Mar 12th to Mar 18th: Third Week of Lent – The Middle Twelve Imperatives

ReadingThe Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
“Remain Anchored in Your Community” to “Claim Your Unique Presence in Your Community” (pages 45 to 69)

True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your
deepest self. It is a love in God . . . . God’s love is all the love you need,
and it reveals the love of God in the other. So the God in you
can speak to the God in the other. This is deep speaking
to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God,
who embraces both of you. (p.64)

On behalf of our Lenten community, I want to express our gratitude for another week of thoughtful, meaningful, and inspiring comments on Henri’s spiritual imperatives. I know that the thoughts posted here prompt me to go deeper in my own reflections. It is also a blessing to see our virtual Lenten community continue to grow closer together.

We are midway through our Lenten journey and this week we are reading and reflecting on the middle 12 of Henri’s 62 spiritual imperatives. My heart was draw to the quotation above taken from “Let Deep Speak to Deep.” Henri describes the profound reality that the (Spirit of) God present in me can speak to (or encounter) the (Spirit of) God present in another. For me, this is a key to understanding God, ourselves, and our relationship to others. As we read in Scripture, “God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16). In our polarized world, unfortunately including the church, a necessary, and at times difficult, first step for me is to allow the God that is in me to see the God that is in the other. For if I do not recognize another person as my brother or sister, I will not hear and be open to what is said when deep speaks to deep. This is an area where I know I struggle and it is a cause of loneliness for me, another key theme throughout our Lenten discussion. Which of Henri’s imperatives are touching your heart this week?

As we have been doing, during this Third Week of Lent you are encouraged to read and to reflect on the this weeks’ spiritual imperatives and share whatever touches your heart, issues arise, or insights you gain in the readings. This group is here to listen, encourage and support each other. Once again, here is a possible process you might consider.

  1. Briefly look over the twelve imperatives assigned to this week (pages 45 to 69), either by simply reading the title or by lightly skimming the text.  Don’t feel you need to closely read them all.  Remember Henri’s advice on p xxi…too much salt can spoil a meal!
  2. Select a few (perhaps 3 or 4) imperatives that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times.
  3. Consider:
    1. The 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 in this imperative? Has God touched your heart in other ways about this thought or concept (e.g., Scripture, spiritual reading, through another person)?
    4. How you will respond?  Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights and to move toward spiritual freedom in your life? Perhaps you would like to write your own Spiritual Imperative.
    5. Pray!
  4. Please share with the group to the extent you are comfortable. You might consider sharing on a single imperative per comment. If you have a second or third imperative that was meaningful to you, submit separate comments for each. As always you are invited to continue building our community by responding to what others have shared.

As always, you are encouraged to share whatever touched your heart during the week while reading Henri’s spiritual imperatives and the comments of others. I’m confident that our rich and spirit-filled discussion will blossom and be fruitful as we continue our Lenten journey together. Once again, thank you to all that have joined us. You bless us by your presence.

Peace and all good.

58 Replies to “Mar 12th to Mar 18th: Third Week of Lent – The Middle Twelve Imperatives”

  1. The thought that stands out to me is, “Stay United with the Larger Body.” I am aware of my need for connection but the notion that my journey is also theirs is new to me. I have not thought that perhaps they are also called to make new choices. I think that I should speak about my journey more often. Perhaps my experiences of depending discipleship will encourage someone else. I have been thinking of this as my personal journey, by myself. Time to expand my thinking to my faith community!

  2. Each spiritual imperative is so profound for me that I am planning to focus and write about each one over the couple of months after Lent. Why? Because each time I read one, it appears to be addressed to “Dear Joyce.” Thank you Henri!

  3. From “Claim your Unique Presence in Your Community” pg 67
    There were many things in this imperative that spoke to me this week. I currently hold a leadership role within our church and often feel inadequate for the task. God is teaching me that “for such a time as this” He has placed me in this role and I am to lean into it. I loved “when you are exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business”. The needs around me seem endless and the “Martha” in me desires to help. My need is for much discernment and ears to hear and eyes to see what God is asking of me to do and then to obey.

    I’m m not sure I agree with Henri’s statement “God does not require of you what is beyond your ability…” as I see many examples in scripture of God asking someone to do what was “impossible “ and beyond human ability which is exactly when we see God show up. Thinking of say David and Goliath…., even the people of Israel entering the promise land or in the New Testament, the Great Commission is beyond my ability. But…that’s when God shows up!

