri was, I am.

    Reaching a milestone victory this year these concepts/themes have punctuated my own thinking. On Tuesday I spoke with my long time friend Mary. We exchanged pleasantries and then she asked “how are you doing in Louisville?” My response surprised me: “I’ve done very well here over the last 13 years, but I don’t want to die here.” Without detail this led to a litany of “why I live here” but “haven’t engaged as in a failure to launch.” My vocation kept me here and it’s been successful. But to Henri’s point my “friendships,” love and increasingly large pieice of my purpose in life lives elsewhere.

    Being a psychotherapist herself, Mary said to me “Bev that’s big what you just said. I don’t know how you discern things (maybe writing), but you need to stop, listen and take a long look at that. If you need to make a move, you want to pay attention to that now not later.” I can’t tell you how her words hit me strong in my heart. My vocation or Henri’s point “popularity and success” were here but loving friendships had taken a back seat. I saw that in bold relief remembering my best friends and family lived in another state. Add to that my primary care physician and 3 meaningful small groups I attend weekly on Zoom, all live in CA or MA. This realization was a wake up call that hit hard alongside Henri’s reflections in “Sabbatical Journey.”

    Figuratively speaking, my response to God is to gaze at him with my mouth wide open saying “Wha-a-a-a-t?” Honestly, I have never considered moving yet again especially at this age. But I see through a mirror darkly in this shadowy sacred Lent, that Louisville is a place where I feel “popular and successful” but far away from “friends” and love. Maybe far from God’s unfolding purpose. I will sit with this in Covid clarity and Easter epiphany and sing a little chorus I learned as a young Christian: “Wait, wait, wait on the Lord, I will wait, wait, wait on the Lord. Learn my lesson well and in the morning God will show me where to go, what to do, what to say.” I thank God, Mary and this group being a place where I could write it down and be heard.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Beverly,

      These reflection questions are adapted from the ones that former Henri Nouwen book discussion moderator Brynn Lawrence suggested we use during the Advent 2015 discussion of Henri’s the Inner Voice of Love–the Winnipeg journal that he was working on during his sabbatical. I’m glad you find them helpful and I will pass that along to her.

      Thank you for sharing your discovery about yourself. In his book In the Name of Jesus Henri shares a prayer he would often say when he was searching or struggling: “Lord, show me where you want be to go and I will follow. But please be clear and unambiguous about it.” God’s response was Henri’s call to L’Arche–which for Henri was his call “home.”

      Ray

  10. Michelle says:

    Oh my goodness! I just settled down to write something and see that Elaine and Barry have commented on the very thing that drew my attention. As Henri frequently pondered how much longer he would live (so interesting considering he would die less than a year later), he realizes one very important thing: “Every day should be well lived.” And, he asks those heart-felt questions that speak so much to me about how I want to live. “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentments? Did I forgive? Did I love?” Like Henri, I want to trust that “the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and in the life to come” (1224, kindle edition).

    • kathy says:

      At the end of the day while in refection I know I have failed in many ways , but I know that I have loved , I can trust that “the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits”

    • Gina says:

      This journal entry also spoke to me. Remembering the “little bits of love” that flow through us are significant in God’s work in this world. We don’t know and see the big picture we are part of God’s amazing and creative plan. Day by day, moment by moment – listening to His nudges and living a life of love.

  11. Marybeth Duffy says:

    The thought from Fr. Henri that really caught me heart in this weeks reading was on November 24th … he mentions that he was writing several reflections about Baptism and the Eucharist then started to write about the church as the community of people fashioned by these two sacraments… then the words “I love the church” are what meant so much to me. I am certainly not a pious person and throughout my life have had questions about what I call “man made rules” of the church, as I try to just heed the teachings of love, kindness, forgiveness and living in God’s will and Grace… believing this is available to all people in all religions (and in his writings Fr. Henri seems to also)
    I too, love my Roman Catholic Church because that’s where I had my beginnings. But in my journey I am able to appreciate the rich history… knowing that it is not perfect, many “man made issues” don’t anger or frighten me to leave or maybe as I see it abandon my religion. And at the same time grow in the appreciation of the global reality of God’s Spirit.
    He goes on to write … I do not want to write about the church as a problem, a source of conflict, a place of controversies, but as a Body of Christ for us here and now. He had conversations about the church with friends, defended his faith to a woman named Ursula an astrologer in a restaurant, and had a very meaningful conversation with a fellow priest about struggles they perceived in the complicated structures. Yet he was always faithful to his call. I feel the call to hang in there with my church, hopefully to be part of the “leaven” which I know there are at least a few enlightened ones in every church not just mine, who can be there to help the grown happen, as human consciousness increases, and God’s Will unfolds in this chaotic, suffering time. Change takes time… but I have faith it is possible. Maybe I’m just a dreamer… but if I am them our Pope is too!

