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University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library, Special Collections Item
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Case-recording in pastoral education

This item is a 9 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Case-Recording in Pastoral Education’ published in The Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy, by the Academy of Parish Clergy, Minneapolis, Mn., 1974, p. 16 – 24. In this article Nouwen is writing about the value for parish clergy of note-making in their interactions with parishioners. Although Nouwen suggests that such note-making is rarely done he outlines in the article a number of reasons why it is valuable and offers some case-studies as evidence. Nouwen first identifies some reasons why there may be resistance in clergy to undertake note-making: 1) That the interactions are private and privileged, 2) That note-taking is a form of creativity which pastors may not see as being relevant to their work 3) That pastors may not see the relevance of what they do to the development of pastoral theology. Nouwen then discusses some values of note-making for pastors: 1) It is a professional task and one which, if the pastor is to be considered a professional among other professionals, must be done.. ‘The pastor cannot seriously claim a place on the professional team if he does not have his case-record by which he presents his work with the patient for discussion, criticism and evaluation. 2) It is a form of self-supervision. Here Nouwen quotes Russell Dick, BD, that note writing ‘is a check upon one’s work; it is a clarifying and developing process; it relieves emotional strains for the writer.’ Preceding the presentation of several case studies Nouwen states the following, ‘ One of the reasons it is so difficult to learn from experience is that the nature of the experience itself often remains obscure, ambiguous or vague. Sometimes the pastor feels happy after a visit, sometimes disappointed, sometimes sad, angry or depressed. In many ways the pastor senses vaguely that something went right or wrong, but cannot put a finger on it. Usually he does not stop to think or reflect but moves on to another experience allowing his feelings to drift into the background, unavailable as a potential source for learning. But if the pastor sits and writes the conversation as he or she remembers it, and tries to formulate personal observations of the situation and reactions to it, the cloud can vanish and the experience can become clear and visible’.

Love protects aloneness

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Love protects aloneness’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, undated but possibly July or Sep. 1974. Nouwen is continuing his focus on the importance of solitude for the spiritual development of the individual. He begins, ‘By slowly converting my loneliness into a deep solitude, I create that precious space where I can distinguish the voice telling me about my inner necessity- that is, my vocation’. He follows this point by raising the question, ’How many people can claim their ideas, opinions and viewpoints as their own?’. He states that ‘frequently, we are restlessly looking for answers, going from door to door, from book to book, or from school to school, without having really listened carefully to the questions’. Nouwen points out that our society tends to pull us away from fruitful solitude and encourages seeking answers instead of listening to the questions. He suggests that in solitude we can become present to ourselves and from this we become closer to others. ‘In this solitude we encourage each other to enter into the silence of our innermost being and discover there the voice which calls us beyond the limits of human togetherness to a new communion.’

Share human sorrow

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Share Human Sorrow’, published in The National Catholic Reporter, August 30, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen begins this article by stating ‘It is tragic to see how the religious sentiment of the West has become so individualized that concepts such as “a contrite heart” have come to refer only to personal experiences of guilt and the willingness to do penance for it’. Nouwen goes on to suggest that the great catastrophes of today do not become part of us and contrition for them becomes ‘no more than a pious emotion’. He asks why the hurtful and corrupt actions of people in our society that are everyday in the newspaper don’t ‘crush our hearts and make us bow our head in an endless sorrow?...Shouldn’t that bring us finally to a confession that we as a people have sinned and need forgiveness and healing?’. Nouwen then asks, ‘how can I live a healthy and creative life when I am constantly reminded of the fate of the millions who are poor, sick, hungry and persecuted?’ Nouwen admits he does not know the answer, but suggests that even though we may feel powerless to do anything we can accept that ‘although the events of the day are out of my hands, they should never be out of my heart. I hope that, instead of bitterness, my life will yield to the wisdom that only from the heart a humble response can come forth’.