    “But your community also needs your creative absence” Jesus was a great example of this as He always took time to be alone with His Father. May I also do the same!

    Blessings all!

    1. My thought on what you said about Henri’s statement, “God does not require of you what is beyond your ability…”
      I see that as true because God has given us gifts that maybe we haven’t tapped into. God via many resources equips us because we know God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called and if more is needed — God shows up!
      I, too, have spent a lot of time seeing the need and trying to do everything I could — like you said — being Martha. Henri is helping me with that.

  4. Love Deeply. Those you love deeply become part of you.They become part of your inner community This segment brought depth to what I hear after loss that our loved ones Spirit is always in our heart .This is now our new relationship.God’s inexhaustible love continues .Our inner community ( our loved ones Spirit in our heart,the invisible) helps us to recognize our own brothers and sisters in the strangers around us.The visible .Those that are alive in you will recognize those who are alive around you.The pain of loss can become fruitful.This new relationship ( communion of saints) still propagates love .With that, our new relationship with our inner community grows .A love that offers eternal life.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with the idea of our deceased loved ones are joined in the community of saints. Whether canonized or not, they are the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

    2. Charles, I also found this connection of love and loss.
      It is a healing thought that “those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you.” My dad was diagnosed with ALS in 2018 and I, along with my siblings and mom, became a caregiver for him. When he passed away in 2020, I felt such an emptiness. As I read Love Deeply, I was comforted by the idea that he remains in me and even better, he allows me to be open to others I might not otherwise have recognized.
      Henri reminded me of this again in the imperative Let Deep Speak to Deep, “When the place where God dwells in you is intimately connected with the place where God dwells in the other, the absence of the other person is not destructive. On the contrary, it will challenge you to enter more deeply into communion with God, the source of all unity and communion of all people.” When we recognize this absence and even death become bearable, and eventually with time and reflection, they become opportunities for growth and unity.

  5. 63,Let Deep Speak to Deep “love” and “miss’ are many times turned into music words and tune happy or sad When Lent comes I let go and see how far I can go bringing out a new Deeper Self reaching deeper, clearing and cleansing. I turn back to see what remains… building it back into it,supporting it or continue to chip away.67,ClaimYour Unique Presence in Your Community right now I’m the one without a smart phone but soon will need one to open my front apt building for me no fun and I’m off with my 5G flip phone to buy and use a smart phone,I’m determined to see this happen(this entry is just news today)I see my unique self in the church community up for collection collecting and leaving mass early for work.Where ever I go my presence my talents are said to be Unique and so I too shall be.
    84 Control Your Own Drawbridge. This Lent I’ve given myself exercise; when fasting to observes Art Pictures one on a Van Gogh calendar, the other two on artistically
    pictured Celestial Seasonings boxes one for peppermint tea and Chamomile. I take tea and become filled with observation ,meditation and find closure with writing a short poem, The Van Gogh painting of a bridge is pictured on the March Calendar page ,not a drawbridge but I can include this picture and thought with the Nouwen passage in my meditations for Lent.

    1. Yes to the blessings of artful meditation. When paired with Scripture I find sacred space. You remind me of the song Bridge over Troubled Waters. Like a bridge I will lay me down. Christ promises to be that bridge for me during stormy times. With open heart I become the draw bridge ready to receive.

  6. My next door neighbor died two mornings ago.
    His daughter called to tell me of his transitus.
    Even when one knows its coming there is still the gasp in the moment.

    His daughter was shepherd for her mother a year prior and now her dad, she was stumbling under the weight of the question — what do I do now, after all of these years of caregiving what do I do now.

    And some how coming from the depths of my own questions, coming from Henri’s Imperatives, and coming from The Power of Silence — I answered, “you keep growing.” In all of her caregiving she was compelled to keep growing through the journey of the experience. The experience was the soil for your growth.”

    I was shocked to hear the certainty in my voice. So shocked I sat with the word Keep Growing in my heart giving the answer space to grow. Keep growing. Isn’t that what the Imperatives all speak to? Isn’t Henri sharing with us the way in which he continued to challenge himself to KEEP GROWING when every cell in his being wanted to stop growing. He found in the emptiness of the moment the food of growth, the grace of growth and continued to GROW through the rocky inhospitable soil of the experience.
    Consider Our Lord’s Passion. The Agony in the Garden. The Scourging at the Pillar. The Crowning with Thorns. The Carrying of the Cross and The Crucifixion. In every moment of each experience, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is growing. Bear witness to His choices of how He responds to the experience. The growth of response over reactions. The triumph of Love over violence. Growth! Our Lord chose growth, the growth of His Incarnation. Emmanuel, God with us and in us.

