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University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library, Special Collections
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The most profound basis for the sacredness of all human flesh: the bodily resurrection of Jesus

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus: The Most Profound Basis for the Sacredness of All Human Flesh’, published in the New Oxford Review, LIV, No. 2, March 1987, pp. 15 – 18. This item is number 6 in a series of 10 articles from a diary kept by Nouwen while he was at L’Arche Trosley-Breuil, France, 1985-6. The entries begin February 28, 1986 and the first three are Nouwen’s reflections on a book by James Bentley entitled, ‘Secrets of Mount Sinai’. This book as Nouwen recounts it , covers the story of German scripture scholar, Tischendorf’s finding and removal of the Codex Sinaiticus from the Monastery of St Catherine. Nouwen finds the attitude of Tischendorf to the monks disdainful. Nouwen then follows with some thoughts related to the different endings of Mark’s gospel, about the resurrection of the body, Bentley’s reflection that he did not believe this and Nouwen’s own thoughts. In the last two entries Nouwen describes his feelings of being busy with nothing being accomplished and his sense of disconnection. The last entry is dated, March 11, 1986.

Christ's simultaneous absence & presence: tasting the sweetness of the Lord

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Christ’s Simultaneous Absence and Presence’, published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LIV, No. 1, January/February 1987, pp. 4 – 7. This item is part 5 of a 10 part series which are entries from a diary written by Nouwen during his stay at L’Arche, Trosly-Breuil, France , 1985 – 86. The first entry for February 9 is written from Freiburg and Nouwen is describing his visit to the Munster and a painting of the crowning of Mary. Nouwen finds the painting has lost touch with Mary as the poor and humble servant of the gospel. Nouwen also writes of need for Protestant and Catholic to continue the careful listening they are trying to do now. The next entry, a week later, and Lent has begun. Nouwen writes of his difficulty with fasting but his need for it. ‘I hope and pray that fasting will drive the demons away, and give me a clearer eye for the presence of the One in whose absence I fast’. The next day Nouwen is again at the Munster, at first standing in the snowy empty square outside and then within, where he goes to confession and walks home ‘with a heart full of peace’. The next day is a visit with his friends Franz, Reny and Robert Johnas to Colmar for Mass. The next two entries are reflections on the Gospel of the day, Matthew 25 on the need to serve Jesus in the ‘least’ ‘where is hidden the real joy and peace my heart searches for’. And the gospel which speaks of making peace with people you are at odds with. The last entry, dated February indicates Nouwen has returned to L’Arche and is a reflection on suffering.

A spirituality of waiting: being alert to God's presence in our lives

This item is a 12 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘A Spirituality of Waiting: Being Alert to God’s presence in our Lives’, published in Weavings, January/February 1987, pp. 6 – 17. Nouwen begins by suggesting two aspects of waiting: waiting for God and the waiting of God. Nouwen identifies these two aspects of waiting found first in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel and then, at the end of Luke’s Gospel. In the first section Nouwen points out how hard it is for most of us to wait; that waiting is considered as wasting time. He then points to the people in Luke’s Gospel who are waiting: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon and Anna. Nouwen then discusses 1) the nature of waiting as waiting with a sense of promise and 2) waiting as active. In the scripture the figures he writes of are waiting for the fulfilment of a promise and they are waiting very actively. ‘The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present of it’. Nouwen also describes a waiting person as a patient person. In a section on the practice of waiting Nouwen describes the need we have of community and mutual support along with an alertness to the word. Nouwen then looks at the waiting found in the last part of Luke’s Gospel , in the passion of Jesus. Nouwen states that this material is outlined in a book by W.H. Vanstone called ‘The Stature of Waiting’. Nouwen begins by describing the concerns of a friend who was dying of cancer and didn’t see how to live the passivity of his life. The remainder of the article enlarges on the idea by Vanstone that Jesus moved from action to passion, losing control of his life and waiting and allowing it to happen. Jesus and God are waiting to see how people will respond, how we will respond and they do not have control over that. Nouwen concludes by stating, ‘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’.

Orthodox downward mobility or secularist prosperity?: the tragedy of Dutch Catholicism

This item is an 8 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Orthodox Downward Mobility or Secularist Prosperity?’ published in the New Oxford Review, November 1986, pp.7 - 15. The article is identified as the third installment of a series of articles taken from a Nouwen diary written during his time as priest-in-residence at L’Arche, Trosley-Breuil, France. The excerpts from Nouwen’s diary in this article begin December 2, 1985 and end January 5, 2986. Nouwen’s entries begin with a description of his frustration with himself and how he uses his time; how he becomes so easily distracted from what may be more important things. He writes then, of talks given by Jean Vanier about living with the poor, being poor. Jean says, ‘Jesus always leads us to littleness. It is the place where misery and mercy meet. It is the place where we encounter God’. Nouwen writes of a letter he receives which is a call from the L’Arche community at Daybreak in Canada to be their pastor and his realization that he had never been Called before, his life choices until then had been his. There is a short entry on the ‘glory’ of God; a longer entry about the celebration of Christmas at L’Arche and a certain distance Nouwen felt from it all. The remainder of the entries are about his visit to his family and friends in Holland; his sense of distance again, this time because so many have left the church and no longer really ‘hear’ what he wants to share. He describes a visit to his Bishop about going to Daybreak; the state of marriage as he experiences it among his friends; his father’s 83rd birthday celebration. His final entry states, ‘As I leave my country I feel powerless and sad. I also feel an inner desire to do something for my own people and church in Holland – somehow, sometime’.

Working for peace: saying "no" to death requires saying "yes" to life

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Working for Peace’ published in The Church Herald of the Reformed Church in America, Vol. XLIII, No. 18, October 18, 1986, pp. 11 – 13. This is identified as the second of two articles on Peacemaking. Nouwen opens the article by stating, ‘ As peacemakers we must have the courage to see the powers of death at work even in our innermost selves…’Nouwen speaks of that within us which does not accept ourselves and that this is ‘one of the greatest enemies of the peacemaker’. Nouwen speaks of the central message of the Gospel which is that we are forgiven and this truth can help us overcome our fear of ourselves and of others. Nouwen writes of the need to resist, resist the forces of death and to affirm life. He speaks of the need for joy even in the face of pain. Nouwen concludes by saying, ‘Prayer cannot be fruitful unless it brings us into a new and creative relationship with people. Resistance cannot be fruitful unless it deepens and strengthens our relationship with God. Prayer and Resistance, the two pillars of Christian peacemaking…’This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Working for Peace’ published in The Church Herald of the Reformed Church in America, Vol. XLIII, No. 18, October 18, 1986, pp. 11 – 13. This is identified as the second of two articles on Peacemaking. Nouwen opens the article by stating, ‘ As peacemakers we must have the courage to see the powers of death at work even in our innermost selves…’Nouwen speaks of that within us which does not accept ourselves and that this is ‘one of the greatest enemies of the peacemaker’. Nouwen speaks of the central message of the Gospel which is that we are forgiven and this truth can help us overcome our fear of ourselves and of others. Nouwen writes of the need to resist, resist the forces of death and to affirm life. He speaks of the need for joy even in the face of pain. Nouwen concludes by saying, ‘Prayer cannot be fruitful unless it brings us into a new and creative relationship with people. Resistance cannot be fruitful unless it deepens and strengthens our relationship with God. Prayer and Resistance, the two pillars of Christian peacemaking…’