Isolate self at times

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Isolate Self at Times’ , published in The National Catholic Reporter, July 5, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen continues the theme of fruitful solitude which he began in previous columns of this paper. Nouwen states at the beginning, ‘It is probably difficult if not impossible to move from loneliness to solitude without any form of withdrawal from a distracting world’. He speaks of monks and hermits who go into the wilderness seeking solitude but goes on to say, ‘ But the solitude which really counts is the solitude of the heart, an inner quality or attitude which does not depend on physical isolation’. Nouwen speaks of the difference in being present to another in loneliness or in solitude. In solitude, he suggests, we hear the other and respond. He also suggests that we all move back and forth between these poles even from hour to hour. Nouwen states ‘ Sometimes I wonder if the fact that so many people ask support, advice and counsel from so many other people is not, for a large part, a result of their having lost contact with their innermost self’. Nouwen concludes the article with a lengthy quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

Friendship inner quality

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Friendship inner quality’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, August 7, 1974. Nouwen begins the article by describing a visit to him from a former student in which they sat in companionable silence for a good portion of the visit. They each recognized the presence of Christ in the other and the student ended the time by saying ‘ From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground’. Nouwen then quotes Rainer Marie Rilke,‘ Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other’. Nouwen interprets this understanding in the following way, ‘It made me see that the togetherness of friends and lovers can become moments in which we can enter into a common solitude which is not restricted by time and place’. He goes on to say, ‘Only slowly I become aware of the possibility to make the human encounters of my life into moments by which my solitude grows and expands itself to embrace more people into the community of my life. It indeed is possible for all those with whom I stayed for a moment or a long time to become members of that community since by their encounter in love all the ground between us has indeed become holy ground and since those who leave can stay in the hospitable solitude of the heart’. Nouwen goes on to cite examples of the ways humans relate but which need not replace this fruitful solitude of the heart.

Solitude not withdrawl

This item consists of a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Solitude not withdrawal’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, August 16, 1974, p. 11. In this article Nouwen is continuing his focus on the difference between loneliness and solitude and the importance of solitude as the ‘place’ from which each human being acts. He begins by stating ‘The movement from loneliness to solitude is not a movement of a growing withdrawal but instead a movement toward a deeper engagement on the burning issues of our time’. ‘As long as I am trying to run away from my loneliness I am constantly looking for distraction…’. Nouwen points to the need to be ‘fully aware of my world and very alert so all that is and happens can become part of my constant meditation and can be molded in the center of my solitude into a free and fearless response’. Nouwen suggests finally, that ‘in my solitude, my history no longer can remain a random collection of disconnected incidents and accidents but has to become a constant call for the change of heart and mind’.

Listen to pain with heart

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Listen to pain with heart’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, September 6, 1974, p. 15. Nouwen begins this article by stating that ‘when my response to the world remains hanging between my mind and my hands, it remains weak and superficial….Only when my mind has descended into my heart can I expect a lasting response welling up from my innermost self’. Nouwen speaks of the solitude of the heart as the place from which effective and meaningful actions flow. ‘It is in the solitude of the heart that we can truly listen to the pains of the world because there we can recognize them as strange and unfamiliar pains but as pains which are indeed our own’. Nouwen suggests that it is from being in touch with out inner solitude that we can avoid self-righteousness and grow in compassion. Nouwen quotes several passages from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who speaks of the fruitfulness of solitude as a school for compassion. Nouwen concludes the article by stating ‘The paradox indeed is that the beginning of healing is in the solidarity with the pain. And in our solution-oriented society it is more important than ever to realize that wanting to alleviate pain without sharing it is like wanting to save a child from a burning house without the risk of being hurt’.

Wisdom of emptiness

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Wisdom in Emptiness’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 4, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen begins the article by stating that most people need constant occupation and without it are restless and feel useless. He says ‘Being busy, active and on the move has nearly become part of our constitution’. Nouwen goes on to state ‘this is why silence is such a difficult task’. He suggests that occupation and preoccupation are our ’fearful ways to keep things the same’…’we hold on to the familiar life items which we have collected in the past’. Nouwen uses as an example of this a story by Carlos Castaneda and the story of Jesus’ exhortation that we should ‘not worry …your heavenly father knows what you need’. Nouwen concludes by saying, ‘ Conversion is an inner event that cannot be planned or organized, but needs to develop from within. Just as you cannot force a plant to grow, but can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development, so you can… offer the space where such a conversion can take place’.

Hostility to hospitality

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Hostility to hospitality’ in the National Catholic Reporter, September 13, 1974, P. 11. In this article Nouwen begins by speaking of a human desire to ‘stand out, be different, exceptional’ and that we ‘are slowly seduced into the illusion that our value is seated in those few qualities that make us different from all other people’. Nouwen goes on to say that maturity however, is to accept the reality of our human condition and our union and likeness to other human beings. Nouwen points to Jesus as the one who came ‘like us’ and then states ‘And so it is God who reveals to us the movement of our life. It is not the movement from weakness to power, but the movement in which we can become less and less fearful and defensive and more and more open to the other…’. Nouwen points out the difficulty of this movement but suggests that the hostility and fear that we experience prevent us from becoming truly human. Nouwen concludes by suggesting that ‘when we have become sensitive to the painful contours of our hostility, we might start identifying the lines of its opposite toward which we are called to move: hospitality’.

