Sep 1st to Sep 4th: Welcome and Introductions

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

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!

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 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 and you can follow him on Twitter

39 Replies to “Sep 1st to Sep 4th: Welcome and Introductions”

  1. Sorry I’m late with this. I live in northern Colorado. I’ve read some of Nouwen’s earlier works & some of his letters. His work in France served a similar population I have worked with towards inclusion. I look forward to reading & sharing reflections on more of his work. As I age, I look for wisdom on doing it with God’s help.

  2. Greetings from the Hudson Valley, 1.5 hours north of NYC. I was happy to see my book arrived today (7th), and look forward to reading it. I have read about 10 of Nouwen’s books, and often use them for discussion in our women’s prayer group. Enjoyed the last virtual group, and look forward to this “discussion”.

  3. My name is Nadiia which in Ukrainian means Hope. My husband of 20 years & I moved to the States seven years ago & now reside in Northern California, Rocklin. I’ve heard about Henri Nouwen for the first time from the church which we are currently attending. They have Soul Talk with Pastors series, and one of them is based on “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” I absolutely loved this book & its companion “Home Tonight,” which has some practical parts such as Journaling and other Spiritual Practices. I have just finished these two books & look forward to this online discussion about our true identity in Christ.

  4. From Riz Galicinao
    I am Riz Galicinao, a new resident of Ocean City, MD….formerly from Lanham, MD. (Not far from “Little Rome” in DC). I am 92 years young, a retired gerontologist and hospital chaplain with NACC (National Association of Catholic Chaplains). I haven’t found my spiritual community in this tourist town (although I know there are many retired folks living here year round)…. So I rely on my online contacts to satisfy my spiritual thirst. I have an extensive spiritual library that I I keep trying to NOT add on to but “I thirst….”

    So I look forward to listening to what your participants say and hope that I will be able to share insights and continue to learn from others in your community of online participants.

    For my own part, considering my age, I realize that biologically speaking, I am at the beck and call of our heavenly Father, and I wonder myself, if I am leaving behind “good fruits” or do I have time to repair any loose ends. I have forgotten the source of the folllowing thought, but it does make me stop and reflect: I will plant a tree and fill it with many branches – under which I may never sit. Shalom. Riz G.

  5. Hello. I am joining from Maryland where I am currently a Chaplain Intern with hospice. I have enjoyed Henri’s writings for many years — they feel like a beautiful invitation. His books make me ache to go deeper into the mystery and the love of God.

  6. I have just moved from Northern NJ to Mystic, CT. My address change came with a career change – I was an ICU and Palliative Care chaplain for many years, now I am a home hospice chaplain. Yesterday, after a particularly intense visit with a patient who had an urgent need to discuss the problem of evil I went to my favorite used bookstore (my go-to place for soothing and comfort) and Nouwen’s “Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring” was right out front. As one of my wise colleagues would say “I was visited.” I had read some of Nouwen’s work when I was in seminary but I can see now that his work, and all of your reflections on his life and work, can profoundly help me grow in my chaplaincy. Thanks for this wonderful community!

  7. A dear friend introduced me to this book discussion. And my parents introduced me to Henri Nouwen through their volunteering at one of L’Arche’s Daybreaks. I participated with them a few times when I was in town. The experiences stayed in my heart since. Especially the love and respect I witnesses and experienced.
    I live in St. John’s NL Canada – a place I did not know but my’gut’ sent me to.
    I have experienced many joys and deep sadnesses and am very grateful for all of my life experiences. But I am mostly grateful for the gift of being able to be present in, and ultimately growing from, each of them. Which is why I’m here. To learn and grow more.

  8. Hello from Southern California! I’m a middle school English teacher and was introduced to Henry Nouwen by my adult daughter. This is my first Nouwen book club and I’m excited to join this community.

  9. Hello, and thanks to all for sharing your stories and thoughts. I am a recently retired librarian from Boston, and I find my days and energy spent on transitioning in a thoughtful way into this next phase of life. I am a mother of 3 adults, a knitter and a swimmer, deeply connected to family and neighborhood. I received a book of Nouwen’s reflections years ago from a dear friend, and have since then felt attuned to his way of expression. I loved Following Jesus, which I recently read with a feisty group of rebellious Catholics. I hope to learn more from Nouwen’s wisdom, and from others’. I am expecting the book to arrive any day, so have not yet read the foreward. Very grateful to be here.