The trusting heart & the primacy of the mystical life: holy enough to walk on water

This item is a 10 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Trusting Heart & the Primacy of the Mystical Life’ published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LIII, No.8, October 1986, pp.5 – 14. The article is identified as the second installment of a series of articles taken from a Nouwen diary written during his time as priest-in-residence at L’Arche, Trosley-Breuil, France. The excerpts from Nouwen’s diary in this article begin October 17, 1985 and end November 26. The first two entries focus on Pere Thomas’ response to Nouwen’s concern about his need for affection. He said Pere Thomas speaks about trust in human relationships and the ‘heart as the deepest source of the spiritual life…’ Nouwen writes of a visit from some friends and an experience at Mass with 3 handicapped men who were the altar servers. There are then more reflections on the mystical life, about the need for a new kind of religious order that will focus on peace, a new kind of ministry Nouwen sees he needs for the Assistants at L’Arche, his failure as he sees it to pray often enough for the dead. Nouwen then writes at length about the visit of his friend Jonas, with whom he had been angry when he failed to come before. He and Jonas speak about their relationship but Nouwen also notes their different perceptions of l’Arche. Nouwen offers reflections on his tendency to give from his abundance, ‘I see clearly how far I am from being like the two widows.(1Kings:17 – 26 and Mark 12: 41 – 44) I also realize that I cannot force myself to become like them. My spiritual task is to love God more each day, so that the many things that occupy my heart and mind will gradually lose their power over me’. Nouwen writes of a visit from Fr. George Strohmeyer of Erie, Pa. L’Arche and concludes this articles entries with a reflection of Abraham’s sacrifice of Issac.

A new life among the handicapped: farewell to Harvard

This item is a 9 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘A New Life Among the Handicapped’ published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LIII, No.7, September 1986, pp.5 – 13. The article is identified as the first installment of a series of articles taken from a Nouwen diary written during his time as priest-in-residence at L’Arche, Trosley-Breuil, France. The excerpts from Nouwen’s diary in this article begin August 13, 1985 and end September 24. In the first entry Nouwen describes this as ‘the first day of my new life! Nouwen writes of meeting Madame Vanier, of his leaving Harvard, his new quarters and his sense of how different this life is from his very busy life in academia. The entries that follow include reflections on how Jean Vanier began L’Arche with Pere Thomas Phillipe, Nouwen’s longing to be able to live a simpler life, his gratitude for the prayerful support of his friends, his hurt and anger when a friend fails to visit him. Nouwen speaks of his daily time spent in the Oratory at Trosly: ‘In many ways the Oratoire is the heart of l’Arche…every time I enter the Oratoire I feel a deep rest coming over me…’ Nouwen also speaks of one of the foyers he visits which is called La Forestiere where the most severely handicapped live. Further entries speak of the people he meets and include his reflections on their lives.

Running from what we desire: Yet God's jealous love pursues us

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Running from What We Desire’, published in Partnership, Volume 3, No. 4, July – August 1986, pp. 32 – 35. Nouwen opens this article on prayer by relating a story of his own resistance to praying and that of others. He asks what it is that keeps us from praying and identifies fear as the most important factor. Nouwen believes that this fear comes from some underlying awareness of the kind of God we have. ‘Prayer means letting God’s creative love touch the most hidden places of our being, and letting Jesus’ way of the cross, his way of downward mobility, truly become our way’. Nouwen continues the article by saying we must not be afraid of God, we must not be afraid of Jesus and we must not be afraid of the Holy Spirit.

The fullness of divine love: reflections on a Russian Pentecost icon

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Fullness of Divine Love: Reflections on a Russian Pentecost Icon”, published in Sojourners, Vol. 15, No. 6, June 1986, pp. 24 – 27. This article is a reflection on Andrei Rublev’s icon, The Descent of the Holy Spirit’ a Russian icon painted toward the end of the 15th C. Nouwen writes that he is sharing the results of his prolonged reflection on this icon. Nouwen first stresses that he sees that ‘God reveals the fullness of divine love first of all in community’ rather than relying just on the individual. Nouwen says that he intends to show in more detail, three aspects of the spiritual life as he sees this in the icon. The first heading he entitles: ’The God Within’ and it results from the quietude he sees in the grouping in the icon as contrasted with usual Pentecostal activity in much art. ‘The Pentecost icon is such a masterpiece precisely because it draws us into the heart of the mystery of God’s self-revelation’. The second heading he entitles: ‘The community of Faith’ and here he begins ‘The Spirit within, the Spirit of the God of love, the Spirit of the Living Christ is the Holy Spirit who creates a new community among those who believe’. The third heading he entitles: ‘Liberating the World’. This part is reflecting on the figure at the bottom of the icon in what seems to be a dark cave. Here Nouwen believes that that leads into the need of the community to go out to the world to bring the light and love of the Spirit. Nouwen concludes ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit is a door that leads us into the mystery of God’s inner life’.

The holy obligation of peacemaking

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘The Holy Obligation of Peacemaking’ published in The Lutheran, Vol. 24, No. 4, February 1986, pp. 14 – 15. This item is identified as Part II of a three part series previously published in the New Oxford Review. Nouwen begins by describing his childhood experience in Holland of the holocaust and the questions he had about why people didn’t act. He then writes of his own struggle now with the growth of the nuclear position of the United States. Nouwen reminds himself that now, as an educated, mature adult he can never say ‘I didn’t know what was going on’. Nouwen then writes of his awareness that the nation he now lives in, the United States, is now a nuclear nation that threatens other nations. ‘It is obvious that all who believe that God is a God of life, especially we who proclaim that Jesus Christ came to live among us to overcome the powers of death, must say a clear and unambiguous ‘no’. Nouwen concludes by stating that ‘resistance is no longer an option…non resistance makes us accomplices to a nuclear holocaust…’

Working for peace: saying 'yes' to life and 'no' to death

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Working for Peace’ published in The Lutheran, Vol. 24, No. 5, March 5, 1986, pp. 10- 11. This item is identified as Part III of a 3 part series and taken from the New Oxford Review. Nouwen begins by saying, ‘As peacemakers we must have the courage to see the powers of death at work even in our innermost selves…’. Nouwen writes of his own struggle to accept himself as loved and forgiven by God and the difficulty that creates for him to grow as a peacemaker. Nouwen describes the forces of self-rejection as forces of death. He then states that ‘a loving heart that continues to affirm life at all times and places can say ‘no’ to death without being corrupted by it. Nouwen then goes on to write of the importance of resisting the forces of death in our society in whatever way seems right. Nouwen concludes ‘ Prayer and resistance, the two pillars of Christian peacemaking, are two interlocking ways of giving expression to the peace we have found in the dwelling place of God’.

