Reading: Foreword by Robert Durback, p. 9 to 14
There is something enchanting about mirrors. (p. 9) For Nouwen
death itself became a mirror that brought him face to face
with the question, “Who am I?” (p. 12)
Robert Durback, from the Foreword
Welcome to this special September edition of the Henri Nouwen Society book discussion. We are gathering together to mark the 25th anniversary Henri Nouwen’s unexpected death on September 21, 1996 at age 64. He had just completed a sabbatical year and while he was en route to St. Petersburg, Russia to film a documentary about Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, Henri suffered a heart attack in The Netherlands. At the hospital, Henri said to his friend Nathan Ball, “If I die, just tell everybody that I am grateful, that I’m enormously grateful.”
To help us better understand the source of Henri’s gratitude, we will read and discuss Henri Nouwen’s Beyond the Mirror: Reflections on Death and Life. In this short and poignant book, Henri shares his spiritual journey of near death and recovery after being hit by a car while walking on a busy road near L’Arche Daybreak on an icy morning in January 1989. This accident occurred only six months after Henri had returned to Daybreak following his lengthy recovery from a severe depression.
The confluence of these transformative events led Henri to crystalize his insights about life’s fundamental question, “Who am I?”. Henri’s answer—“I am God’s beloved child”—became his core spiritual insight and timeless gift to the world. We see it bearing great fruit in Henri’s books published in the years after Beyond the Mirror (1990), including the spiritual classics The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (1992) and Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (1992). As Robert Durback writes, “Nouwen shows us how an awareness of our mortality can in fact enrich our lives.” And, in the case of Henri Nouwen, this also includes enriching the lives of millions of spiritual seekers who have been inspired and influenced by his life and work. Thank you for joining us for what I’m confident will be an enlightening and spirit-filled discussion.
Let’s briefly describe how our online book discussion works. If you’ve joined us before, this will serve as a review.
Beginning this Sunday, September 5th and for the next two Sundays, September 12th and 19th, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page. The post will identify the reading for the week, present a brief moderator’s reflection, and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are invited and 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 throughout the week.
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. After you submit a new comment or a reply, it needs to be “approved” either by me or Will at the Nouwen Society so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any questions or problems, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we begin our journey together, it’s always nice to know something about our companions. 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.
- Any thoughts and insights you gained from reading the Foreword by Robert Durback.
Finally, on September 21st the Henri Nouwen Society will be hosting a very special online tribute to the life and legacy of this remarkable man called Remembering Henri: The Gifts of a Fruitful Life. This free global webinar will be a fitting complement to our September book discussion.
Welcome to each of you and I look forward to your introductions!
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 at a transformative point in his life. 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 professed members of Secular Franciscan Order (OFS). You may contact Ray by email at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter twitter.com/@RayGlennon.