    1. Jane…As a student at Howard University, I had a room-mate from Drew University who was an exchange student. Her name was Jane Lawless…I am wondering if you are she…Please excuse my intrusiveness if you are not the same person.

  10. Peace and blessings to all. I’m from Phoenix, Arizona, a retired trust banker and elementary school teacher with 3 sons and 2 grandsons. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen by my father as he had some of his books and then reintroduced to him several years ago through these daily meditations by a leader at my church. This is my first discussion of Henri Nouwen, and I’m looking forward to gaining perspective and being enlightened. My copy of the book doesn’t have the Foreword either.

  11. Good Morning. The timing of this book discussion comes in the midst of six hospitalizations my husband has endured, including one due to COVID, during the past eleven months. He has an additional surgery approaching very soon – this month or early

    Additionally, we have a son whose alcoholism has led to some actions with serious consequences that have impacted our whole family, particularly his teenage sons. We are
    lovingly supporting him and his sons on this unwanted journey.

    I work as a casual staff member at a Nursing/Personal Care Home and have done a lot of reminiscing activities with the residents of the Personal Care Home. That has been a blessing in my life amidst all the struggles and personal heartaches.

    I have read several of Henri Nouwen’s books and am very grateful for the daily reflections that I have read for several years now. I look forward to reading the book for this discussion and the comments noted by others. Though I might not be able to take time to comment due to present circumstances, I am very grateful to be a “silent” participant, if necessary. Thank you.

  12. I live in Raleigh, NC. We studied The Prodigal Son on my Sunday school class and I begin to read Henri’s books and follow the daily thoughts at this website. I am looking forward to this discussion.

  13. Greetings from cool, green lower upper Michigan. Pleased to once again be a participant in a Nouwen book study, especially as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death. Being a retired Presbyterian pastor, hospital chaplain and a large Michigan retirement living chaplain, I now have time to examine my spiritual life through the insightful lens of Henri Nouwen’s redeveloped love for, and trust in, God as one of God’s beloved. Thank you for this opportunity to reconnect with, and learn from all of you.

  14. Good afternoon to everyone. I am a Sister of Providence living at our Motherhouse in Central Indiana. I have been inspired by the writings of Henri Nouwen for many years now and was blessed by being at an afternoon retreat, he led in Chicago just a few weeks before he died suddenly. I am looking forward to our sharings about the book we will be using for our reflections together. This has been a very hard time for me as many of my closest friends and spiritual companions have died in recent months. I look forward to the journey of faith we are beginning together and am confident we will learn much from one another.

  15. I live in the in the south east of the UK – in the middle of Surrey. After 15 years of teaching and 10 years as a Grief Support Worker to bereaved children and their families, I’m now doing a Masters at Spurgeon’s College on Christian Thought and Practice. I’m writing a dissertation on Vulnerability. My question is ‘The Unmasked Disciple: To what extent could the church embrace vulnerability and open the way to genuine connection and empathy?’
    Henri Nouwen makes a key pastoral contribution and ‘The Wounded Healer’ invites us to live authentically, using our own struggles for the benefit of others. ‘In the Name of Jesus’ demonstrates his awareness that leadership needs to model vulnerability. His own life is an example of vulnerability and I hope to understand him better and learn from him in reading ‘Beyond the Mirror’. I have the version included in ‘Reaching Out’ so I don’t have the Foreword but I’ll be interested in hearing others comments on this.
    Bereavement has been a significant part of my life personally and I’ve written a book ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ on my own grief experiences including the death of my mother as a child of 8 and the death of our 5 week old son, Michael. It will be good to explore together the impact on Nouwen of his own brush with death. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to join with you and learn together.

  16. Good morning.
    I have followed Henri Nouwen for many years through this website and his writings. He continually snaps me back in believing that I am a beloved daughter of God. As a resident of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I have the opportunity to enjoy nature in this wet tidal area. Looking forward to hearing insights about the ministry of this amazing man.

  17. Hi. Very timely that I chanced upon the email notification about the book discussion. The topic is very timely, too, given the pandemic where a lot of people have suddenly died and departed from their loved ones in a way that was so abrupt.
    I am from Vancouver, Canada. with 4 children and 8 grandchildren.
    I look forward to a very refreshing look at death.
    God bless.

  18. I live in NW Washington, close to the Canadian border. I taught many ages for over 40 years and am now retired. Henri Nouwen has been a mentor to me and I’ve been a part of two other book studies. Love to s read all your descriptions and intentions and I’m glad to join you.