    Last night, I witnessed my neighbor’s daughter in celebration of her neighbor across the street’s new baby. There was the radiance of his joy bringing the baby out of the house, and Shelia’s joy as she reached out in welcome. Growth.

    1. Amazing how God puts the right words on your tongue when needed. You’re a great neighbor. Thanks for sharing.

    2. This is such a powerful reflection, Jean-Paul Marie Justin!
      I love pondering the Lord’s passion in the context of growth. Indeed our Lord and God chose to fully embrace his humanness with all its pain and suffering in order to be a model for us: how to live intently, how to forgive with grace, how to suffer purposefully, how to love deeply, how to GROW always!
      Thank you for your insight.

  7. I really appreciate Wendi’s noticing and Ray’s response plus John/others comments about posting drop-off. I too read all the material but don’t always respond. Often, it’s because of vocational commitments just not having the needed silence and space to reflect catalyzing a deeper truer heart response.

    I do have a suggestion though. I think three intentional Zoom meetings offered alongside reading/posting to faceless members could create a deeper connection between participants and lead to more commitment to posting and covenant to praying. The first meeting might be brief sharing of our stories, the second culling out a conversion moment in the readings, the final meeting offering celebrations, takeaways, suggestions and heartfelt goodbyes. Putting a face on people changes dialogue into community with deeper ccommittment.

    That said, it may not be feasible for the Henri Nouwen Society to host a group gathering of this size with it’s technology platform. I don’t know. But because the concept of embodiment is so central to Henri Nouwens teachings and the Apostle Pauls letters (longing to see people face to face) it could make a difference broadening community connection and cultivating community covenant. Just a thought.

    1. Thank you Beverly for your suggestion. We will certainly give that consideration going forward.

      A question for the group: Would there be interest in an optional Zoom conversation on Monday (4/3) or Tuesday (4/4) evening (during Holy Week, the final week of our discussion) where we might share our reactions to the book in a group discussion. We might could at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, which would be 5:00 p.m. on the West Coast. I would also be interested in hearing other suggestions. You can indicate your interest by replying to this comment. If your reply is simply indicating your interest and willingness to participate, I will not post those on-line. If you have comments or suggestions on Beverly’s idea or this reply, I will post them for others to react to.

      1. Hello Beverly and Ray, this sounds like a good idea. I think this is early morning my time zone so it works. Thank you very much!

      2. I like the idea of a Zoom meeting and will participate if it works with my schedule. I will probably be at work at the suggested time on either day, though. I often don’t get home until 9 pm Central time.

        I agree with Beverly that Zoom meetings would be a great way to get to know each other better. Perhaps in future years the online book club could begin with introductions via Zoom and conclude with a Zoom discussion of our key insights from the book.

        I also wonder if establishing the chat as a private online group (if this platform doesn’t make that possible it would be easy to set up a private Facebook group) would help more people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

        While I share deeply personal stuff online all the time in the articles I publish, others may not want the public to have access to their personal reflections, especially on a book like this one.

      3. Yes, I would be very interested in Zoom meetings for this group. The readings are dense and full of meaning. Interactive contemplation of these pearls would be most valuable.

  8. I have treasured Reading, re-reading and listening to our 12 Imperatives for this week, and chose these three to focus on:

    Live Patiently with the “Not Yet”
    —My grown-up self has to become very childlike–hospitable, gentle, and caring–so my anxious self can return and feel safe.

    Keep Moving Towards Full Incarnation
    —Unification of body and mind thru spirit (also in Becoming the Beloved)

    See Yourself Truthfully
    —Be willing to live my incompleteness; trust that God will give me the people who will show me the truth of who I am.

    Thank you all for providing this online community.

  9. In reflecting on Henri’s imperative, “Receive all the love that comes to you,” I focused on the idea of being patient and trust…love moves gradually.(p.55) He’s urged to let love in and be strengthened by it. This implies being open, ready to receive. Reminded me of another of Henri’s books on prayer titled,”With Open Hands.” To me he is suggesting to come before God not with clenched fists but with open hands to be filled with love. With that same posture, I need to encounter others ready to receive what goodness they have to offer.
    Henri says, “Hold to your chosen direction, discipline, work and guides…one day love will have conquered all of you, casting out all fear.” (P.56)
    So I ask myself:
    Do I keep moving forward toward love?
    Do I accept what love others offer or do I take it for granted or feel it is not enough?
    Do I harbor fears that make hold me back, make me hard-hearted?
    Much to ponder!