Hospitality frees guests

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Hospitality Frees Guests’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘If the first characteristic of the spiritual life is the continuing movement from loneliness to solitude, its second characteristic is the movement by which hostility can be converted in hospitality’. Nouwen suggests that if we meet others out of needy loneliness that will not create an open space of hospitality to help the other be who they should be. Nouwen states that he believes the biblical concept of hospitality ‘might offer a new dimension to our understanding of a healing relationship and the formation of a recreating community’. Hospitality creates ‘not a fearful emptiness , but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free…’.

Protecting intimacy

This item is a half- page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Protecting Intimacy’ published in Dignity, A National Publication of the Gay Catholic Community, Vol. V, No. 10, October 1974, p.4. Nouwen begins this article by stating, ‘A most painful thing to say is that intimate love does not take our loneliness away but protects it and converts it into solitude. Therefore intimacy is first of all a protecting intimacy allowing us to move from loneliness to solitude.’ Nouwen then goes on to give an example of a family whose mode of living is to avoid pain in their relationships. Nouwen suggests that ‘this world is full of lonely people trying hard to love each other without succeeding. The question is if this is not largely due to the fact that we are not able to face the pain of our loneliness’. Nouwen concludes by stating,’Intimacy,..does not mean entering the other with an intruding curiosity or a hungry need for satisfaction. Intimacy touches gently, intimacy does not take, but gives, does not suffocate but lets grow, does not conquer and possess but sets free and keeps free.’

Schools stifle feelings

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Schools Stifle Feelings’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 11, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen begins the article by stating his purpose: ‘I would like to show how different forms of service can be seen as hospitality’. Nouwen then goes to speak about teaching as a form of ministry. Nouwen suggests that ‘ Practically every student perceives his education as an endless row of obligations to be fulfilled…In such a climate it is not so surprising that an enormous resistance to learning develops and that much real mental and emotional development is inhibited by an education situation in which students perceive their teachers more as demanding bosses than as guides in their search for knowledge and understanding’. Nouwen suggests that what is needed is for there to be a space created ‘where students and teachers can enter into a fearless communication with each other and allow their respective life experiences to be their primary and most valuable source of growth and maturation’. Nouwen states that he sees teaching also as a form of hospitality and that a most important task of the teacher is to create ‘ a fearless space’ where questions can be asked and explored.

Honesty in preaching

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘Honesty in Preaching’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen identifies preaching as a common ministerial task which has, he suggests, come to have many negative connotations. Nouwen describes preaching in many ways in this article: removing rocks so good seed can find root; taking away leaves so the path is visible; ploughing ground so that the rain can soak it. He states, ‘Preaching in this sense means creating the space where the word can be received’. Nouwen describes preaching as’ a very hard and often painful task because it requires that the preacher be able to feel and speak to the “soul” of the community’. And in a pain-avoiding society, it takes courage to feel into experiences which hurt, to articulate emotions which prefer to remain hidden and to give names to behavior which wants to remain unmentioned’. Nouwen concludes the article by saying,’ …we must be aware that Christianity is not an ideology but the revelation of the living Christ, with whom a personal relationship is possible. The vocation of the preacher therefore, is …to set apart a moment and a place where the still voice can be heard..’.

The transcendent quality of prayer

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: The Transcendent Quality of Prayer, published in Faith/At/Work , March 1976, p.26. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ’Prayer reveals to us the real nature of things. It is the affirmation of life not as a possession to be grabbed and hoarded but as a gift to be shared’. Nouwen then goes on to speak of the difference between living as if people, things, ideas are to be grabbed and possessed or as if these things are received as a gift to be shared. He suggests that through prayer the latter becomes a reality to the life of the person who prays. Nouwen concludes the article in the following way, ‘Through prayer we discover that people are more than their character – that they are persons in the sense of per sonare - sounding through. When we become personas to each other, we sound through a peace greater than we ourselves can make and a love deeper and wider than we ourselves can contain. When we become persons we do indeed become transparent to each other and the Lord can speak through us to us’.