Seeing Christ: a meditation on Andrew Rublev's Saviour of Zvenigorod

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled,’ Seeing Christ: A meditation on Andrew Rublev’s Savior of Zvenigorod’, published in America, Vol. 154, No. 1, January 4 – 11, 1986, pp. 4 – 7. Nouwen begins this meditation on the icon by stating, ‘To see Christ is to see God and all of humanity. This mystery has evoked in me a burning desire to see the face of Jesus’. Nouwen then relates this to his love of the face of Christ as portrayed by Rublev in this icon. Nouwen begins by describing the damage to this 15thC image and then describes what he sees as a ‘tender human face’ and the colors ‘of inexpressible beauty’ which are used. The next focus for Nouwen are the eyes of Christ: ‘Their gaze is so mysterious and deep that any word that tries to describe them is inadequate’. Nouwen concludes the meditation by stating, ‘Seeing the Christ by Rublev is a profound event…seeing Christ leads us to the heart of God as well as to the heart of all that is human’. In an Afterword, Nouwen discusses the icon painting tradition and notes that beginning in the 6th C. there is a tendency to portray the face of Christ in a similar way in all icons and in a way which may be related to the face on the Shroud of Turin which may have been the actual face of Christ.

Prayer and resistance: a spirituality of peacemaking

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Prayer and Resistance: A Spirituality of Peacemaking’, published in The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Vol. XVI, Number 1, October-November, 1985, pp. 5 – 7, & 10. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘A peacemaker prays. Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit, the core and the content, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking’. At the end of his introduction Nouwen goes on to say, ‘Praying at all times is the first aspect of peacemaking. What does this concretely mean for us who have barely enough time and space to keep some distance from the cares of life? To answer this question we must be first willing to explore critically the ways in which the “cares of life” strangle us. Only then can we see the converting power of prayer and its pervasive role in peacemaking’. In the following sections Nouwen writes of ‘wounds and needs’ which affect our actions and suggests that it is ‘only when we are willing to repeatedly confess that we too have dirty hands, even when we work for peace, can we fully understand the hard task of peacemaking’. Nouwen then begins to write of the power of prayer to free us to be peacemakers and uses images from the Bible to point to this power. Nouwen identifies peacemaking as a work of love and goes on to say, ‘Prayer is the way to that experience of love’. Nouwen writes of his experience as a child in wartime Holland of the holocaust of the Jews and states that as a child he could not understand or fight against it but now he is an educated adult he cannot excuse himself from fighting injustice that he sees. ‘To work for peace is to work for life. But more than ever before in history we are surrounded by the powers of death’. Further on Nouwen states that ‘resistance [to evil] is no longer an option’ whatever the cost. We do this to begin with by recognizing the evil within ourselves and yet forgiving ourselves and others. ‘Personally, I believe that the battle against these suicidal inner powers is harder than any other spiritual battle. If those who believe in Jesus Christ were able fully to believe that they are forgiven people, who are loved unconditionally and called to proclaim peace in the name of the forgiving Lord, our planet would not be on the verge of self-destruction’.

Living in joyful ecstasy

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘, Living in Joyful Ecstasy, The House of God a Home amid an anxious World’, published in Sojourners, Vol. 14, No. 8, August/September 1985, pp. 27 – 31. This is part 3 of a three part series. Nouwen begins by stating that he does not believe ecstasy is simply for the mystical few but is in fact, for all Christian people. ‘I consider it very important to reclaim the word ‘ecstasy’ for all Christian people who strive to move from the house of fear to the house of love’. Nouwen then points to Jesus emphasis that he has come to bring joy and that all are called to remain in that joy. Nouwen moves from this introduction to a section entitled,’ Ecstasy and Fear’ and begins by stating that ‘just as fear prevents intimacy and fecundity, so too it makes ecstasy impossible’. He suggests that fear makes us cling to routine, to sameness and fear of change. Nouwen speaks of the people of L’Arche with whom he spent time and notes both the presence of routine but also the journey from fear to joy.’ If the world is a fearful place where you need all of your emotional energy just to survive, there is little capacity to move from one way of being alive to another…Where all has become fear, joy cannot be’. In the next section entitled, ‘Ecstasy and Love’ Nouwen points to the great difference between ephemeral happiness and deep joy. Deep joy is the joy of Jesus. It is a joy that holds both happiness and sorrow, good times and bad. ‘[Joy] is the solid ground from which new life can always burst forth’. In a final section entitled, ’A New International Order’ Nouwen moves on to write of the fears that are causing nations to build barriers and to fights battles rather than seek reconciliation and peace. He points to Jesus’ call to ‘the nations’ as well as to individual people. Nouwen notes the situations in Central and South America as places in which fear has brought nations almost to the brink of nuclear war. Nouwen concludes by stating, ‘The word “ecstasy” has opened a new perspective on joy as an essential element of a truly Christian spirituality. It is the constant moving away from the static places of death into the place where life can be recognized and celebrated’.

Solitude and community

This item is an 11 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled,‘ Solitude and Community’, published in Worship, January 1978, pp. 13 – 23. Nouwen begins the article by noting that many people who live in community are asking how to find space and time for themselves because the intensity of community life has proved difficult. Nouwen identifies the purpose of this article as; ‘to offer some reflections on solitude in community in the hope that for some communities these ideas may offer new strength to remain faithful to the vision which originally brought them together’. Nouwen begins by identifying two viewpoints about the role of solitude in community which he considers false or too limited: 1) Solitude over against community and 2) Solitude in Service of community. This latter he clarifies solitude considered as simply ‘a tool in the service of life together’. Under the heading, ‘Solitude and Community’ Nouwen suggests what he sees as the real relationship between the two: ‘Solitude without community leads us to loneliness and despair, but community without solitude hurls us into a “void of words and feelings”’. He then goes on to state,’ I now would like to develop this view in more detail by relating solitude to intimacy, clarity and prayer’. In discussing what he intends by ‘intimacy’ Nouwen states that in solitude members of community may grow closer to each other. Nouwen states that constant talking things out without the depth provided by solitude, does not lead to communal growth. He suggests that ‘in solitude we are given the awareness of a unity that is prior to all unifying actions’. With regard to ‘clarity’ Nouwen states, ‘In solitude we begin to see more clearly and are more able to distinguish between what can be shared and what should be left unspoken’. In discussing ‘prayer’ Nouwen says the following ‘When I speak of prayer I refer less to saying prayers than to living a prayerful life in which eating and drinking, sleeping waking, working and praying are all done to the honor and glory of God’. Nouwen concludes the article by pointing out the difficulty of living out what he has said because of the many forces against, it but that it would be important then to consider ‘Education to solitude…is an important task for communities…’

Bearing fruit in the Spirit: the gifts of God's love

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: Bearing Fruit in the Spirit, The House of God a Home amid an Anxious World, published in Sojourners, July 1985, Vol. 14, No. 7, pp. 26 – 30. This is part two of a three part series. Nouwen begins the article by speaking of the life-giving quality of fecundity in a world that seldom appears to experience that. Nouwen follows this with a section entitled, Fecundity and Fear. Here Nouwen identifies sterility and productivity as possible manifestations of a fearful approach to life-giving forces and fecundity. ‘In our contemporary society, with its emphasis on accomplishment and success, we often live as if being productive is the same as being fruitful’. In this section Nouwen writes of his experience with Jean Vanier and the people of L’Arche who showed him the life-giving gift of people who appear to ‘accomplish’ little. In the next section Nouwen writes of Fecundity and Love. He identifies three aspects of the fruitful life as ‘vulnerability, gratitude and love’ and discusses each in detail. Nouwen concludes the article with the section entitled: Fecundity and Mission. Here he begins by stating, ‘When we come to experience intimacy with God as including all of humanity, it will become clear that fecundity also has a global quality’. Nouwen goes on to say, ‘One of the most compelling aspects of the Spirit of Jesus is that it always sends us forth to bring and receive the gifts of God to and from all peoples and nations’. Nouwen suggests that our world would be very different if we recognized that there is something for us to receive from others, not just to give to them. He concludes the article by saying ‘ If giving and receiving the fruits of the intimate love of God for all people were our main concern, peace would be near’.