    1. How I loved the book With Open Hands. It was my introduction to Henri’s writings!

      I also love “…one day love will have conquered all of you, casting out all fear.”
      Your questions give me wonderful suggestions to ponder.

  10. I wish to respond to Wendi Gordon’s post about a decrease in the number of posts recently. As someone who benefits greatly from these group readings, having taken part in most of them (Advent and Lent), yet rarely posting, I wish to apologize for staying on the fringes. David S.’s post (Henri’s words too) about remaining in community certainly is a good reminder.
    As I reflect on these individual book chapters, it seems that they all apply to me and picking one to share on is challenging. Quite often, I read at 2AM, when I’ve awakened. It seems that God is most present to me at that time. It would seem that it should disturb my sleep requirements, given that I’m 82y/o, retired now 18 years but it never seems to. There’s always something new, exciting and enlightening about God which makes me fall in love with Jesus’s journey and example. Some nights it seems I read, and nothing happens, but I remind myself that this is a journey and not a one-night stand. There is no question in my mind that being part of this community is a great benefit to me. I keep reading because as part of you all, I am committed. And it spurs me on to belonging more fully in my more local communities.
    And, if I/you ever require validation or have doubts about the value and need for this community, I recommend that you reread this week’s posts, there are heartfelt sharing’s there, which Henri would be encouraged by if he were still with us. Thank you all for being part of this community. Please know that someone is praying for you all, most mornings at 2AM.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate your prayers and your wisdom. I hope I’m as gracious as you as I mature from 74 to 82.

    2. Thank you for your response, John. I agree there are still valuable and heartfelt posts being shared, and like reading this book with others. I just miss the earlier level of interaction, when we seemed to resonate with each other’s comments and there were sometimes multiple responses to a single post.

      My reaction brings with it an awareness that I am still far more reliant on external validation than I thought I was at this point. I want my validation to come from within, and from God’s voice calling me beloved.

    3. my dear beautiful friend
      I’m not able to find it again in the text, In The Power of Silence, Cardinal Sarah offers a joyful celebration of the call to night vigils. While looking for the section I kept coming across this phrase, stopping again and again on the same page. The key to the treasure is not the treasure. Night vigils are the treasure while the key may be a noisy neighbor, a weak bladder, or even snoring. Setting aside my grumbling over the “key” — my heart found the treasure of night vigils, a sharing in Our Lord’s Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane, a sharing in Mary’s Passion of Waiting at the Tomb of Holy Saturday. Your description of your night vigil conveys to me your simply resting in the Lord, your open hearted acceptance of God’s Love shining in those small hours of the night. It bears witness to the beauty of a heart keeping watch with the Lord. For this and so much more, I am truly grateful.

      A deep bow of gratitude dear beautiful friend in Christ Jesus for bearing witness
      if today you hear his voice
      harden not your heart

    4. John, This is such a heartfelt post. Thank you for your sensitivity to the Spirit that awakes you in the wee hours to listen and pray. I agree there is a stillness in the night that beckons like no other. To pray for others with these stirrings is such a sacred gift. I will remember when I awake that you are praying for us all. Thank you, Beverly

  11. It saddens me how a faith tradition so rich as Catholicism has been twisted by various human leaders over the centuries. So good to read that you are finding folks like Henri and others who keep the true message of Christ alive and well in the church. I find looking to the mystics throughout church history always inspires me; To see how He used them to keep His message of unconditional love and mercy alive during those dark times- St. Faustina, St Teresa of Lisieux, St Francis of Assisi, to name a few.
    He continues to use people like Henri, Fr Richard Rohr, Pope Francis, also people from other faith traditions… and you all to keep love and mercy central to Christianity. Thank you!!

    1. I agree, if it weren’t for these mystics Christianity would not have nearly the appeal to me that it does. I’m Protestant, but the two most influential living religious thinkers in my experience are Catholic priests, Nouwen and Richard Rohr, who seem to emphasize many of the same insights and look for inspiration to the same historical figures. I was happy to receive a report from Rohr’s organization that earlier this year Rohr had a personal audience with Pope Francis who encouraged him emphatically to “keep doing and teaching what you are teaching.” I’m sure he would have been strongly behind Nouwen as well.

