Henri Nouwen

ADVENT MEDITATION: Waiting For God by Henri Nouwen

December 1, 2018

From Finding My Way Home Waiting is not a very popular attitude.  Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy.  In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time.  Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going!  Do something!  Show you are able to make a difference!  Don’t just sit there and wait!”  For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.  And people do not like such a place.  They want to get out of it by doing something. In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful.  One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear.  People are [...]

PRAYER: Ebb And Flow by Henri Nouwen

May 2, 2016

Dear Lord, Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of [...]

HEALING: The Men And Women Of Tomorrow, by Henri Nouwen

July 17, 2015

From The Wounded Healer If the men and women of today are often thought of as anonymous members of [David] Riesman’s lonely crowd, the men and women of tomorrow will be the children of this lonely crowd.  When we look into the eyes of young people, we can catch a glimpse of at least a shadow of their world.  Christian leadership will be shaped by at least three of the characteristics which the men and women of tomorrow share: inwardness, fatherlessness, and convulsiveness.  The minister of tomorrow must indeed take a serious look at those characteristics in his reflections and planning. One: The inward generation In a recent study of today’s college generation, published in October 1969, Jeffrey K. Hadden suggests that the [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Concluding Prayer, by Henri Nouwen

April 4, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Dear Jesus, You once were condemned; you are still being condemned.  You once carried your cross; you are still carrying your cross.  You once died; you are dying still.  You once rose from the dead; you are still rising from the dead. I look at you, and you open my eyes to the ways in which your passion, death, and resurrection are happening among us every day.  But within me there is a deep fear of looking at my own world.  You say to me: “Do not be afraid to look, to touch, to heal, to comfort, and to console.”  I listen to your voice, and, as I enter more deeply into the painful, but also hope-filled lives of my fellow human beings, I know that I enter more deeply into your heart. My fears, dear [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fifteen — Jesus Rises From The Dead, by Henri Nouwen

April 3, 2015

From Walk With Jesus The Indian people of South America radiate deep inner joy and peace.  The straw crosses they have woven symbolize their hardships and struggles.  The long palm leaves that they flourish manifest their sense of victory and triumph.  Yes, there is sadness, but gladness too.  Yes, there is grief, but joy as well.  Yes, there is fear, but also love.  Yes, there is hard work, but celebration follows.  And, yes, there is death, but also resurrection. The smiles breaking through the weathered faces of the women and men walking in procession speak of a deep faith in the resurrection.  It is a faith that not only trusts that life is stronger than death, but also offers a foretaste of the joy that will last forever. [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Fourteen — Jesus Is Laid Into The Grave, by Henri Nouwen

April 2, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Ayoung Salvadoran woman stands in front of the casket that holds the body of her cruelly executed husband.  She stands alone near the grave into which the casket will be lowered.  Her eyes are closed, her arms folded across her body.  She stands there barefoot, poor, empty. . . but very still.  A deep quiet surrounds her.  No shouts of grief, no cries of protest, no angry voices.  It seems as if this young widow is enveloped in a cloud of peace.  All is over, all is quiet, all is well.  Everything has been taken away from her, but the powers of greed and violence that robbed her of her lover can’t reach that deep solitude of her heart.  In the background stand her friends and neighbors.  They form a [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Thirteen — Jesus Is Taken From The Cross, by Henri Nouwen

April 1, 2015

From Walk With Jesus In December 1980, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel were brutally murdered on the road between the airport and San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador.  They had been stopped by Salvadoran security forces as they returned to their home after a short stay outside of the country.  They were raped, tortured, and killed, and their bodies thrown into a common grave dug in a cow pasture.  What was their crime?  They had cared for the poor of El Salvador.  They had tried to bring food and medicine to the people who had been driven from their homes and villages and were trying to survive in isolated mountain areas.  These four faithful, hardworking churchwomen had no other desire than to [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Twelve — Jesus Dies On The Cross, by Henri Nouwen

March 31, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Death, destruction, and annihilation surround us on all side.  Much, if not most, of the Earth’s resources are used in the service of death.  The war industries eat up huge amounts of the national income of many countries.  The stockpile of conventional and nuclear weapons increases day by day, and whole economies have become dependent on the ever-increasing production of lethal materials.  Many universities, research institutions, and think-tanks receive their financial support from warmakers.  Millions of people earn their daily living by turning out products which, if ever used, could only produce death. But the power of death is much more subtle and pervasive than these explicitly brutal forces of [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Eleven — Jesus Is Nailed To The Cross, by Henri Nouwen