Prayer and the jealous God: Why do we avoid praying?

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Prayer and the Jealous God’, published in The New Oxford Review, Vol. LII, No. 5, June 1985, pp. 7 – 12. Nouwen begins this article about prayer by writing of his own and our, resistance to prayer. He asks ‘Why this attraction and repulsion at the same time? Why do we have so many difficulties in doing what we say we fervently desire?’ He goes on to identify a number of ‘reasons’ we might articulate for not praying. Nouwen then suggests that we have a God who constantly calls to us, constantly desires our attention. ‘I am deeply convinced that the necessity to pray, and to pray unceasingly, is not so much based on our desire for God as on God’s desire for us. It is God’s passionate pursuit of us that calls us to prayer’. Nouwen identifies fear of the implications of prayer as our biggest reason for resistance. Nouwen writes about who he believes God really is for us and who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are and the gift that they are. Nouwen reminds us that we need not be afraid of them. Nouwen concludes ‘So, do not be afraid of the Father who created you in love, nor of the Son who set you free to journey to the Father’s house, nor of the Holy Spirit who already gives you the joy and peace of God’s dwelling place’.

Creating true intimacy: solidarity among the people of God

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Creating True Intimacy: Solidarity among the People of God’, published in Sojourners, Vol. 14, No. 6, June 6, 1985, pp. 14 – 18. This is the first part of a 3 part series. Nouwen begins the article by writing of the ubiquitous reality of fear in the world and reminds the reader of Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid’. Nouwen writes of the power of fear when he states, ‘Fear can never give birth to love’ and then asks, ‘ Are we so unused to living without fear that we have become unable to hear the voice of love? ‘ . Nouwen then suggests that there is an invitation to us from Jesus to leave the house of fear and live in the house of love. Throughout this article Nouwen writes of the work of Jean Vanier the founder of the l’Arche communities. It is Jean who spoke to Nouwen of ‘the three essential qualities of a life together in the house of love: intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy’. This article Nouwen writes, is about Intimacy and includes the headings Intimacy and Fear, Intimacy and Love, Intimacy and Solidarity. Nouwen suggests that fear builds up walls which prevent intimacy: ‘fear prevents us from forming an intimate community in which we can grow together, everyone in his or her own way’. Love on the other hand, is the ‘true friend’ of intimacy. Jesus is the home where we can live without fear and we can reach this home in part through prayer that opens our hearts. Nouwen then writes that though we tend to see intimacy as ‘smallness, coziness’ it is the source of solidarity. People ‘come to the awareness that the intimacy of God’s house excludes no one and includes everyone. They start to see that the home they found in their innermost being is as wide as the whole of humanity’. Again, speaking of the work of Jean Vanier, Nouwen concludes by stating, ‘The intimacy of the house of love always leads to solidarity with the weak’.

The icon of the Virgin of Vladimir: an invitation to belong to God

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ The Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir: An Invitation to Belong to God’, published in America, N.Y. May 11, 1985, Vol. 152, No. 18, pp. 387 – 390. Nouwen begins the article by asking, ‘To whom do we belong– the world… or God and God’s people’? He then goes on to state that during a recent 30 day retreat he found himself ‘drawn into [the] mysterious intimacy [of the icon] and came to know by heart its urgent invitation to belong to God’. Nouwen first writes of his impression of the eyes of the Virgin in the icon. He sees the eyes as gazing ‘upon the infinite spaces of the heart where joy and sorrow are no longer contrasting emotions, but are transcended in spiritual unity’. Nouwen then describes the hands of the Virgin as leading the viewer to Jesus. After the hands Nouwen moves to the child as portrayed in the icon. ‘The tender embrace of this mother and Child is far from a sentimental event. It is the portrayal of the mysterious interchange between God and humanity made possible by the Incarnation of the Word’. Nouwen concludes the article by suggesting that the icon portrays what it means to belong to God.

Liberation: freedom to love

This item is a 1 ½ page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘Liberation: Freedom to Love’, published in Together by World Vision International, April-June 1985, No. 7. This item is identified as excerpts from Nouwen’s prologue to Gustavo Gutierrez’ book ‘We Drink from our own Wells’. Nouwen begins by stating, ‘The spirituality of liberation is deeply rooted in the lived experience of God’s presence in history’. Nouwen then writes that Gutierrez believes liberation theology cannot be reduced to a political movement nor is it a ‘theological rationale for a class struggle’. Nouwen states that Jesus is the center of the movement and Jesus loves both the oppressed and the oppressor. Nouwen reiterates a theme he has spoken of before that the spiritual well-being of the Americas, north and south are tied together and that the ‘inflamed’ cord of Central America that binds them together is reminding us that there is a deep spiritual crisis that involves the whole of the Americas. He concludes, ‘ In the name of millions of the nameless poor, Gustavo Gutierrez reaches out a hand to us and calls us to open our hearts again to the life-giving Spirit of Jesus…’

Spiritual directions

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Spiritual Direction” . It is part 3 of a series of 3 published in The Word, Christ Episcopal Church, Oil City, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., November 1984, pp. 5 & 12. This item appears to be an excerpt from Reflection by Yale University Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School, Connecticut, January 1981, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 7 - 8. Nouwen speaks of the discipline of the heart and its need for spiritual direction. Nouwen identifies the spiritual director as ‘a mature fellow Christian’ whom one may see regularly or from time to time according to need. Nouwen concludes by stating ‘It is important that we are thinking about a ministry in which we help one another to practice the disciplines of the Church, the Book and the Heart and thus live a life in which we become more and more sensitive to the ongoing presence of God in our lives’.

Spiritual direction

This 3 page item is part 1 of an article by Henri Nouwen entitled Spiritual Direction, published in The Word, a publication of Christ Episcopal Church, Oil City, Pa., September, 1984, pp. 7 – 9. In the introduction Nouwen defines spiritual direction and identifies his intention in the article: ‘ In these reflections, I would like to offer a few ideas which might help in defining the nature of this ministry of spiritual direction and which might begin to suggest some concrete ways in which this ministry can be practiced’. This article, which is the first of 3, focuses on ‘The Movement from Absurdity to Obedience’. Nouwen suggests that absurd living is being deaf to God, being unable to find the silence to hear God in our busy lives. He then indicates the reality of obedience: ‘The obedient life forms the other end of the spiritual spectrum. The word obedience includes the word “audire’ which means “listening”…’ Nouwen speaks, finally about the difficulty of the road from absurdity to obedience.