    2. I agree with your sentiments about leadership in the Catholic church, Gina. The focus on judgement and rules verses love and mercy reminds me of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. This can be so alienating. This is why we turn to the others that you mention for inspiration and belonging.

  12. Learning to “LOVE DEEPLY” has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. Not until my adult life did I really come to know what real love entails. A wonderful friend saw in me what I could not see in myself and “chipped” away at my heart until I finally realized what I was missing by being afraid of love, and my life totally changed. When she died after a 42 year friendship, I felt more strength to “Love Deeply” and found myself reaching out in ways like she did. The sense of her spirit and God’s overwhelming presence in my life is total gift for me. I have many a moment of a little laugh as I find myself open and ready for whatever God is up to in my life. Can’t wait to see what is next!!

  13. Question for Ray and others who have been in previous book discussions here: I noticed there were only half as many comments last week than there were the week before. Has that been the case in previous book discussions? If not, I’m curious about what the reason for that sharp decline might be, and whether participants have dropped out of the group or just chosen to read comments without sharing their own.

    1. Wendi — I wondered the same. I wondered if in moderation “subgroups” were created, or if posts were being deleted rather than posted for failure to comply with a direct relation to Henri’s text. After that — I ran out of speculations for a reason. As for me, since I’m not posting to individual Imperatives and the rather am pondering the patterns of the whole body of Imperatives, I will probably not be posting going forward.

      1. Oh, you should keep posting! You have made some interesting comments. It’s kind of human nature to start strong and then sort of fade away from endeavors like this.

    2. Wendi,
      Thanks for the question. The pattern that you are seeing is typical of previous book discussions. We typically see a drop off in the number of posted comments over the course of the discussion. For me this isn’t surprising or concerning. As a reader myself, I am often more enthusiastic and engaged at the beginning of the book. My juices are flowing and I want to read and the comments from others inspire me to do that. As the discussion continues, a person may continue to read the book but, for whatever reason, they may not check the blog site as often as they do in the beginning. I am also aware of a number of people that refer to the blog posts, read the book being discussed, but then don’t actually post their comments. And that’s OK. Just a quick note to Jean-Paul, we do not segment into various discussion groups and all comments are reviewed and posted.

      If others have ideas or suggestions on how we can keep the reader engagement at high level, please let us know.

        1. I have also noticed that pattern. For myself, I am reading and also following the discussion comments/ posts, yet not having posted myself since the start. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments.

  14. There are two imperatives that are speaking to me. The first is “Stay with your pain” when Henri writes, “It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing.” The second goes along with this and is “Stand Erect in Your Sorrow” – “The question is, Can you stand erect in your pain, your loneliness, your fears, and your experience of being rejected? The danger is that you will be swept off your feet by these feelings. They will be here for a long time, and they wil go on tempting you to be drowned in them. But you are called to acknowledge them and feel them while remaining on your feet.”

    The experience of pain/sorrow I am dealing with is there is a definite longstanding loneliness after the loss of my husband. Then there was the possibility of a new relationship a few years ago with someone from my past who I cared deeply about, but it did not work out. That just compounded the loneliness and pain. And it is easy to go to fantasies about what life would be like if my husband were still alive or if this second relationship had worked out.

    I find Henri’s words comforting is that he encourages me not to push the feelings down and pretend they aren’t there but also not to drown in them. It’s like a mindful awareness that I can’t rush to figure out how to fulfill the feelings or try to fulfill with things that won’t bring lasting joy, but instead to make it available for God’s healing in whatever form that takes perhaps in a purely spiritual way, perhaps working through a person.

    In the same vein while acknowledging the pain, I am encouraged to stand erect in it – I take this to me to not be crushed by it and to keep on keeping on, to bear it by continuing to bring it to God and God’s healing presence. I need to see it as one aspect of my being along with many others that are also present – joy in my family and friends, etc.

    1. You’re right, Joanne- continuing to bring pain to God definitely heals. In His presence, I find a “safe haven” where I can express my feelings honestly. When a person, or people direct (s) their anger, frustration, etc. at me, for no other reason that I’m the one in their path at that particular moment, it has nothing to do with me as a person. God defines each person, and neither my limitations nor another person’s limitations will change that. This is what Henri means when he says, “Keep remembering that God will truly fulfill all your needs.”