  19. Hi Everyone, nice to read about all of you. I was introduced to Henri’s work through a Hopice service that used his one meditation as a source of comfort in 2015. It was on my wall for 6 years and I referred to it often in reflection.

    I finally googled him to learn more about him in my weekly discipline of posting quotes for inspiration and it has deepened my appreciation of his work. I just finished two of his books.

    I live outside of Philadelphia, I am an Educational Administrator with Penn State, and a Martial Artist. I strive to coach, serve and inspire the adult students that I am gifted to work with.

    Looking forward to learning more from all of you.

  20. I first read Henri Nouwen in the fall of 1976. “The Wounded Healer” was given to me by the pastor of my contextual site my first year in seminary. I’ll admit that I wasn’t moved by his writings. I’ve since thought it is because I was young and idealistic I had not yet been wounded deeply, especially by the church. Fast forward about a year and I stopped by the RC seminary in Collegeville, MN to have supper with a friend who was studying there as an exchange student (from a Lutheran seminary). He told me that before we ate he needed to drop off a paper at his professor’s place. We went to the apartment and the professor was Henri Nouwen, also “visiting” for that year. We spent quite a bit of the evening talking, about jazz, about art and his interest in writing a book on pastoral care based on the letters of Vincent van Gogh and his brother. Since then I’ve read quite a bit of his work, and have considered him a mentor and guide in spirituality. I participated in the Lenten book study this spring, and look forward to our time together. I will say that my commenting may be delayed. Tomorrow (9/2) my wife and I are heading north to Ontario cottage country for about 10 days. The views will be great but the wifi nonexistent. I look forward to reading your comments and insights when I can finally reconnect with cyberspace. We call Cleveland, OH home and enjoy life near Lake Erie with our 11 year old rescue dog, Winston.

  21. Good afternoon, all. I’m located in central NJ. Retired two years ago after 42 yr career, first 30 as technology executive and last 12 in senior living and care. My best friend and sweetheart of 24 yrs passed earlier this year. He was a prayerful, playful, partner who I met in Bible study. I’ve been on a beautiful spiritual journey the past 30 yrs. Henri Nouwen was one that I read a great deal in those early years and learned so much from his perennial wisdom. I recently renewed my acquaintance with his writings through the beautiful daily meditations. My days are filled with spiritual reflection, fitness, family and friends. With regard to this book study, I’m looking forward to a continued deepening with death and dying. I cared for my father, mother, and beloved partner as their bodies and minds gradually faltered and was at their sides when their huge spirits left their bodies that were no longer serving them.

    1. I, too, was privileged to be at my parents side at the time of death…my dad died in May of 2015 and my mom, just this past May, 2021. I continue to relive and reflect on the difficulty and profoundness of those moments in time with gratitude and a deepened sense/awareness of the fragility of life and ongoing life both here on earth and beyond. And I might add, privilege may not have been a realization earlier on, but as the years, months pass “privilege” best describes my response for being present in the Presence of God surrounding and enfolding, holding both dad and mom, body and soul in the palm of His sustaining hand, loving heart.

  22. Greetings from sunny Arizona (transplanted from Midwest in 1980’s)! I’ve reared children, worked as admin. assistant in varied settings, babysat young grandchildren, led women’s Bible classes, and now write and e-mail a weekly meditation to women. Helper to my husband with chronic condition, breakfast hostess to older grands. A long-ago co-worker introduced me to Henri Nouwen’s “The Wounded Healer,” and I’ve read other titles since then. A quote from his “Discernment” sums up my motivation in participating in this book discussion: “Who are my people, and what is my community? What is my deepest desire for my life and for the lives of those I love?” Ever learning. Sharon

  23. Hi all, A child of God, cis woman, wife, mother and grandmother of 7– I am all of these, basking in the sunshine by a northern Ontario lake in Canada. I first journeyed with Nouwen through his book on Prayer several years ago and I’m still working on it. As a retired paediatrician, reading the Mirror at first found me searching for more evidence of his “near death” experience, but then willed myself to let go the science and to be swept along in his genuine emotions and insights. I want to participate in his Invitation from God. I am confidant that a study of this book with all of you will help me in my ministry in palliative care and bereavement. Let’s begin! Mary

  24. Henri Nouwen is a new author for me, although I do have a couple of his books on my shelf – the latest a gift, You Are The Beloved. The truth of his September 1st reflection, Your Inner Community, touches me today as I consider our life in pandemic, my husband & myself…we truly are not alone, but interiorly, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, present & past! It will be a joy to be in community with others in this, my first reading experience, with Henri Nouwen. Married with grandchildren, I am a retired banker, committed to healing ministry, and a spiritual director with the Ignatian Spirituality Centre of Montreal.
    Salut bonjour with many blessings from Quebec!

