Dec 1st to Dec 7th—Advent Week 1: Introduction, The Invitation, The Call

Reading: Introduction; Chapter 1–The Invitation; Chapter 2–The Call. (p. 11 to p. 50)

It is into this deeply tired world of ours that God sends Jesus to speak
the voice of love. Jesus says, “Follow me. Don’t keep running
around. Follow me. Don’t just sit there. Follow me.”

– Henri Nouwen, (p. 12-13)

Thank you for all the wonderful introductions as we gathered.  It is always good to learn a little bit about the people sharing their Advent journey together. We have members in our global virtual community from all across Canada and the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and as far away as the United Arab Emirates.  We are enriched by your participation and the presence of those who are following along silently.

This week we jump into the text, and there is much to reflect upon. Henri begins the Introduction by asking a profound question of us and himself: “Are you following
Jesus? . . .  Are you a follower? Am I?” (p. 11) He later tells us, “This book has been written to help you and me to . . . hear that voice that whispers in your ear, “Follow me.”  (p. 13).  Henri hopes to guide us as we change from a life of restless wandering or boredom to one in which we follow Jesus and discover our true home. This week we hear the invitation to “come and see” and we have the opportunity to accept or ignore the call to “come follow me.”  Will we hear? How will we respond?

Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them. You are encouraged to share and discuss whatever came up for you in the readings. You are also welcome to share your reflections and insights prompted by the comments of others. The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion.

1. In Chapter 1 Henri illuminates Jesus’ invitation to enter the House of God. “This image of God inviting us to his home it used throughout scripture.” (p. 20) “Home is what the incarnation is all about.” (p. 21) “(W)e realize that we are God’s home and we that we are invited to make our home where God has made God’s home. We realize that . . . we are the place where God can dwell.” (p.22)

  • Ponder Henri’s understanding of the House of God. What is your response?
  • Does Henri’s view change your understanding of God’s presence in your life?
  • What practices do you already follow or will you adopt to, as Henri says, “waste time with Jesus?” (p. 27)

2. In Chapter 2 Henri asks us to imagine that we are in the crowd while Jesus is preaching about the Kingdom of God. And then Jesus shows the disciples what it means to live in the Kingdom world.  Henri says we should “take small steps away from ‘me’ and ‘my fears’ and toward the Lord. (p. 43) He continues, “Following Jesus means to live our life in his spirit, in his light, in his heart, but with our spirit, our light, and with our heart.” (p. 47)

  • What is your response to Henri’s suggestion to “take small steps?” How are you doing that in your life today?
  • What new small steps are you prepared to adopt to allow you to follow Jesus more closely?

3. Finally, in the Editor’s Note Gabrielle Earnshaw posed an important question that we will return to throughout the discussion: Do the issues Henri brings up connect with your own experience? If so, how?

We look forward to a wonderful week of sharing. Thanks again for being here.

Peace and all good.

P. S. (Added Wednesday) In comments below, both Holly and Elaine M mention the new movie about Mr. Rogers and his friendship with a journalist. You might be interested to know that Henri and Fred Rogers were friends. In the 2016 book Love, Henri – Letters on the Spiritual Life, also edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, Gabrielle writes, “Fred
Rogers. . . befriended Henri in 1984. The two men shared a friendship of letters and visits for the next twelve years.”

That book includes a letter by Henri to Rogers in response to some criticism Fred had received. Henri writes (in words that are certainly related to Following Jesus), “It has always struck me that the real pain comes often from the people from whom we expect real support. It was Jesus’ experience and the experience of all the great visionaries in the Church, and it continues to be the experience of many who are committed to Jesus.” Here is a photo of Henri and Fred in 1992.

Nov 27th to Nov 30th: Welcome and Introductions

Reading: Forward by Richard Rohr, OFM and Editor’s Note by Gabrielle Earnshaw

As much as I knew that Henri Nouwen was a spiritual writer, in real life he was spiritual seeker and believer—always filled with the desire for
more wisdom and for more capacity to love.
Richard Rohr, OFM from the Forward

A warm welcome to each of you—friends returning and people joining us for the first
time—as we gather at this “most wonderful time of the year” for a special book discussion. This Advent we have the rare opportunity to read and discuss a never-before published work by Henri Nouwen shortly after its release. 

Following Jesus – Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety is based on a series of six talks that Henri gave during Lent 1985 to an ecumenical community gathered in the basement of St. Paul’s Church near Harvard University where he was teaching.  This was an anxious time in Henri’s life as he was unhappy at Harvard and seeking a new direction. Four short months after giving these talks, Henri resigned from Harvard and joined the L’Arche community where over time he found the home he had been searching for.