      1. Thank you, Sr. Lisa, I appreciate your comments. “Keep remembering that God will truly fulfill all your needs” meaning that nothing stops God’s love and healing is really resonating with me. The grace I’ve been praying for lately is to cooperate with God’s transforming love in me and the world – to do what is mine to do to bring it about. It is comforting to sit with the fact that my limitations will not stop or prevent God’s continual flow and. movement in the world. I’m grateful to you! Blessings.

        1. “The grace I’ve been praying for lately is to cooperate with God’s transforming love in me and the world – to do what is mine to do to bring it about.” Indeed powerful, hopeful, and trusting.

  15. Something different I noticed in this week’s imperatives is Henri’s attention to community. So much of his focus up to now has been on individual pain, loneliness, rejection, solitude. “Remain Anchored in Your Community,” he writes here. “Think about your community as holding a long line that girds your waist. Wherever your are it holds your line.”

    Later he writes, “You still have to make the great passage, and that might not happen without a lot of new distress and fear. Through all of this, it is important for you to stay united with the larger body and know that your journey is made not just for yourself but for all who belong to the body.”

    Finally, “Your Community needs you, but maybe not as a constant presence….You might need certain things that the community cannot provide. For these you may have to go elsewhere from time to time. This does not mean that you are selfish, abnormal, or unfit for community life. It means that your way of being present to your people necessitates personal nurturing of a special kind.”

    Living in community is hard and we know Henri struggled with it, even as he found his calling at L’Arche. I often struggle with balancing the needs of community, whether church or family, against the need for solitude, to reflect and work on my spiritual life, to find ways to accept God’s love. Communities can provide security and support, but also distraction and irritation.

    1. Excellent observation David. Community was something that Henri searched for his entire life. And even after he found it, Henri didn’t always live community well, according to his close friend and L’Arche leader Sr. Sue Mosteller. For those that might be interested, Sr. Sue Mosteller played a key role in Henri’s recovery during the time he was away from L’Arche and writing these spiritual imperatives. Henri alludes to the significance of her role in the Introduction to The Return of the Prodigal Son (p.21)

    2. Henri urges: “You still have to make the great passage, and that might not happen without a lot of new distress and fear. Through all of this, it is important for you to stay united with the larger body and know that your journey is made not just for yourself but for all who belong to the body.”
      I reflected on “staying united with the large body” which Henri deems important. I have a dozen prayer partners who will receive my requests and give prayer support. We belong to the same parish and pre-pandemic met frequently to share Sunday Gospel. Now we text each other. Not the same as face to face but does seem workable.
      P.58 Henri says that my choices affect the choices others make. He warns that friendsmay be puzzled or disillusioned by what is happening to me. (P.57)
      During the time of pandemic when church attendance was limited, I took advantage of the numerous video offerings of Sunday worship. Viewing with a virtual community was strange at first but then more acceptable.When church attendance was opened up, I chose to be at the screen not in the pew. Tere were several medical issues I had to address. Healing times in between surgeries made me cautious of being in groups. What was happening to me?
      I tried to explain to other go-ers without tedious details. Some understood; others not.
      Now that I’m back in the pew, I’m hearing “good to see you” and “where have you been” from persons I know. Does the importance of community lie in the receiving or the giving? I think both. During our gathering I look around at others I’ve not seen in quite some time. If out on the street, I might not recognize them? Older, frail, walking with cane, slimmer or not so slim!
      I know that the L’Arche community helped Henri “out of the depths.” His experience with them changed him and they were changed by his presence.
      Henri reminds me that whether I am aware of it or not, I am asking my community to walk along with me on my faith journey. (P.58) I hope I can remember how valuable the larger body is, especially when I hear someone’s cell phone going off in church!

    3. Thank you for this insight. For the past two weeks, I’ve had my three year old grandson with me full time because he’s been sick and can’t be around his newborn brother. I have struggled with balancing his needs with my needs to pray and reflect. I say struggle, but it’s not really, because Stephen’s needs prevail every time. It’s just difficult “being in community” with him 24/7 and having my rhythm so disrupted. My challenge is to view this time as every bit being God’s presence as much as private prayer/reflection/journaling. Taking care of Stephen’s physical and emotional needs is a way to see God’s face. And sometimes I am just stopped in awe to think that God chose to come into the world in this way – as an infant and child completely dependent on the adults around him for support, love and caring.