Stranger in paradise

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Stranger in Paradise’, published in The Sign: National Catholic Magazine, Volume 55, No. 7, April 1976, PP. 13 – 18. It is part one of a two-part article. This article is an excerpt from: Nouwen, Henri: Genesee Diary, Doubleday & Co., 1976. Nouwen begins by stating that ‘My desire to live for seven months in a Trappist monastery, not as a guest but as a monk, did not develop overnight’. The remainder of the article describes some of his struggles and insights as he lived the life of a monk. Nouwen states that he had been looking for someone to help him find direction in his life. He then met Father John Eudes Bamberger at the monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky in whom he says he found what he had been looking for: ‘He listened to me with care and real interest, but he also spoke with deep conviction and a clear vision…’. Three years later Nouwen went to the Abbey of the Genesee where Bamberger had become Abbot. It is the experience of the seven months in which lived as a monk at this Abbey which is the focus of this article and of the book from which it is taken. Nouwen describes his struggle with the rhythms and work of the monastic life; his struggle understanding monastic concepts of obedience and his own depression that followed his first month. Nouwen then outlines some of the areas in which he feels is learning: 1) Wanting to be different- Nouwen describes his lifelong desire to be thought different and his growing discovery that in the monastery one is to be unnoticed, not special, and in this ‘The mystery of God’s love is that in this sameness, we discover our uniqueness’. 2) Sacred Rhythm – ‘One of the things a monastery like this does for you is give a new rhythm, a sacred rhythm’ and in this, Nouwen rediscovers the Saints. 3) Mary – in the monastery Nouwen rediscovers his devotion to Mary that was part of his family life. 4) Love – In his time in this monastery Nouwen says he struggled with the sense that his experience of love had been ‘limited, imperfect and weak’. Nouwen goes on to say ‘I am beginning to experience that an unconditional, total love of God makes a very articulate, alert and attentive love for the neighbor possible’.


This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled Compassion, published in Exchange, Summer 1976, pp. 8 – 10. Nouwen begins this article by saying ‘The word “compassion” always brings to mind a relationship with people…to be with a suffering human being, to suffer with him or her.’ He then asks if it is not possible also to speak about compassion with God which he sees as the basis for our compassion with others. Nouwen sees the dynamic of compassion with God as rooted in Jesus. ‘The great mystery of the spiritual life is that it is a life of union with God. But this union with God is a union through Jesus Christ who suffered all the pains of the world and carried these pains with him into his intimacy with the Father’. Nouwen goes on to say that ‘We cannot carry the pains of our world in our own mind but we can carry [them] in the mind of Jesus Christ’. Nouwen concludes the article by stating ‘Our hearts and minds are too small to carry the burdens of the world but in God’s mind and heart there is room for all that hurts’.

Contemplative reflections on torture

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, Contemplative Reflections on Torture, published in Sojourners, July-August 1976, p. 20. This article which is an excerpt from Nouwen’s book ‘Genesee Diary’ is a short reflection on his personal response to the political upheaval in Chile and the torture of many there. Nouwen begins by stating that he has read reports on the crisis which he finds ‘so disturbing, so overwhelming in their description of terror, that I could hardly sleep last night’. He speaks of his struggle to accept that this goes on while he is living quietly at the monastery but reflects that his understanding of some of the psalms which are part of the daily prayer there, help him with this struggle. He wonders if he is feeling compassion for the victims or more that he is feeling mostly anger at the perpetrators. ‘Maybe it is realistic to recognize these feelings and be thankful that the psalms give me a chance to express them even in the intimacy of prayer. Maybe these feelings have to be led directly to the center of my relationship with my God who is “slow to anger”.'