Rublev's icon of the trinity: a reflection on the spiritual life

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity, A Reflection on the Spiritual Life’, published in The Harvard Divinity Bulletin of Harvard University, June-August 1984, Vol. XIV, No. 5, pp. 8 – 9. Nouwen introduces the article by asking, ‘How can we live in the midst of a world marked by fear, hatred and violence and not be destroyed by it?’ He describes this as the essence of the spiritual life and speaks about the icon as reflecting ‘the house of love’. From meditation upon this house of love we can move into the world to be present to but not to be part of, this world. Under the heading: ‘The Icon: A Gentle Invitation’ Nouwen speaks about the effect that contemplation of this icon had upon him. In the second section entitled, ‘Where Heart Speaks to Heart’, Nouwen speaks of how contemplation of the icon ‘reveals the inner beauty of God’. In a third section entitled, ‘The Circle, The Cross and Liberation’, speaks of the link between the cross and love in our world today. Finally, in a section entitled, Spirituality: The Source of Confident Commitment, Nouwen concludes by saying, ‘I pray that Rublev’s icon will teach many how to live in the midst of a fearful, hateful and violent world while moving always deeper into the house of love’.

The suffering Christ: peacemaking across the Americas

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘The Suffering Christ’, published in The Other Side, December 1983, Issue 147, pp. 16 – 19. This article is identified as an adaptation of a talk given by Henri Nouwen during a vigil for peace and non-intervention in Central America which was held in Philadelphia, Fall 1983. Nouwen opens the article by stating, ‘As people of God we are called to know God. Yet we who live in North America will never fully know God if we ignore the way God speaks to us through the people of South America’. This theme runs through the article which asks people to become involved in the struggles and sufferings currently in Central and South America. Nouwen describes his own attempts to understand what is happening there by going himself to Nicaragua. He states that the more people he talked to, the more confused he became and the more aware of deep divisions even among Christians. He asks ‘How can one live in such a world and be faithful? How can one live in a country in which even the Christians are growing more and more suspicious of one another? How can one live in that world and find one’s own spiritual center?’ Nouwen’s answer is to look at the ‘deep truth of those words we repeat so often: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”. For Nouwen there is the revelation of God’s suffering in the men, women and children of Central America; Nouwen then sees that because Christ is risen ‘that Jesus has overcome death; he has overcome evil and agony. Nouwen then states, ‘“Christ will come again”. What does this mean for us today?’ His answer is that Christ will not ask us if we have been successful but what we have done to serve the least of Christ’s people. Nouwen concludes by asking, ‘Are we willing to be weak and vulnerable with those who suffer? Are we willing to sit in solidarity with them and share their sorrow, their anxiety, their agony?’.

Caring presence: reflections

This item is a 2 column article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Caring Presence’, published in SCJ News, October, 1983, Vol. 5, No. 2, p. 4. This item is an excerpt from Nouwen, Henri: Out of Solitude. Nouwen begins the article by asking, ‘What does it mean to care?’ He suggests that the word ‘care’ has often been misused and offers several examples. Nouwen goes on to say ‘… we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless’. However, Nouwen suggests that real caring is when another shares our pain, touches our wounds with a ‘gentle and tender hand’. Nouwen concludes by stating, ‘To care means first of all to be present to each other…presence is a healing presence because they accept you on your terms and they encourage you to take your own life seriously…’.

Simple joys: a week from the journal of Henri Nouwen, during his days in Peru

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Simple Joys: a week from the journal of Henri Nouwen, during his days in Peru’, published in The Other Side, September 1983. This article is a chapter from Nouwen’s book ‘Gracias’ covering the dates January 24 to January 31, 1982. In Nouwen’s first entry, for the 24th January, he writes about the fact that it is his 50th birthday and describes the various celebrations and calls that he received. Nouwen writes, ‘Within a few years…I will no longer be on this earth. The thought of this does not frighten me but fills me with a quiet peace’. For the next day he describes a lecture given to a group of women about the history of Peru and how they came to live life as they do. The third day he describes the vigilance needed against pickpockets and robbers but also tells a story which describes the pitfalls of hyper-vigilance. The following entry speaks of the gift of the children and their affection for him. Another day includes a visit to the beach with some colleagues and following that Nouwen describes the ever-present dust of Pamplona Alta and how it permeates everything. In the final entry for the week he speaks of saying Mass and realizing that unlike Jesus to whom people listened intently, he is facing a congregation who may not be listening. Nouwen realizes that when his actions match his words, his words will have power.

Henri Nouwen: a call to peacemaking

  • CA ON00389 F4-9-1-1653
  • Item
  • [between July 27 - September 15, 1983]
  • Part of Henri Nouwen fonds

This item is a 5 page article, an adaptation of a talk, by Henri Nouwen entitled, A Call To Peacemaking, prepared by World Peacemakers Inc, founded in The Church of the Savior, Washington, D.C., summer 1983. Nouwen begins by stating that his returning from Nicaragua to the United States to give this and other talks resulted from an unintended month-long stop in Nicaragua on his way to Peru. Nouwen states that his visit made him aware of the turmoil and potential possibility of war in Central America and he felt he needed to return to the United States in order to ‘say, loudly and clearly, let us work together to prevent war’. He goes on to state that he has, for some time, seen that the ‘spiritual destiny of North America is somehow intimately connected with the spiritual destiny of Latin America’. Nouwen states then, that he wishes to speak as honestly as he can of what he experienced in Nicaragua. He describes his desire to listen to as many voices as he could from government, church and people. From his discussion with government people he identifies several points: 1) ‘I learned…that the revolution …has given the people a new sense of dignity 2) ‘From my observations …the revolution is a deeply Christian event. Nouwen felt the leaders have been ‘formed in a deep way’ by the word of God and their own suffering, 3)’What you see and hear is that the revolution is for the people, for the poor’. From his experience of the church in Nicaragua, which he describes as ‘divided’, ‘polarized. ‘I suddenly realized the enormous pain and agony of the church.’ It was when Nouwen spoke with ‘the people’ that he finally felt he understood what his task was; why he was there. From the people he discovered that there was still much suffering in their lives in spite of the revolution although to some extent it was recognized that this was caused by outside forces such as the American economic blockade. However in spite of this suffering he felt a measure of hope but also a certainty that the United States must not interfere any longer. Nouwen concludes by stating he has a whole new awareness of the words of the Mass: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’.