  16. “Keep returning to the road to freedom.” “The spiritual task is not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source.” Remembering that Jesus lived, suffered and died for us, for me, as a human being is a truth that has helped me navigate difficulties and loneliness many, many times. Choosing to get caught up in distractions or turning inward simply doesn’t work. It only compounds the problem. So, I’m very grateful for this book.

  17. A concern of mine is vocation, what am I to do with the rest of my life? A Henri Nouwen meditation that just came out on March 10 was also helpful for me to reflect upon: “The life of Jesus tells us that not being in control is part of the human condition. His vocation and ours are fulfilled not just in action, but also in passion, waiting….If it is true that God in Jesus Christ is waiting for our response to divine love, then we can discover a whole new perspective on how to wait in life. We can learn to be obedient people who do not always try to go back to the action but recognize the fulfillment of our deepest humanity in passion, in waiting. If we can do this, I am convinced that we will come in touch with the power and the glory of God and our own new life. Our service to others will include our helping them see the glory breaking through—not only where they are active but also where they are being acted upon. And so the spirituality of waiting is not simply our waiting for God. It is also participating in God’s own waiting for us and in that way coming to share in the deepest love, which is God’s love.” To me, this writing is so pertinent and I wonder about the relationships Henri Nouwen had which brought him to this wisdom, Adam?, others? The imperative that provides guidance to me is Love Deeply. “the more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. They will become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you….the wider your inner community becomes, the more easily you will recognize your own brothers and sisters in the strangers around you. Those who are alive within you will recognize those who are alive around you.” I actually find this language very comforting. I know that I have gone through experiences of love but at the same time suffering and sorrows and often am in need of courage to claim what to me seems to be of God and especially to integrate in a real and healthy way and which I hope is beneficial to others I come in contact with. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish among the voices or the different agendas in church and/or society but I seem to trust Nouwen’s voice and find it helpful. Thanks always for guiding us in reading and reflecting upon what he writes.

    1. Thank you for this. I am nearing my retirement after 37 years in my profession. I am pondering many of these same thoughts you have expressed. I trust God will lead me in this next chapter as He has most if my life ( when I have chosen to listen that is;)
      For all if us at a crossroads or beginning a “new chapter “ I pray:
      May you let God unfold your wings to allow His warmth and light to saturate your being and enable you to fly! Blessings!

      1. I can relate to both Gina and Sharon’s thoughts in the above posts. I will be retiring this summer and I am resisting having my void filled by other people in my life, the “when you retire you can…..” I pray that God graces me with patience to live with the “not yet” and reveal the path to my next chapter (my next vocation).

        1. I can definitely relate to that Lyne! Our schedule has been defined for so long by our obligations of work; it is going to take a lot of spiritual discipline to follow What God has planned and not what our ego dictates; whatever that may be. Let’s pray for each other! Life is so short- let’s pray that we can live this next chapter to its fullest which is in listening and responding to what He plans for each new day. Blessings in your next chapter as you learn to begin again!

        2. I can relate to all of you, Gina, Sharon and Lyne, as I a newly retired. I feel I am floundering without my people and purpose. For years I wanted more time and now that I have it I find myself stifled by the sheer amount of time. Talk about irony! It is my hope that God will provide direction. I just have to remember to listen!

    2. “A concern of mine is vocation, what am I to do with the rest of my life?” I am there at age 74. Discerning, Waiting, Trusting! What a process. Aging is interesting to say the least. Thanks for sharing!

  18. “Go into the place of your pain.” (P.26)Henri’s pain was emotionally based because a friendship was interrupted. He says,”Bring your body Home.” (P. 19) I am wondering how this links to the physical pains of aging? As my years are added, so are loss of mobility, prescribed meds, functional wekaness and fatigue. I’ve heard some who counsel to “claim your pain.” Name your pain and go forward. Yet the chronic condtions continue. What guidance was Henri given when his emotional pain began to affect his physical life? (Intro p. xiv)
    Imperative:Stay with your Pain and allow it to be there(P.47)-Henri’s pain of loneliness was intense when his friendship was broken. He is reminded that no human being can heal that pain. God’s healing will come through people who will offer you the deep sense of belonging you desire. (P.48)
    My older sister and husband led active lives with their large family of six children.
    Now in their ninth decade, they are homebound, relying on nearby daughter and husband, for help along with Home Health Aide. On Sundays a minister from their parish brings Eucharist. They are blessed to have a strong supportive family. I know that Henri did not live to endure the aging process. Just verbalizing my thoughts about his pain…how did he stay with it until he could let go and be free of the burden.
    He did have guides. Not mentioned if they were medical or spiritual advisors.