Solitude and intimacy in the family

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, Solitude and Intimacy in the Family, published in a.d. Correspondence: Catholic Reflections on Catholic Life, Vol. 13, No. 3, July 31, 1976. This article consists of excerpts from two talks given by Nouwen. Nouwen states early in the article, ‘We live in a society in which loneliness has become one of the most painful human wounds. Growing competition and rivalry, pervading human life from birth to death have created a new acute awareness of man’s isolation’. Nouwen suggests that loneliness however, is an important part of our development as human beings and that attempts to do away with it, especially within marriage and family are not helpful to growth. ‘Maybe we have to say that a growing maturity in marriage means a growing regard for that deep place where man is totally alone and cannot be understood and touched, and a growing reverence for the mystery in each other which can never be fully grasped’. Nouwen sees that in marriage the husband and wife ‘ are called to be ministers to each other, binding each other’s wounds of loneliness.’ This will make it possible he suggests, to protect the private space that each needs, and will create a growth of true intimacy. ‘Then we become lovers who are not trying to fulfill each other, but who want to sound through to each other the all-fulfilling love which embraces us all’. Nouwen then speaks of the family which respects in the children the need also for space to be themselves, as gifts not possessions. This respect and true intimacy then leave room for hospitality in its true sense to others outside the family. Nouwen then discusses what he calls, receptive solitude, ‘therefore the first gift of family members to one another is the gift of solitude in which they can discover their real selves’. Nouwen concludes the article by stating, ‘Thus, marriage can indeed be a witness to the living truth that the wound which causes us to suffer now will be revealed to us as the place where God’s new creation took its first shape’.

The gift of solitude

This item is a two page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘The Gift of Solitude” published in Faith At Work, Volume 89, No. 3, April 1976, p. 28-29. In this article Nouwen is discussing the necessity of solitude in family life allowing each member to have the space to grow. “…the family is a special witness to the general Christian and human vocation to live a life in which solitude leads to intimacy and intimacy to solitude’. Nouwen states that we live in a world in which what we ‘do’ defines who we are and therefore leads us to believe that we must be constantly occupied. Nouwen then states that ‘the first gift of family members to each other is the gift of solitude, in which they can discover their real selves’. He states that allowing solitude for a married couple increases the intimacy between them and between and with their children. Nouwen concluded, ‘In their solitude and intimacy, they evoke a love which transcends the limits of human togetherness; they evoke a divine love of which they have become visible witnesses’.

Compassion in the art of Vincent van Gogh

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen, entitled, ‘Compassion in the Art of Vincent Van Gogh, published in The Catholic Worker, May 1976, PP 3,4,12. This article was previously published in the journal America, March 13, 1976. In this article Nouwen uses the letters to his brother Theo and the paintings of the Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh to write of the expression of compassion in a human life. Nouwen states as the aspects of compassion he wishes to look at in the following way: ‘When we read Vincent’s letters and contemplate his paintings and drawings, three aspects of compassion come into focus: solidarity, consolation and comfort’. He then goes on with regard to these aspects to say, ‘When we say, “Blessed are the compassionate,” we do so because the compassionate manifest their human solidarity by crying out with those who suffer. They console by feeling deeply the wounds of life, and they offer comfort by pointing beyond the human pains to glimpses of strength and hope. 1) Solidarity: Nouwen suggests that although a sense of human solidarity might seem obvious that capacity has receded in our society. But he describes Vincent’s sense of it: ‘He realized that the road to human solidarity is painful and lined by weeping willows, but once Vincent found his aim in life, nothing, absolutely nothing, could hold him back’. 2) Consolation: Nouwen begins this aspect ‘when we have given up our desire to be different and have recognized our intimate solidarity with the human condition, then consolation can manifest itself. In Vincent Van Gogh, Nouwen sees consolation growing out of the artists desire to ‘come in touch with the heart of life as he saw it in the poor of spirit… for him, to draw meant to draw out of his fellow human beings that which binds them together’. Nouwen concludes this section by stating, ‘Consolation indeed asks for the sincere struggle to reach into the center of human brokenness; out of its common depths compassion can be expressed’. 3) Comfort: ‘Comfort…is the great human gift that creates community. Those who come together in mutual vulnerability are bound together by a new strength that makes them into one body’. Nouwen goes on to describe how Van Gogh especially in his later life tried to comfort by ‘drawing out of the dirtiest corners of life a ray of light’. Van Gogh’s own suffering of loneliness, obscurity and mental anguish, did not obscure the reality that ‘it is the sun that has made Vincent famous’.