Faith and war in Nicaragua

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled Faith and War in Nicaragua, publisher unknown, date conjectured at 1983. There is a side comment that 'these comments are from a speech Nouwen made July 27, in Washington D.C. Nouwen begins the article by stating that he sees the spiritual destinies of the two Americas, North and South as being intimately connected. He points to what he describes as the ‘fraying of the chord called Central America, which binds these two continents together’ as being caused not simply by economic, social, political or military reasons, but also spiritual ones. Nouwen then speaks of a visit he made to a small village on the border of Nicaragua and Honduras where he speaks with the people who had suffered deeply in a war supported, Nouwen suggests, by the United States. He then describes a moment of forgiveness asked for and given and he says he experiences ‘an incredible hope’. Throughout the article Nouwen sees Christ as the binding force of the hope.

Spiritual direction

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled 'Spiritual Direction' published in Worship, Collegeville, Minnesota, Volume 55, Number 5, September, 1981, pp. 399 - 404.
Nouwen begins this article by stating his definition of spiritual direction. ‘Spiritual direction is direction given to people in their relationship with God’ Nouwen then goes on to say ‘I would like to offer a few ideas which might help in defining the nature of this ministry…which might begin to suggest some concrete ways in which this ministry can be practiced’. Under his first heading which speaks about the movement ‘from absurdity to obedience’ Nouwen defines the first as the root of ‘deaf’ and the second as the root of ‘listening’. Nouwen speaks of the difficulty of moving from the busyness of the absurd/deaf life to being willing to hear and then gain the discipline of obedient following of God. In his second section Nouwen speaks of ‘The three disciplines of the spiritual life’. These disciplines are identified as: the discipline of the church, the discipline of the Book and the discipline of the heart. Nouwen concludes his article by suggesting that at this time in history when many traditional ways of living are breaking down and people are turning to religious leaders for guidance, this is more than ever a time to consider spiritual direction.

Latin America: living with the poor

This item is a two page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Latin America: Living with the poor’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 1982, pp. 7 – 8. This item is an excerpt from Nouwen’s book, ‘Gracias: A Latin American Journal’. This article consists of five diary entries Nouwen made in his time spent in Peru and Bolivia. In his entries Nouwen struggles with the contrast of his usual life and the life of the very poor in which he is trying to be immersed. He describes visits with colleagues to a place where handicapped children are helped; visits with children whose need for physical comfort is great; the children who are without parents and in need of food; and a visit to a new library where the children and others can come and read. He comments on the great thirst these young people have for learning.

Called from darkness: a Lutheran worship celebration in support of the second special session on disarmament of the United Nations at jazz vespers

This item is a 7 page talk given by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Called from Darkness’ given to a Lutheran Worship Celebration in support of the Second Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations at Jazz Vespers, published in Sermons at St. Peter’s Church, Sunday, June 13, 1982. Nouwen identifies his intention in this talk to reflect on a ‘spirituality of peacemaking’ using three key words: prayer, resistance and community. In his discussion of prayer Nouwen first speaks of the difference between speaking out of our needs: for affection, attention, power and speaking from our relationship with God rooted in prayer. ‘Now prayer is that slow process in which we move away from that dark sticky place of our needs into the light of Christ’. Nouwen also identifies prayer as an act of resistance, ‘resistance against this needy, sucking and frightening go-around’. Nouwen then reflects on the word resistance. ‘Resistance means to say No! No! No! against all the forces of death’. Nouwen speaks about the power then of life and our resistance to it and that is our struggle not just in the big things in life but the small. Nouwen goes on to suggest that resistance is not just to say No! but even more to say yes. ‘Resistance in the deepest sense means to continuously proclaim that God is a God of the living, that God is a God of life’. Nouwen also states that ‘Resistance is prayer because it is a proclamation and a confession of the living God’. In discussing the third word ‘community’, Nouwen identifies community as the place of prayer and resistance. The person who acts towards peace with the support of community is rooted in a place of acceptance and forgiveness. Nouwen concludes the talk by saying that he believes the most important point is that ‘community is to be a Eucharistic community’.

The Genesee diary: report from a Trappist monastery

This item is a 5 page excerpt by Henri Nouwen from ‘The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery, published in The Sunday Democrat and Chronicle, Upstate New York Magazine, Sunday September 27, 1981, pp. 12 – 19. This item includes short excerpts from the 7 month stay of Nouwen at the Abbey in 1975 in which he describes his own struggles and insights; his sense of the importance of community life; the humanity of the contemplative vocation; the daily round of work and the liturgy.

A self-emptied heart: the disciplines of spiritual formation

This item is a three page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘A Self-Emptied Heart: The Disciplines of spiritual formation’, published in Sojourners, Vol. 10, No. 8, August , 1981, pp. 20 – 22. This is part three of a three part series. Nouwen begins this article by stating that discipleship requires discipline. He identifies three disciplines in particular: 1) the discipline of the church – ‘by which we remain in touch with the true story of God in history. Nouwen identifies the importance of the church community ,’ The attention to the presence of Christ in our own personal story can only remain free from self-deception when we remain attentive to the presence of Christ in the daily life of the church’. 2) The discipline of the book – here Nouwen emphasizes the necessity of reading the scriptures deeply and meditatively. 3) The discipline of the heart – ‘The discipline of the heart is the discipline of personal prayer which…leads us not just to our own heart, but to the heart of God’. Nouwen concludes this series of three articles, ‘We are called to follow Christ on his downwardly mobile road, tempted to choose the broad path of success, notoriety, and influence, and challenged to subject ourselves to spiritual disciplines in order to gradually conform to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

Temptation: the pull toward upward mobility

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Temptation’, published in Sojourners,Vol. 10, No. 7, July , 1981, pp. 25 -27. This is part two of a three part series. Nouwen begins by stating that the spiritual life is ‘the life of the Spirit of Christ within and among us’. He then suggests that there is also the ‘Evil One’ who roams among us and tempts us away from the life of Jesus. This article looks at the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. The first temptation Nouwen identifies as the temptation to be relevant. ‘This temptation touches us at the center of our identity. In a variety of ways we are made to believe that we are what we produce’. The second temptation Nouwen identifies as the temptation to be spectacular. ‘We have come to believe that a service is valuable when many attend, a protest meeting is worthwhile when television cameras are present…’ Nouwen suggests that we value things that get a great deal of attention but forget the quiet unobtrusive ways of Jesus. The third temptation is the temptation to be powerful. Nouwen suggests we long for power, but the more we have the less we are satisfied. He goes on to point out that the only power that ‘works’ is the power of God which is often seen as powerlessness. ‘We do not belong to the world. We belong to God’.

The selfless way of Christ

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘The Selfless Way of the Christ: Downward mobility as Christian vocation’, published in Sojourners, June , 1981, pp. 12- 15. This is the first of a three part series (see July and August 1981). Nouwen’s introduction notes that ministry ‘is a true witness only when it emerges out of a genuine personal encounter, a true experience of love’. He goes on to say that this personal encounter and love is with Jesus Christ and these articles will probe the ‘direct relationship between our ministry and our spiritual life… [and] the radical claim the gospel puts upon us’. Nouwen writes that this commitment in ministry must be all inclusive, total. ‘One cannot be a little bit for Christ’. After the introduction the first section is entitled ‘Upward Mobility’ Here, Nouwen speaks about the reality that our society values more than anything, the idea that upward mobility is good and to fail in this is a failure of life. In the second section entitled ‘Downward Mobility’, Nouwen states that the ‘story of our salvation stands radically over and against the philosophy of upward mobility’. Nouwen examines a number of biblical quotations which support this. Nouwen concludes the section by stating that ‘following Jesus on the downward road means entering into a new life, the life of the Spirit of Jesus himself’. Nouwen entitles his final section ‘The Spiritual Life’, Nouwen asks if this downward mobility can really be an option, if it is really too much and needs to be mitigated. Nouwen’s theme here is that the disciple, the minister who listens to the Spirit of Christ will be free to take the downwardly mobile path.