    1. dear liz:
      I too am trying to “translate” Henri’s Imperatives into the context of aging.
      I ask :
      when does growing become aging?
      when does aging become dying?
      is this a new normal for my body or is it in fact as good as it will ever be from here on?
      does my Palm Sunday begin now, in this moment of epiphany or – with a diagnosis or the proverbial fall that seems to precipitate the oft described physical downward spiral.
      Will my Holy Week be years in unfolding or a matter of days?
      I find it helpful if I consider the Imperatives with the broader brush strokes that would attend Vocational Call.
      I will tell you this liz, I find the Imperatives scarey helpful if recognize myself standing at the Gates of Jerusalem. I find the Imperatives scarey helpful if I provide that vivid a context for them. I think then of Henri as one of my “guides”. Andre Louf is another. Cantalamessa. Dom Henry Wansbrough another. They are members of my Council of Fathers — each one found me and though we’ve never had lunch there is Communion. They help me integrate my experience they do not seed a new experience. That’s an important quality to my relationship with them.
      My Mum, lived to be 101 and among her great burdens was the loss of relationship after relationship after relationship. Some died. Some moved away to be closer to “caregivers”. Some just disappeared between Christmas Cards. Some of us will never forgive a spouse for being the first to die. While others of us will never know that it was stroke that silenced a friendship of 50 years. Palm Sunday happens, ready or not.
      Dear liz, I can’t sustain the view from the Gates of Jerusalem but for a few moments. The Imperatives then work best for me when I don’t isolate them individually but allow their interrelatedness to point me toward embracing the reality of Holy Week, my Holy Week, and the Holy Weeks I will bear witness to in the days and years to come.
      I find I can’t write about individual Imperatives. What I am able to do is ponder them in my heart within the context of my Holy Week. When I do that, they are speaking volumes and I listen with the ear of my heart.
      There is one thing — no one ever mentioned. Profound things began to happen when I began to celebrate annually my Sacrament Encounters with the Blessed Trinity… Baptism, Confirmation, The Eucharist.

      1. Thank you for sharing your insights. I like the idea of my Holy Week. Praise followed by betrayal then suffering, dying and rising.
        Sacramental encounters are important events!

  19. How I relate to that black soul message received as a child. We were told to think of Confession as a washing machine. Thank God for Prodigal lessons about God’s mercy.
    As to the busy door, mine harkens back years in teaching. Being productive meant good results when students were tested. Some lessons had to be retaught using different materials or methods or change of environment. My plan book outlined lessons for the week. Often my expectations for what would be covered fell short. Lessons then extended into next week.
    My Plan book now in retirement is much more fluid and less packed.
    With God’s grace leading me through prayer, I am less concerned about the “to do” and more aware of the “to be” here and now.
    Not always but I’m going onward, even though I may make two steps backwards for every one ahead.

  20. “the door of immediate satisfaction”: I can be patient when I know that hard work and persistence will likely lead to a positive outcome in a worthy project. I am less patient when I am injured or ill or in intense physical pain. I pray that the pain will end so that I can go back to doing “productive” work. As Henri says throughout his writing, there are lessons in the pain and patience that we often miss.
    “the door of distracting entertainment”: I am distracted not by entertainment but by my worries or my preoccupation with my to-do list. That point segues nicely into a consideration of what Henri calls “the door of busyness.” Which things on my to-do list are most motivated by love of God and neighbor, and which are motivated more by a need to feel accomplished and competent? Which lead me, as Henri says, to “go deeper into the heart of God”?
    “the door of guilt and worry”: Older Catholics like me may have been influenced by those images in the First Confession preparation book depicting the totally “blackened “souls of seven-year-old children whose childish sins had made them spiritually unfit for God. My soul was “black” because I had sassed my mother or been cranky with my little brother. If I didn’t make a perfect Act of Contrition, I was still bound at least for a long stint in purgatory. Yes, God was a forgiving God, but the idea of His boundless love and mercy was overshadowed in my young mind by His need to mete out just punishments. In adulthood, what a blessing to have images like that of Henri’s depiction of the prodigal son’s father to flip the focus to the God of boundless love and acceptance.

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