Drawing closer to God and man

This item is a 7 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Drawing Closer to God and Man’ published in Sign, May 1976, Vol. 55, No. 8, pp. 10 – 16. This is part two of a two part article (see Sign, April 1976). It is an excerpt from, Nouwen, Henri: The Genesee Diary, Report from a Trappist Monastery. In this article Nouwen continues to reflect on his 7 month stay at the Abbey of the Genesee in New York State. Nouwen reflects on a number of aspects of his experience under some of the following headings: 1) Boring Work. Nouwen finds the boredom of the manual labor he is given each day makes him feel angry and frustrated. Under the guidance of the Abbot, he begins to discover that ‘manual work, indeed, unmasks my illusions, it shows how I am constantly looking for interesting, exciting, distracting activities to keep my mind away from the confrontation with my nakedness, powerlessness, mortality’. 2) Silence. In this section Nouwen describes his growing awareness of the ambiguous feelings that arise in him when he talks too much and does not seek silence. 3) Scheduled Prayer. In seeking a deep prayer life for his return to his busy work, Nouwen is advised by the Abbot to have a scheduled time of prayer daily that can never be broken without permission of his spiritual advisor. 4) Monastic Capitalism. Nouwen discusses in this section his experience of the marketing wisdom of the monks in the selling of their bread. 5) Center of the world. Abbot Eudes describes the monastery as ‘the center of the world’. Nouwen reflects that ‘Insofar as the monastery is the place where the presence of God in the world is most explicitly manifest and brought to consciousness, it is indeed the center of the world’. 6) Total Commitment. Nouwen asks the Abbot about total commitment because ‘I have had a glimpse of the reality of being unconditionally committed to Christ in a total surrender to him. In that glimpse, I also saw how divided I still am, how hesitantly I commit myself, with what reluctance I surrender’. 7) Thanksgiving. Nouwen has been asked to speak to the community about his experience with them. He speaks in terms of The Lord, the world, the brethren, and the saints and what he has learned of each. 8) Epilogue. Nouwen writes the epilogue more than 6 months after he has left the Abbey and reflects on how little he feels the experience has changed him. However, he sees it as having given him strength to support him in ‘the Garden of Gethsemane and the long, dark night of life’.

Called to be hosts

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: Called to be Hosts, published in Faith/At/Work, September, 1976, p 30-31. Nouwen begins the article by stating ‘The call to ministry is the call to be a host to the many strangers passing by. In this world full of strangers…we search for a hospitable place, where life can be found’. Nouwen speaks then of our ambivalent feelings towards the stranger of both fear and attraction and suggests that ‘during the last years strangers have become more subject to hostility than to hospitality’. Nouwen then goes on to speak of the way in which a minister is to offer healing hospitality to the stranger. He speaks of the need to offer a space where the stranger can grow to be himself. ‘This will come to pass only when ministry is undergirded by spirituality, that is, when the outer movement from hostility to hospitality is supported by an inner movement from property to poverty. Poverty means that my identity in the final analysis is not determined by what I can do or think, but by what God’s Spirit can do, say, and think in me.’ Nouwen concludes, ‘When poverty enables us to create a friendly space for the stranger and to convert hostility into hospitality, then the stranger might be willing to show his real face’.

Compulsions led him to a monastery

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Compulsions led him to a Monastery’, published in The Catholic Witness, Oct 7, 1976. This article is an excerpt from: Nouwen, Henri, ‘The Genesse Diary, Image Books, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York, 1976. Nouwen begins this article by describing his distracted and restless life and his lack of time for prayer and quiet which leads him to spend seven months living the monastic life at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. He speaks of his desire to be different, sensational but discovers that ‘in recent years, I have become increasingly aware of the dangerous possibility of making the word of God sensational’. During his time at the monastery he asks the Abbot, John Eudes Bamberger, how, when he returns to his busy life, he can develop a deep prayer life. Bamberger’s answer is, he says, simple: ‘ The only solution is a prayer schedule that you will never break without consulting your spiritual director’. This schedule will include setting a firm time which cannot be changed and to remain at prayer however ‘useless’ this time appears to be. Nouwen concludes by suggesting that though he is distracted and unclear what his prayer may be doing for him, in retrospect he senses that he is growing.

Does the news destroy compassion?

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Does the News Destroy Compassion?, published in The Sign, September, 1976, pp.25 -27. Nouwen begins this article by making reference to the monk, Thomas Merton who read no newspapers, nor watched television, nor listened to the radio but who had a strong sense of solidarity with humanity. Nouwen quotes Merton ‘ My first duty is to start to live as a member of a human race that is no more and no less ridiculous than I am myself’. This, Nouwen suggests, lead Merton to compassion. ‘It was because of this compassionate solidarity that Merton was able to speak out and to offer criticism…to distinguish illusions from reality’. Nouwen then speaks about our modern exposure daily to images and descriptions of deep human suffering that we can do nothing about. He says, ‘ I am wondering, more and more, if day-to-day confrontation with human suffering with which identification is impossible does not, in fact, create more anger than love and more disgust than compassion’. He then asks, ‘How can I become a compassionate person?. Nouwen indicates that most of Merton’s information came from personal sources, letters, from individuals rather than collectivities. “In these letters Merton saw the world with its pains and joys; these letters brought him in contact with a living community of people who had real faces, real tears, and real smiles’. Nouwen concludes the article ‘A compassionate person has an eye for small things and is able to trust in the simple response. The great temptation is to make things so complex that any response seems inadequate and meaningless’.