    PS sorry for my spelling errors…

  12. As I look at Henri’s time overall and in the many personal visits he made during that time I have many thoughts and emotions. Though he was rather busy for a “sabbatical” I suspect as he was always wont to do, deeply present when he paused to be with others?

    “Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence.” ~Rachael Naomi Remen~ #holypresence

    Hoofnote: In this time of global pandemic the human family is starved for such presence. Perhaps we will learn forgiveness and compassion during this time of enforced fasting? }:- a.m. ♥️

    • Michelle says:

      Patrick, what a great quote by Rachael Naomi Remen! I appreciate it in the context of what I see as a deeply silent place within Henri despite all his outward activity. I am sure that people truly enjoyed his company since they could bask in him as a place of refuge and acceptance–quite interesting since I believe he struggled so much with his own sense of unworthiness, anxiety and loneliness in his own life!

      • Sandra Dickau says:

        Dear Patrick and Michelle I deeply appreciated both of your comments. Rachel Namomi Remen taught me the word , Tikkun clam – restoration- her grandfather gave her the Jewish story of finding the light in all events. Healing the word one person at a time. I believe to give presence to another in silence and being brings about that restoration. And yes Patrick during this pandemic we are starved for this presence.

  13. Elaine M says:

    I believe I may have visited Father Joe’s facility which provides permanent residences, day shelters, and a host of other services when youth groups from around the US gathered in San Diego for a St. Vincent de Paul conference a few years ago. On our trip to Father Joe’s, we were given an overview of all services, and then we sorted clothing and hygiene items and hosted an ice cream social for some of the residents and daytime clients. The ministry certainly seemed to cover all of the bases in terms of restoring neighbors to physical and mental health, to food and shelter security, and ultimately to sustainability. I know the youth volunteers were impressed and moved by their one-on-one conversations with the people with whom they shared ice cream treats and collegiality. Just folks, just God’s people—all of us. It felt a bit surreal to get back on the bus to return to the convention site in a beautiful hotel just a few blocks from the marina.

    I wonder if Henri had the same feeling as he traveled from Joan’s estate, replete with “precious artifacts” and “elegant tapestries,” to visit Father Joe’s shelter. Yet Henri’s emphasis continued to be on Joan’s “tireless work to found a freestanding hospice,” her hospitality, her “gift for making people feel special,” and discussions with her about “the liturgy, the meaning of life, and the state of the world.” Yes, Joan was unbelievably wealthy, but she seemed to understand that “God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless. How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence, and power?”And Henri was grateful for her spiritual gifts. All good people, God’s people.

  14. Neil Fraser says:

    My thoughts have been somewhat along the lines of what Patrick Watters has just posted. Throughout the “Sabbath Journey” so far I have seen a mosaic of Sabbath and of Journey. Henri mentions his original intent was to major on Sabbath / writing time. But that he discovered afresh just how important friendships are. In this book he is very vulnerable and transparent about everything he is processing and doing. This includes his struggle to not get too dragged into being with others, while simultaneously loving being with so many people. He does have many successes in his core desire. Including not feeling overly obligated to use the gym membership he maybe shouldn’t have signed up for.

    Like Henri I too often succumb to distractions. Except I’m weak at friendships where Henry seems strong in that arena. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if intimate friendships were not natural to him, but a developed skill / ability. My distractions are much less worthy of my time than his rich quality time with people.

    Like Henri, I yearn for more and more time in solitude and time writing and publishing what I experience in that lifestyle, and special times, of engaging in God’s manifest presence.

    Like Henri, I am learning to have a wider and wider few of the extent of God’s Kingdom, and God’s people.

    The selection of this book has been perfect for this Lenten season, and for my first discussion group with the Henri Nouwen Society.

  15. Patrick Watters says:

    Today I am struck by the title “Sabbatical Journey” — And I realize that it is hard, if not impossible to sabbath while continuously on the move. I have found that what my own pilgrimages and a profound vision quest taught me most was that I really didn’t need to go anywhere. If there is a journey in sabbath it is within one’s own self. I love Henri’s spirit and wisdom, yet there always seems to be a restlessness about him, I suspect so until he finally walked on?