March 30, 2015

From Walk With Jesus ASudanese man is dying.  He is alone.  He has no name.  He is one of the many dying in a large hospital.  He is number 42.  The intravenous tube is like his last lifeline.  But it won’t save him.  All his strength is gone.  His thin arms and emaciated shoulders reveal how far spent he is.  Everyone around him knows that his last hours have come.  He, too, knows it, but he is not afraid.  Life has not been easy for him.  It has been a life of poverty, many battles, and few victories. He was afraid of sickness and pain.  But he is at peace with the knowledge that it soon will be over. People are dying every day, every hour, every minute.  They die suddenly or slowly.  They die on the streets of big [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Ten — Jesus Is Stripped, by Henri Nouwen

March 27, 2015

From Walk With Jesus The woman in a hospital ward in Kathmandu has nothing but a blanket to cover her aging body.  Her long life of work in the fields and caring for her husband and children has come down to a naked, anonymous existence.  Her life, once filled with joyful sounds and colorful movements, now has fallen silent.  Where is the husband who honored her, and the children who gave her joy and pleasure?  Where are the neighbors who came for her advice?  Where the rivers with their sonorous rapids and the hills bedecked with greens and flowers in the spring?  Everyone and everything has been stripped away from her.  One day some strangers came to her village and brought her to the city hospital and locked the door of the [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Nine — Jesus Falls For The Third Time, by Henri Nouwen

March 26, 2015

From Walk With Jesus A man stumbles and falls to the ground.  He is so weak and filled with pain that he cannot get back on his feet without help.  As he lies there powerless, he reaches out and opens his hands, hoping that another hand will grasp his and help him to stand again.  A hand waits for the touch of another hand.  The human hand is so mysterious.  It can create and destroy, caress and strike, make welcoming gestures and condemning signs; it can bless and curse, heal and wound, beg and give.  A hand can become a threatening fist as well as a symbol of safety and protection.  It can be most feared and most longed for. One of the most life-giving images is that of human hands reaching out to each other, touching each [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Eight — Jesus Meets The Women Of Jerusalem, by Henri Nouwen

March 25, 2015

From Walk With Jesus The Nicaraguan women weep over the destruction of their people, their land, and their homes.  Their children, whom they nursed and brought up with tenderness and affection, suddenly lie dead before them.  Their husbands, with whom they shared life’s hardness and beauty, are suddenly taken away to unknown destinations.  Their land is ruined, their crops burned, their houses bombed.  And so they weep.  Their tears are tears that well up from their innermost being.  There are no words, no explanations, no arguments, no meaningful reflections.  War, violence, murder, and destruction need tears, many tears.  The questions, “Why?  By Whom?  For what purpose?” have no answers. The world would be [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Seven — Jesus Falls For the Second Time, by Henri Nouwen

March 24, 2015

From Walk With Jesus The poor farmer in Brazil is completely exhausted.  He has worked on the land for hours, days, weeks, and months to earn enough for himself and his family to have a decent meal.  But after many years of hard labor nothing has improved.  The crops are poor because of the exhausted soil he has to work.  He cannot compete with those who can afford modern agricultural techniques to improve the land.  The money he receives for his produce is so little that he cannot even pay off the debt he has incurred to keep his wife and children alive.  And every year the situation gets worse.  He faces the possibility of having to leave his little farm and join the millions of poor in the slums around the large cities.  There [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Six — Jesus Meets Veronica, by Henri Nouwen

March 23, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Bring him home!”  That is the cry of the Filipino woman who holds in her hands a photograph of her “disappeared” husband.  Her eyes plead for compassion.  Her lips express deep grief.  Her face is full of expectation.  She says, “Do you see my pain, my anguish?. . .  The one I most love has disappeared.  There is no second of my days or nights that is not filled with the anguish created by his sudden going.  Where is he?  In prison?  Being tortured?  Dead or alive?  Please answer me!  If he is dead, tell me where his grave is so that I can go and weep there.  You people of world!  Listen to me!  Look at me!  Please answer!” This Filipino woman represents thousands of [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Five — Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross, by Henri Nouwen

March 20, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Two men are working together in Bangladesh to build their small huts.  These huts are very simple, made of mud, bamboo, rocks, and jute sticks, but they are places where poeple can have a sense of home and live together under a protective roof.  As I look at these two men carrying together their heavy load of rocks, I am struck by the harmony of their bodies.  It seems almost as if they are dancing.  Their heavy load seems to become a light burden, a basket of fruit. As I think of the highly competitive society in which I live, in which land gets more expensive day by day and in which developers build rows of houses to be sold for half a million dollars each, I feel a certain envy toward these [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Four — Jesus Meets Mary, by Henri Nouwen