Love on God's terms

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Love on God’s Terms’ published in The Catholic Witness, October 22, 1976. This is an excerpt from, Nouwen, Henri: The Genesee Diary, Image Books, Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, N.Y. 1976. In this article Nouwen writes about his struggles with his sense of self-worth and being lovable which he experiences in the monastery. Nouwen opens the article by stating,’ My first inclination has been, and in many ways still is, to connect love with something special in me that makes me lovable’. Nouwen struggles with his feeling that if someone is friendly and loving towards him but equally so with others, then there must be something false about that individual’s love. Nouwen goes on to state, ‘It is important for me to realize how limited, imperfect and weak my understanding of love has been…It seems that the monks know the answer: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind”’ . As Nouwen works through this dilemma for himself he concludes that, ‘As long as I am plagued by doubts about my self-worth, I keep looking for gratification from people around me and yield quickly to any type of pain, mental or physical. But when I can slowly detach myself from this need for human affirmation and discover that it is the relationship with the Lord that I find my true self, an unconditional surrender to him becomes not only possible but even the only desire, and pain inflicted by people will not touch me in the center’. With the help of the Abbot he learns that this will come about as he meditates with a commitment to listening truly to God.

Spirituality and the family

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: Spirituality and the Family, published in Church Educator Supplement, by Educational Ministries, Inc. 1406 Westwood, Lakewood, Ohio, June 1977. The preface states that the article was used as the basis for a Christian Family Retreat, as a discussion starter in Christian growth groups, as a tool in premarital counseling and as the premise for a series of parenting classes. Nouwen introduces the article with a quote from St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, ‘Never try to suppress the Spirit: pray constantly and be joyful at all times. Be patient with everyone and think what is good for each other’. The article is divided into two sections. 1) The Vocation of Solitude. He outlines the need in every family for a time and place of solitude for each member. It is in this solitude that each one learns that they are not what they do but ‘what we are given… in solitude we find the space in which God can reveal himself to us as the great lover who made us and remade us.’ 2) The Vocation to Intimacy. Nouwen begins by stating, ‘out of the gift of solitude the gift of intimacy becomes possible’. If intimacy is not born out of fruitful solitude he suggests, then there is a fearful loneliness and various forms of violence. ‘Intimacy born out of solitude creates not only a space where partners can freely dance, but also a space for others, most of all children. The intimacy of marriage is the intimacy in which children can enter, grow and develop, and from which they can depart without feelings of guilt.’ In conclusion he suggests that all of this also leads to a hospitality which can welcome others in love.

Disappearing from the world

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Disappearing from the World’, published in The Sign, November, 1976. Nouwen opens with a quote from Thomas Merton describing his monastery as ‘a place in which I disappear from the world as an object of interest in order to be everywhere in it by hiddenness and compassion. To exist everywhere, I have to be nowhere’. Nouwen suggests the word ‘displacement’ for his movement towards compassion. He states that compassion is a gift but that it requires discipline. He states, ‘The discipline of displacement is a discipline by which we unmask the illusion of “having it put together in a special way” and get in touch with our reality, which is that we are pilgrims on the way, broken people in search of healing, unfulfilled people looking for the One who can fulfill us, sinners asking for grace’. Nouwen concludes by suggesting the necessity of two things: community that leads to prayer and prayer that leads to community.

Memories can inspire you

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Memories Can Inspire You’, published in The Sign, February 1977, p. 22. This article is an excerpt from: Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus, The Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, 1977. There are two headings in this article: 1) The Guidance and 2) The Guiding. In 1) Nouwen begins by stating ‘Good memories offer good guidance…Our hope is built on our memories. Without memories, there are no expectations’. Nouwen then goes on to explain that what he calls ‘guiding memories’, which may not be conscious are powerful in our daily living. He suggests that the great prophets including Jesus, called upon these memories to recall the people to their goal. In part 2) Nouwen asks ‘How do ministers, as living memories of Jesus Christ, guide their people in the concrete circumstances of everyday life?’ He offers two forms of guidance: confronting and inspiring. The minister confronts by reminding people of the temptation to complacency and stifling narrowing down of the original vision. The minister inspires the people by ‘a recapturing the original vision, a going back to the point from which the great inspiration came’.