    • Neil Fraser says:

      I agree with you so far in the book. The restlessness may have left in the 2nd half of the journey that I haven’t read about yet. His plans seem to be to continue with occasional trips but MUCH LESS frequently. I am hoping for a similar transition at this time in my life. But with a lot more years to live it out down here.

  16. Mary J says:

    I appreciate that while living a spiritual life, Nouwen reflects on life through the exploration of icons of popular culture. On pp. 55-56 he reflects after reviewing The Beatles Anthology and watching an interview with Princess Diana, that it is clear human happiness has little to do with money, popularity or success but with love, friendship and purpose. Throughout his daily writings the value of friendships is so clear, for his life and well being and for those around him. This is especially evident for all of us now as we experience the social isolation of the pandemic, and work to create means to sustain those connections without face to face meetings. It’s tough.

  17. Sharon K. Hall says:

    I was so joy-filled to read the journal entry for Saturday, January 6, and of Henri Nouwen’s reconciliation with his father. A key sentence for me was “When my mother died, I suddenly became aware that I hardly knew him.” Mothers, fathers, children, spouses, all can have these kinds of relationships where we can’t really talk to each other. Sometimes it’s seems like one person is talking about black and the other person is talking about white, right past each other’s understanding, and then they can switch places and the other person talk about black and the first person talk about white. And maybe really the whole purpose of it all is the friction that effectively keeps them from being authentic and intimate with each other. I think my psychiatrist says this is not validating each other. If my personal experience is anything like Henri Nouwen’s, it is painful and causes a lot of suffering. But then the next sentence “But as we both grew older and a little less defensive, I came to see how similar we are.” and “I quickly see that the main difference between us is age, not character!” This is an important perception because it can seem that the father, mother, child, spouse is not loving or something. And finally, “Today I enjoy being with my father. The less I want to change him the more he enjoys being with me and sharing his vulnerability.” What I take away from Henri Nouwen’s growth in understanding of his relationship with his father and his father’s growth in understanding too is hope for me and for all others who have troubled and difficult relationships with family members. There can be peace and joy in this life and the satisfaction of realized love with significant others. Henri Nouwen definitely is a mentor for me in his struggles and in his patience and willingness to constantly examine himself and keep working for reconciliation.

    • Elaine M says:

      Sharon, everything you have shared above in your reflection on families searching for understanding, peace, and love really resonates with me, especially your final observation about Henri’s willingness “to constantly examine himself and keep working for reconciliation.” How wonderful that he could achieve this with his father and allay his worries about not becoming fully reconciled before his father passed away. When ironically he preceded his father in death, he left his father with the gift that they had fully reconciled before Henri died. How that must have eased his father’s grief in Henri’s passing.
      A friend who had suffered from ill health for quite some time asked me. “Do you know of anyone I should ask to forgive me? I don’t want to leave this earth without being reconciled with everyone whose life I have ever touched, for better or worse.” I told her that I believed everyone knew of her abiding love for her family and friends. She died in peace a few months later. Blessedly, her funeral served as a kind of catalyst for other funeral goers who had been somewhat estranged from each other.
      Newlyweds often get the advice from “old married couples” to “never go to bed or leave the house angry. What if those discordant words were the last ones you ever exchanged?” When we are young, we may not think much of our mortality, but people of any age would do well to heed that advice. (Note: Perhaps that is why Henri’s work on the prodigal son resonates so profoundly with so many of us. Reconciliation is so key to life.)

      • Sharon K. Hall says:

        I appreciate your sharing, Elaine, and your thoughts have prompted me to reflect on “he left his father with the gift” and “How that must have eased his father’s grief in Henri’s passing” and then about your friend “Blessedly, her funeral served as a kind of catalyst for other funeral goers who had been somewhat estranged from each other.” When I wrote my entry I was thinking “in the present” of what it is like to have a complicated relationship that I just ache for reconciliation as Henri and his father did but just this past year I have had another complicated relationship with a Pastor who was leading our congregation for a couple of years as people develop a vision of where we are going and what kind of leadership we need before making a call and so forth. She had many creative and innovative ideas (which actually seemed to me veering away from being Biblically centered) and we were both defensive and had difficulty understanding each other’s viewpoints and even each other’s love. Before Christmas she got COVID-19 and died from it. This experience has taught me the difficulty of not being reconciled with someone before they die because now, for me, there are just so many unanswered questions–the main one being what is the role of tradition and the priesthood and the heart in our walk with Jesus and what are our responsibilities to each other and how could I have been more at peace with her, how could I have understood better how to repent and be reconciled to her because it is lots more difficult when all possibility of interaction here on earth has been severed; the grieving has caused me to grasp at my belief in the communion of Saints and also hope and trust in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Catholic Church and maybe whenever we have the delayed memorial service that will also be a catalyst for healing. When people die in an untimely way before reconciliation, a person really understands how important understanding between people truly is and the amount of grief and feeling of crushing failure when that has not been able to be achieved. “Reconciliation is so key to life” – so, so true, Elaine. Appreciate your reflection.