Do not worry all things will be given: spiritual life

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Do Not Worry, All Things will be Given’, published in the Catholic Agitator September, 1980, Vol. 10 No. 7, pp. 1 – 3. Nouwen begins the article by stating ‘Worrying is such a part and parcel of our daily life that not worrying seems not only impossible but even undesirable’. Nouwen then outlines his intentions for the article, ‘In the first section I will discuss how worrying affects our daily life. In the second part I hope to show how Jesus responds to our paralyzing worries by offering us a new life, a life in the Spirit. Finally, in the last section I want to offer some specific disciplines which can cause our worries to slowly lose their power over us and allow us to experience unceasingly the freedom of God’s Spirit’. In Part I Nouwen speaks of our lives as being filled with busyness and yet also being unfulfilled. In Part II, Nouwen points to Jesus’ busy and yet focused life and suggests that Jesus in his Spirit wants that for us too. ‘Poverty, pain, struggle, anguish, agony and even inner darkness may continue to be part of our experience. They might even be God’s way of purifying us. But life is no longer boring, lonely, resentful or depressing because we have come to know that everything that happens is part of our way to the house of the Father’. In Part III Nouwen speaks of the need each of us has for both solitude and community as the way to this fulfilment.

Descend with the mind into the heart: the call to unceasing prayer

This item is a five page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Descend with the Mind into the Heart; the call to unceasing prayer’, published in Sojourners, August 20, 1980, pp: 20 – 24. This is the third part of a series which included articles on solitude and silence. Nouwen begins by stating ‘solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer’. He also, once again uses stories from the desert fathers beginning with Arsenius to point to the importance of prayer. Nouwen, in his first part of this article headed, Prayer of the Mind, suggests that most ministers would say that prayer is of the utmost importance but that in fact, they don’t do it. ‘The contrast between the great support for the idea of prayer and the lack of support for the practice of it is so blatantly visible that it becomes quite easy to believe in the ruses of the evil one which Amma Theodora describes with such vivid detail. These ruses are identified as: 1) to make us think of prayer as an activity of the mind 2) a viewpoint that restricts the meaning of prayer to thinking about God. Nouwen states that ‘both these views of prayer are the products of a culture in which high value is place on mastering the world through the intellect’. Nouwen then goes on to discuss what he identifies as the prayer of the heart ‘which leads to that rest where the soul can dwell with God’. Nouwen identifies in his concluding section entitled ‘Prayer and Ministry’ three disciplines of prayer: 1) Nurtured by short prayers 2) unceasing and 3) all-inclusive. Nouwen concludes this third article by stating: ‘When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gesture, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it’.

Reflections on compassion: convention keynote address

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled,’ Reflections on Compassion’ which was the Keynote address at the annual assembly of the Catholic Health Association of Canada, published in the C.H.A.C. Review, July/August, 1980. Nouwen opens his talk with a quotation from the Letter to the Philippians 2: 1 – 11. In his introduction he begins by asking the people if they think they are compassionate which he suggests means ‘ to enter, with other people, where it hurts; to enter places of pain; to be there where people are suffering’. He suggests that we do not of our own accord do this and that it is God only who is compassionate. Nouwen suggests that one reason we are not compassionate is that we are too competitive. He goes on to state that God who is in no way in competition with us nevertheless became like us but not to take ’our pains away but to share them, to enter them and to become fully part of them. Nouwen asks his audience to think of those people who are most meaningful to us. Are they not the people who remain alongside us in our need? Nouwen speaks of Jesus’ powerful response of caring as described in the scriptures; a caring that comes from his ‘gut’. ‘Jesus felt the pain so deeply, he trembled so deeply that he trembled people to new life. He was moved, and out of that inner divine movement new health, cure and change came about’. Nouwen then speaks of the distinction between cure and care. Cure without care can be harmful, even violent. ‘Care broadens your vision; care makes you see around you; care makes you aware of possibilities’. Finally, Nouwen speaks of the possibility of being compassionate both in presence and absence.

Silence, the portable cell: the word which creates communion

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Silence, The Portable Cell’, published in Sojourners, July 1980, pp. 22, 24 – 26. This item is part two of a three part series. Nouwen begins by using examples from the writings of the Desert Fathers. He then states, ‘Silence is a way to make solitude a reality… It can be seen as a portable cell taken with us from the solitary place into the midst of our ministry. It is solitude practiced in action.’ Nouwen’s first section discusses what he calls ‘Our wordy world’ and suggests that we no longer trust another’s words because everything is talked about, not much held in silence. In the next section entitled ‘Silence’ Nouwen takes from the Desert Fathers three aspects of silence: Silence makes us pilgrims, Silence guards the fire within and Silence teaches us to speak. Nouwen’s concluding section is entitled: The Ministry of Silence and is divided into three headings: Silence and Preaching, Silence and Counseling and Silence and Organizing. Nouwen concludes by stating ‘These examples of silence in preaching, counseling and organizing are meant to illustrate how silence can determine the concrete shape of our ministry. But let us not be too literal about silence. After all, silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth’.

The desert counsel to flee the world

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Desert Counsel to Flee the World’ which is part one of a 3 part series published in Sojourners, pp. 14, 15 – 18, June 1980. Nouwen introduces the article by speaking of the desert fathers and mothers, in particular he writes briefly of the life of St. Anthony ‘the father of monks’. Nouwen identifies in the life of Anthony the profound importance of solitude and states, ‘When he emerged from his solitude, people recognized in him the real “healthy” man, whole in body, mind and soul’. Under the heading ‘The compulsive minister’ Nouwen expresses concern that the lives of many ministers are ‘horrendously secular’ busy with meetings, people, agendas, services. He suggests the very busyness of this life can be a way to avoid solitude, being alone with God. In the next section entitled, ‘The furnace of transformation’ Nouwen identifies solitude as the furnace of transformation. ‘Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter’. Here, the minister encounters himself or herself in the struggle to die to the false self, to meet God and ‘to be with him and him alone’. In the final heading entitled ‘A Compassionate Ministry’ Nouwen suggests that the life of prayer in solitude is the source of the quality of compassion for the minister. He concludes by stating, ‘In a world that victimizes us by its compulsions, we are called to solitude where we can struggle against our anger and greed and let our new self be born in the loving encounter with Jesus Christ. It is in this solitude that we become compassionate people…’