  25. Hi I am a mother of four and a part time librarian in Saskatchewan, Canada. I started reading Henri Nouwen books after our pastor shared quotes of his on a Sunday morning and have been so touched by his insights I wanted to participate in this book discussion to see how others were inspired by his writing as well. I’m excited to be freed from ‘false identities we craft for ourselves’ and ‘walk through our mirrors into the real world of our true selfhood, designed by a loving God’ as I read through this book and share in the discussions.

  26. I live in Texas and have enjoyed receiving Henri Nouwen’s daily emails, finding them very inspiring and encouraging. I heard about this study and was able to get a copy of the book at the library, and I am looking forward to this online book discussion. I have been a caregiver to my son who as born with a life-threatening medical condition, and have a background in physical therapy. My hopes are to find a way to serve in hospice or palliative care settings, as a new career since my children are all adults now, combining my medical background and ministry experience. I look forward to meeting you all and reading this book together!

  27. Henri Nouwen’s books have inspired me for many years. I look forward to being part of this discussion. I live in a rural area in the Midwest USA. Being out in nature is helpful to my prayer life. Sun rises and sunsets draw me closer to God and all of creation. Blessings, Martha

  28. Good Morning,

    My husband and I live in Southern California. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen by a friend who persistently remarked that we had a shared spiritual perspective. This is my first book (I have a book of quotes). I just received my book from Amazon, but it does not have the forward only a prologue, so I will appreciate reflections on the forward. I dedicate this study in prayer to my husband and his return to ministry after retiring from 38 years in public education. I hope to deepen my inner connection and spiritual practice in the simple living of daily life. Deepest blessings to all . . .

  29. Good morning!
    I am a retired KG teacher living near Asheville, NC. I have loved reading Henri’s books for many years. They are still so meaningful and spiritually inspiring to me. I am married and when I am not spending time with my grandchildren, I love to get out in nature with Tucker, my English Cream Golden Retriever or sit and read with Chester, my fluffy ginger cat.
    I ordered the book and am looking forward to reading it with all of you.

    1. HI Janet,
      I have been to that area of the USA once and it is beyond beautiful!! God is an amazing Creator! Looking forward to reading the book together!

      1. I feel very blessed to live close to nature. I really feel God’s presence through Creation. I’m also looking forward to reading and discussing the book together!

    2. Hi, Janet. I will be traveling to your area at the end of October to visit friends who retired in the area last year. I’ve begun exploring areas to relocate within next few years as I’ve retired two years ago. I seem to be drawn to North Carolina. Looking forward to spending time there this fall

      1. We have many folks who have retired here. It is a beautiful place. I moved to this great retirement area when I was twenty two and have been here ever since.
        Safe travels to North Carolina, Donna!

  30. Simply, following a busy, busy summer, I found myself wanting to “avoid the mirror”:) So with this offering, I sense God inviting me to see, “beyond the mirror”…perhaps! I look forward once again with joining others in reading and reflecting upon Nouwen’s spiritual depth and insight, vulnerability and invaluable witness of living out the ways of Jesus, both in life and in death. Thank you from central Illinois!

    1. HI Marge,
      I agree that learning more on how to live our lives for Jesus, reflecting His image, while here on earth and in our dying days, is something I hope to reflect on more with this book study. Good to meet you! Side note- I was born in St. Louis! Kim

      1. Howdy from Texas! I’m a fan of Nouwen and all other fans of Nouwen. 🙂 He taught me to identify foremost as a beloved child of God, for which I am forever grateful. In addition to that, my gratitude runs deep for my roles as mom of three children, wife to my childhood sweetheart, recovering attorney, mentor and mentee. Before my grandmother passed almost twenty years ago, she mentioned how special Nouwen’s work was to her. She was special to me, so I wanted to see what she found appealing about him. I would later find his work to ring so true that I often choose it as a favorite source of spiritual nourishment. I am overjoyed to be a student on this journey with you all.

Leave a Reply

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