  18. Mary says:

    Only commenting to say I do identify with Henri on being too busy. My confession is that with all my good intentions last Sunday, the week as gone by with only reading a few entries. That shows me I have to change this Lent and prioritize what is important for my own healthy soul and well being. All aspects of my life has to be in balance for the my good and those around me.
    I need to learn from Henri especially from this Sabbatical how to balance my life especially since I so identify with his insights and reflections

    • Neil Fraser says:

      You are living what Henri lived during his sabbatical up to this point in the book. Receive encouragement from what you get out of your reading and don’t put pressure on yourself to “make up” for this past week. Like Henri explains in this book, pick up with what you can do today, and don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow.

  19. Barry Sullivan says:

    Regarding the entry for December 24 and the question where is God? Henri’s ruminations about the “immense implications of the mystery of the incarnation” caught my attention, as it did Ray’s.

    It is a mystery that Christians don’t seem to appreciate enough, and that includes me for much of my life. I have begun to realize the depth and importance of the incarnation in the last several months, after reading and listening to Richard Rohr, especially his book The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. Father Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) also has links to podcasts (https://cac.org/podcasts) where he discusses the book and related concepts.

    But I think Henri nails it quite well when he asks, “How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence, and power?” Where is God? As he notes, “God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small, and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless” (p. 71).

    God is close to us when we recognize our own weaknesses and needs, which as Richard Rohr notes, often occurs to us when we suffer a significant loss (such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or job loss). If my focus is only on this world of “getting and spending, as Wordsworth warned (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45564/the-world-is-too-much-with-us), I am far from God. I must stay close to that “small, vulnerable child” to understand that the Christ child is within me!

    These are fundamentally important insights from Henri that, as he comments, should drive the future of the church. Indeed, these insights seemed to have driven him as he left the successes at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale to spend the last several years of his life serving those with mental handicaps.

    A critically important diary entry!

  20. Pat says:

    I am enjoying if that can be said about the readings so far…. I sometimes take the book to read/reflect on during some of my adoration hour. What perspective in sights I often receive. Sometimes it is a word, other times it is a thought. The rest of free time ( retired and somewhat quarantined) I have taken up relaxing reading in the afternoons with the book. Excellent comments so far.

  21. Elaine M says:

    The journal entries in these pages are so rich that I can’t express everything in a single post, but here are my starter thoughts.
    (1)“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (p. 51).
    Like Henri, I was raised with a “narrower door” mentality—the idea that Catholics had at least the inside track to heaven. With years of personal experience, my view of God has become more expansive. Surely our loving, generous, merciful God embraces those whose lives manifest the Golden Rule-type principles so characteristic of all of the major religions. Surely God blesses the sincere efforts of friends and acquaintances who work heartily for social justice and the dignity of all people as they continue to search for the origin and inspiration for such goodness. Surely God blesses those who stumble and fall and try to rise again for another day. It is incumbent upon me to respect those whose beliefs and life styles differ from mine and to find ways to encourage and lift up those who doubt their own worth as human beings.

    (2)“Every day should be well lived. Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentments? Did I forgive? Did I love?” (p. 61)
    What a concise but comprehensive examen to consider every evening but also every morning as I consider the possibilities for doing good this day. What are my opportunities now? What opportunities did I miss yesterday? When and how will I learn to avoid knee-jerk responses to certain trigger situations? (Sorry for the mixed metaphor there.)

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hi Elaine,
      As always, I greatly appreciate your thoughtful responses to the readings. Just one comment in reaction to yours. I highlighted in my book what you include in your second point, Henri’s comments about what makes a day well lived: “Did I offer peace today?…” etc. those few questions he poses would, indeed, make up a good, concise examen.
      Thanks
      Barry

      • Mark S. says:

        Yes, Elaine and Barry, I, too, have noted this passage to use as a personal Examen. I will use it at lease for the remainder of Lent, and probably ongoing. It is so fitting! And, I like Elaine’s line, “learn to avoid knee-jerk responses to certain trigger situations.”

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