The monk and the cripple: toward a spirituality of ministry

This item is a 10 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘ The Monk and the Cripple: Toward a Spirituality of Ministry’ ,which was a talk published in ‘Growing Together, Conference on Shared Ministry’ by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Laity and the United States Catholic Conference Department of Education/Young Adult Ministry’, February 1980. Nouwen begins his talk by identifying what is the heart of Christian ministry: ‘that ministers are men and women without power who live in the Name of their Lord and who often see him when they least expect it’. In the first major section entitled ‘Without Power’ Nouwen states, ‘ To be a minister means above all to become powerless… to speak with our powerlessness to the condition of powerlessness which is so keenly felt but so seldom expressed by the people of our age’. Nouwen then speaks of the temptation of the minister to give up the sense of powerless to be professional, to be competent and powerful. Nouwen identifies a second temptation as that of wanting to be a spiritual pioneer or the temptation to individualism. There is for Nouwen, the further temptation to cling to the minister’s role with regard to the Word and Sacrament as privileged and therefore, powerful. In the second major section entitled ‘In the Name’ Nouwen says, ‘Here we touch the mystery of ministry. Ministers are powerless people who have nothing to boast of except their weaknesses. But when the Lord whom they serve fills them with blessing they will move mountains and change the hearts of people wherever they go.’ Nouwen suggests that this aspect of ministry can only be fed by prayer which leads the minister to intimate communion with God. In the final section entitled, ‘ Seeing God’ Nouwen says’ This is the secret of ministry: it is the ongoing discovery of God’s presence in the midst of the human struggle and the joyful proclamation of that discovery’. Nouwen concludes the talk ‘Thus ministers are seers who reach out to their people to reveal to them God’s presence in their lives and to call them together to make this divine presence manifest in communal celebration’.

The monk and the cripple: toward a spirituality of ministry

This item is a 10 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘ The Monk and the Cripple: Toward a Spirituality of Ministry’ ,which was a talk published in ‘Growing Together, Conference on Shared Ministry’ by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Laity and the United States Catholic Conference Department of Education/Young Adult Ministry’, February 1980. Nouwen begins his talk by identifying what is the heart of Christian ministry: ‘that ministers are men and women without power who live in the Name of their Lord and who often see him when they least expect it’. In the first major section entitled ‘Without Power’ Nouwen states, ‘ To be a minister means above all to become powerless… to speak with our powerlessness to the condition of powerlessness which is so keenly felt but so seldom expressed by the people of our age’. Nouwen then speaks of the temptation of the minister to give up the sense of powerless to be professional, to be competent and powerful. Nouwen identifies a second temptation as that of wanting to be a spiritual pioneer or the temptation to individualism. There is for Nouwen, the further temptation to cling to the minister’s role with regard to the Word and Sacrament as privileged and therefore, powerful. In the second major section entitled ‘In the Name’ Nouwen says, ‘Here we touch the mystery of ministry. Ministers are powerless people who have nothing to boast of except their weaknesses. But when the Lord whom they serve fills them with blessing they will move mountains and change the hearts of people wherever they go.’ Nouwen suggests that this aspect of ministry can only be fed by prayer which leads the minister to intimate communion with God. In the final section entitled, ‘ Seeing God’ Nouwen says’ This is the secret of ministry: it is the ongoing discovery of God’s presence in the midst of the human struggle and the joyful proclamation of that discovery’. Nouwen concludes the talk ‘Thus ministers are seers who reach out to their people to reveal to them God’s presence in their lives and to call them together to make this divine presence manifest in communal celebration’.

Letting go of all things

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Letting Go of All Things’, published in Sojourners magazine, May 1979, pp. 5& 6. This article is identified as a ‘response to “The Work of Prayer” a project of Sojourners to pray for peace in face of the arms race. Nouwen begins by asking what this call might mean: does it represent a failure of action? A turning to God because turning to people didn’t help much? A capitulation to quietism? A dramatic gesture? Nouwen believes not: ‘I believe that the Sojourners are discovering a dimension of prayer they did not see before…I see their call not as an invitation to retreat into a familiar piety , but as a challenge to make a radical move toward prayer as “the only necessary thing”’. Nouwen suggests prayer as a dying to self, an opening to God, is the ground from which people move out into the world of action. Nouwen concludes, ‘ When …our act of prayer remains the act from which all actions flow, we can be joyful even when our times are depressing, peaceful even when the threat of war is all around us, hopeful even when we are constantly tempted to despair.

Solitude: the inner fabric of Chrisitian community

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Solitude’, published in Sojourners magazine, March 1979.A version of this article appeared in the January 1978 issue of Worship magazine. Nouwen begins the article by stating that people often ask, ‘How do I find time and space for myself?” in Christian community. Nouwen goes on to say that he wants to begin by speaking of ‘two commonly held viewpoints on the role of solitude in community which I consider false, or at least limited’. Nouwen identifies these two viewpoints as: 1) Solitude over against community which he feels is a battle between the needs of the individual and the needs of the community and 2) Solitude in service of community. Here, he suggests, ‘we do not look at solitude as time and space for the individual in contrast to the community, but …solitude is seen as good for the members of the community because they can return from it refreshed and restored and better able to engage in the common task’. This he feels, may be seen as arising out of weakness, or a need for a break. Nouwen states that for him, the best understanding of the need for solitude is that it is ‘participating fully in the growth of community. It is a fallacy to think that we come closer to each other only when we talk together…solitude opens us to the awareness of a unity pre-existent to all unifying actions.’ Nouwen also speaks of solitude in terms of ‘clarity’ in which in solitude members of the community can sort through feelings and values before introducing them to the group. Finally, Nouwen speaks of solitude as ‘prayer’. Nouwen concludes by stating ‘ When solitude is given its central place, communities will be able to resist not only the flagrantly visible ills of our society, but also the evils whose roots reach into the depth of our being and threaten the life of our community itself’.

The hell of mercy: confronting Merton's spirituality

This item is a 1 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘The Hell of Mercy’, published in the journal, Sojourners, December 1978, p.19. Nouwen writes of his interpretation of Thomas Merton's "small, but very penetrating book," 'Contemplative Prayer'. Nouwen discusses how, rather than Merton leading us into morbidity, Merton is actually illustrating how entirely dependent we are on God's mercy.

Contemplation and ministry: making the clouded clear

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Contemplation and Ministry’ published in Sojourners, June 1978, pp. 9,11-12. Nouwen begins the article by asking what is the relationship between contemplation and ministry?. He answers by stating ‘The contemplative life is a life with a vision and life of ministry is the life in which this vision is revealed to others’. He speaks then of a spiritual discipline which leads to movement in life from opacity to transparency. Nouwen uses three examples to discuss this: Nature, Time and People. With regard to Nature Nouwen believes that we are no longer able to let nature minister to us; rather we use and abuse it. With regard to Time, Nouwen suggests that time has become almost an enemy rather than a present moment full of God; a kairos. He suggests that ‘the contemplative life is the life in which time slowly loses its opaqueness and becomes transparent’. With regard to People, Nouwen states ‘ contemplation as seeing what is really there has a very significant meaning in the context of interpersonal relationships…here we can begin to see the intimate connection between contemplation and ministry’. Nouwen concludes by discussing briefly two other important aspects of contemplative prayer for ministry: simplicity and obedience.

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