March 19, 2015

From Walk With Jesus ANicaraguan woman who lost her son in the war is filled with deep sorrow, but she does not faint.  She looks me straight in the eyes with an immense confidence that there is victory beyond death. I vividly remember meeting the mothers of slain Nicaraguan farmers in Jalapa, a small town close to the Honduran border.  I was with a group of North Americans who felt co-responsible for the war whose victims these farmers had become.  One of us asked them, “Can you forgive us for the violence you and your family have suffered?”  There was a long silence. . . but then one of the women said with a strong voice, “Yes, we forgive you,” and the others repeated her words, “Yes, we forgive [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Three — Jesus Falls For The First Time, by Henri Nouwen

March 18, 2015

From Walk With Jesus Alittle Vietnamese boy is left behind.  Why?  Maybe his parents were killed, abducted, or put in camps.  Maybe they tried to escape from the enemy and got caught in an ambush.  Maybe they were boat people who drowned,.  Maybe, maybe. . . but their child is left alone.  As I look into these eyes gazing into an empty future, I see the eyes of millions of children crushed by the powers of darkness.  This small, tender child needs to be held, needs to be hugged, kissed, cuddled.  He needs to feel the strong, loving hands of his father, hear the tender words of his mother, and see the eyes of those who say: “How beautiful you are.”  Where will this boy be safe?  Where will he know that he is truly [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Two — Jesus Carries His Cross, by Henri Nouwen

March 17, 2015

From Walk With Jesus A young Guatemalan carries a heavy load of wood.  The wood is for coffins to bury the Indian men who have been kidnapped, murdered, and found dead on the side of the road, or to bury the children who could not survive the diseases that touched them as soon as they were born.  It happened many years ago when the international press reported it with great indignation.  It happens still today when the subject is no longer newsworthy and remains hidden from the eyes of the world. Young men are murdered with guns, knives, and electric prods.  Small children die from malnutrition, dehydration, and lack of care.  Day after day, violence and poverty bring death to the little villages of Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: One — Jesus Is Condemned, by Henri Nouwen

March 16, 2015

From Walk With Jesus A man behind bars. He is condemned to death. He is put in the category of the “damned.” He is no longer considered worthy to live. He has become the enemy, the rebel, the outsider, a danger to society. He has to be put away, cut out of the communal life. Why?  Because he is different.  He is black, and blacks are dangerous.  He is gay, and gays are perverts.  He is a Jew, and Jews cannot be trusted.  He is a refugee, and refugees are threats to our economy.  He is an outsider, saying what we do not want to hear, and reminding us of what we would rather forget.  He upsets our well-ordered lives.  He tears aside the veil that covers our impurities and breaks down the walls that keep us safely [...]

LISTENING: Listening To Henri by Kevin Burns

June 14, 2014

From Genius Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen I never met Henri.  I remember reading his books and articles back in the 1980s when I lived in western Canada.  I recall thinking of him as a part of the Catholic furniture, someone who was just “there” whenever I took the time to notice.  He was a familiar presence in the press.  I can remember hearing him on the radio and seeing him in a few television clips.  He was that Catholic priest and writer who instead of wearing a collar wore a long knitted scarf and who would come up with a new book every few years.  Each new work would receive a lot of attention in both mainstream and Catholic newspapers, back in that pre-internet era.  Canadian Catholic journalism [...]

THE PRODIGAL SON: Walk With Me Into The Story by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 24, 2014

From Home Tonight Read with a vulnerable heart.  Expect to be blessed in the reading.  Read as one awake, one waiting for the beloved.  Read with reverence. (A Tree Full of Angels, by Macrina Wiederkehr) From the outset I encouraged you to allow the Scripture story of the return of the prodigal son to descend into you – to move from your mind into your heart – so that images in this story become etched in your spirit. I trust that something new will be born in you that is very different from what happened in me; something that is yours alone.  Simply know that how you receive this parable is truly important.  The parable and the painting [Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son] are inviting you in, calling you to [...]

PEACE: Thomas Merton’s Call To Contemplation And Action by Henri Nouwen

January 24, 2014

From The Road to Peace A reading from the Second Letter of Peter: This point must not be overlooked, dear friends.  In the Lord’s eyes, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day.  The Lord does not delay in keeping his promises – though some consider it “delay.”  Rather, he shows you generous patience, since he wants none to perish but all to come to repentance.  The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and on that day the heavens will vanish with a roar: the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the Earth and all its deeds will be made manifest. Since everything is to be destroyed in this way, what sort of men and women must you be!  How holy in your conduct and devotion, looking for the coming [...]