Deftly transcribed and faithfully edited by Nouwen archivist and scholar Gabrielle Earnshaw, Following Jesus is Nouwen’s personal testimony about how to live a spiritual life. Through Scripture and his keen understanding of human nature and our woundedness, Nouwen gently guides us to follow Jesus in our anxious times by taking the six steps we will explore in the coming weeks.  As we journey toward Christmas together, perhaps we will come to understand, as Henri did, that “(Following Jesus is) to live fully in the present, because God is always the God of now, of here. The day in which we live is the day of the Lord.”

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

Beginning on December 1st and each Sunday during Advent, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page.  By clicking on the Home link in the black bar under the photograph at the top of the blog you will know you are in the current week. You can then click on the bold title to open the post and any comments. The title of post will include the dates and topics for the week ahead. The post will present a brief moderator’s reflection and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are encouraged to comment on the post, by responding to the suggested questions, by sharing their own reflections, or by replying to the comments of others.

To read the comments or to leave a comment of your own,  scroll down to the bottom of the post.  If you don’t see any comments, click on the small link at the bottom that says
## Comments.  To leave a new comment, continue scrolling down and use the “Leave a Reply” box.  To reply to someone else’s comment, click the Reply link directly below their comment and complete the box.  After you submit a new comment or a reply, I as moderator or Will at the Nouwen Society need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. The instructions on how to submit and reply to comments are also included at the bottom of the Reading Schedule (follow link in the black bar above). If you have any questions about the blog, please don’t hesitate to ask either by submitting a comment or sending me an email at the address in my bio below.

As we begin our journey together, it’s always nice to learn a little bit about each of you. Over the next few days you are encouraged to introduce yourself. You may choose to share:

  • Your general geographic location
  • To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why
  • How you came to “know/read” Henri Nouwen and whether or not you participated in a previous discussion.
  • What you hope to experience during this discussion
  • Any insights, thoughts, or questions that arose as you read the Forward by Richard Rohr and Gabrielle Earnshaw’s Editor’s Note.

Welcome to each of you and I look forward to your introductions!

We begin Following Jesus in earnest this Sunday, December 1st.  Join us.

In gratitude,

RAY GLENNON: Ray came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he discovered Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass at the cathedral in Singapore at an important point in his life. He began participating in Henri Nouwen Society book discussions in 2010 and has served as a moderator since 2014. He recently led a six-week adult education course on “Henri Nouwen and A Spirituality of Living.” Ray volunteers in his parish Confirmation program and other ministries. He and his wife are candidates in the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS). You may contact Ray by email at and you can follow him on Twitter at

Announcing the Nouwen Book Discussion for Advent

We are delighted to announce Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in and Age of Anxiety as the selection for our Advent 2019 online book discussion.

The year was 1985. It was an uncertain time in Henri Nouwen’s life. Two years earlier he had returned from a missionary effort in Peru to a prestigious teaching position at Harvard Divinity School. However, feelings of isolation and restlessness had followed him from South America, and the competitive and ambitious atmosphere of Harvard only added to his feelings of unease and loneliness.

During Lent of that year, Henri gave six talks at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Never one to shirk from asking the hard questions of faith, Henri used this opportunity to ask himself, as well as his listeners, how does one live and follow Jesus in anxious times. By articulating his vision for what it meant to be a follower of Jesus, Nouwen clarified his own vocational path. Less than four months after delivering these talks, he would leave his tenured position at Harvard to become the pastor for L’Arche Daybreak, one of a network of communities founded by Jean Vanier for and with people with intellectual disabilities.

Edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, Following Jesus artfully reveals what sustained Nouwen to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus and led him to become an icon of compassion and vulnerability. Henri speaks eloquently about calling and purpose, fear and hope. And he explains why—with so many choices available to the twenty-first-century seeker—the greatest reward for those looking for spiritual direction is rediscovering Jesus’s teaching on love.

Please join us on Wednesday, November 27th for greetings and introductions. Then beginning on Sunday, December 1st we’ll journey through the Advent season reading and sharing insights gleaned from this wonderful, never-before-published work of inspiration.

Following Jesus offers a compelling case for why Christianity is still relevant, beautiful, intelligent, and necessary in the modern world.

A reading schedule can be viewed by clicking on the Reading Schedule tab in the menu bar above. Facilitator Ray Glennon will prompt each week’s discussion by offering thoughtful questions and insights to get the discussion going.

The Advent online book discussion is a wonderful way to enhance your Christmas preparations and make this Advent particularly meaningful and memorable. We hope that you will join us!

Need a copy of the book? It is available at many bookstores, or you can order it online through the Bookstore tab in the menu bar above.