SATURDAY READING: From Fear To Love, by Henri Nouwen

November 23, 2013

From Spiritual Formation The Fearful Hoarders Once there was a group of people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: “How can we be sure that we have enough in hard times?  We want to survive whatever happens.  Let us start collecting food and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs.”  So they started hoarding, so much and so eagerly that other people protested and said: “You have much more than you need, while we don’t have enough to survive.  Give us part of your wealth!”  But the fearful hoarders said: “No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us too, in case our lives are threatened.”  But the others said: “We are dying now; [...]

LENT: Thursday of the Fourth Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 14, 2013

From Show Me The Way How can you believe since you look to each other for glory and are not concerned with the glory that comes from the one God? —John 5:44 I have gradually become aware how central this word glory is in John’s Gospel.  There is God’s glory, the right glory that leads to life.  And there is human glory, the vain glory that leads to death.  All through his Gospel, John shows how we are tempted to prefer vain glory over the glory that comes from God. Human glory is always connected with some form of competition.  Human glory is the result of being considered better, faster, more beautiful, more powerful, or more successful than others.  Glory conferred by people is glory which results from being [...]

LENT: Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 13, 2013

From Show Me The Way In all truth I tell you, by himself the son can do nothing; he can do only what he sees the father doing: and whatever the father does, the son does too. –John 5:19 Jesus’s obedience means a total, fearless listening to his loving father.  Between the father and the son there is only love.  Everything that belongs to the father, he entrusts to the son (Luke 10:22), and everything the son has received, he returns to the father.  The father opens himself totally to the son and puts everything in his hands: all knowledge (John 12:50), all glory (John 8:54), all power (John 5:19-21).  And the son opens himself totally to the father and thus returns everything into his father’s hands.  “I came from [...]

LENT: Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 12, 2013

From Show Me The Way Jesus met him in the temple and said, “Now you are well again, do not sin any more.” (John 5:14) Prayer heals.  Not just the answer to prayer.  When we give up our competition with God and offer God every part of our heart, holding back nothing at all, we come to know God’s love for us and discover how safe we are in his embrace.  Once we know again that God has not rejected us, but keeps us close to his heart, we can find again the joy of living, even though God might guide our life in a different direction from our desires. ***** I hardly remember what it was, but a small critical remark and a few irritations during my work in the bakery were enough to tumble me head-over-heels into a deep, [...]

LENT: Monday of the Fourth Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 11, 2013

From Show Me The Way He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he has changed the water into wine.  And there was a court official whose son was ill at Capernaum; hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son, as he was at the point of death.  Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and portents you will not believe!”  “Sir,” answered the official, “Come down before my child dies”  “Go home,” said Jesus, “your son will live.”  The man believed what Jesus had said and went on his way home. (John 4:46-50) The descending way of Jesus, painful as it is, is God’s most radical attempt to convince us that everything we [...]

LENT: Fourth Sunday in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 10, 2013

From Show Me The Way God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Secularity is a way of being dependent on the responses of our milieu.  The secular or false self is the self which is fabricated, as Thomas Merton says, by social compulsions.  “Compulsive” is indeed the best adjective for the false self.  It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation.  Who am I?  I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated, or despised.  The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of falling and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same – more work, more money, more friends. These very compulsions are at the [...]

LENT: Saturday of the Third Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 9, 2013

From Show Me The Way Come, let us return to Yahweh. He has rent us and he will heal us; he has struck us and he will bind up our wounds. —Hosea 6:1, 2 Living a spiritual life requires a change of heart, a conversion.  Such a conversion may be marked by a sudden inner change, or it can take place through a long, quiet process of transformation.  But it always involves an inner experience of oneness.  We realize that we are in the center, and that from there all that is and all that takes place can be seen and understood as part of the mystery of God’s life with us.  Our conflicts and pains, our tasks and promises, our families and friends, our activities and projects, our hopes and aspirations, no longer appear to us as a [...]

LENT: Friday of the Third Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 8, 2013

From Show Me The Way You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30) To live a spiritual life is to live in the presence of God.  This very straightforward truth was brought home to me forcefully by Brother Lawrence, a French Carmelite brother who lived in the seventeenth century.  The book The Practice of the Presence of God contains four conversations with Brother Lawrence and fifteen letters by him. He writes: “It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church.  We may take an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with him in meekness, humility, and love.  Everyone is capable of such familiar [...]