Paraguayans kill tribe

This item is a one page book review by Henri Nouwen, published in The National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 1977. Nouwen is reviewing a book entitled, ‘Genocide in Paraguay’, edited by Richard Arens, Temple University Press. Nouwen begins the review by asking if ‘our age will not be called the Age of Mass Murders and Genocide’. Nouwen states that ‘The main contribution [in this book] is the article by Mark Munzel: ‘In a nonsensationalist , carefully documented and deeply engaging way, Munzel describes how this peaceful hunting and food-gathering people are killed or captured because their land has recently jumped in value for forestry and ranching companies’. He goes on to describe what has happened to the Ache Indian people and the involvement of Americans. He cites in conclusion from the epilogue by Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of holocaust, ‘After having read these testimonies, we know. Henceforth we shall be responsible. And accomplices.’

Article about Nouwen's views about Yale's mission

This item is a one-half page article by Henri Nouwen included in a series entitled, Five Faculty Views of the University’s Mission, published in the Yale Alumni Magazine and Journal, November 1977, p. 10-11. Nouwen begins by asking if it isn’t preposterous to speak about the mission of Yale because mission implies being sent to serve which for missionaries involves not an upward, but a downward movement to the path of pain and suffering. For Yale students however, he suggests the path is directed upward to be successful lawyers, doctors, executives. Nouwen then goes on to say that he does not see the argument as so simple after all. Nouwen says, ‘there is little doubt that Yale is a secular institution. [But] it is also an institution in which the call to service is continually heard.’ At Yale, Nouwen points out, hundreds of students study the sacred scriptures, the sacraments of the church are received, ‘it is a center where people from the most varied religious traditions meet…it is the home where people come together to assist the poor, visit the elderly, to tutor disadvantaged youth…’. Nouwen concludes by saying,’ so there might be a mission for Yale after all: to send men and women into our society who know the world and have acquired the knowledge and the skills to fulfill a task in it, but who also realize that the value of their lives does not depend on what they have been able to acquire, but on how much they have been able to serve their fellow human beings’.

Not without confrontation

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Not Without Confrontation’, published in Sojourners, October 1977, Vol. 6, No. 10, p. 9. This is identified as the second in a series on compassion. Nouwen begins the article by stating that ‘compassion does not exclude confrontation’. Nouwen points to the prophets and to Jesus to make this point and suggests as an example that ‘we cannot suffer with the poor when we are not willing to confront those who cause poverty’. He goes on to state that the confrontation must be a humble one or in risks being self-righteous or self-serving. Nouwen then goes on to discuss the place of anger in confrontation and suggests that, for instance, anger is an appropriate response to injustice. Nouwen concludes the article by stating that ‘confrontation always includes self-confrontation. This self- confrontation prevents us from becoming alienated from the world which we must confront’.

Solitude and community

This item is a 15 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, Solitude and Community, published in the UISG Bulletin (International Union of Superiors General), Rome, 1978. The article is described as a conference given by Henri Nouwen as part of the program of monthly meetings arranged by the English-speaking councilors of generalates in Rome. Nouwen begins by describing a number of world events occurring in the weeks before, which he concludes leaves our world in ‘a state of emergency’. He goes on to say, ‘while we approach the end of the second millennium of the Christian era, our world is clouded with an all-pervading fear, a growing sense of despair and the paralyzing awareness that indeed humanity has come on the verge of suicide’. Nouwen then asks how or if, the christian (sic) community can or will respond and says he wishes ‘to try to explain how the emergency situation …in which we live can open for us a new understanding of the indispensability of solitude in the life of the christian community’. Nouwen writes under three major headings: 1) Solitude and Intimacy, 2) Solitude and Ministry and 3) Solitude and Prayer, as they relate to communities of religious. 1) After an introduction in which Nouwen states, ‘ a community in which no real intimacy can be experienced cannot be a creative witness for very long in our fearful and angry world’. Nouwen then moves to discuss further under two major headings. The first,’ solitude: grounds for community growth’ suggests solitude is necessary for the growth of a loving community and for increasing fruitful intimacy among the members. The second sub-heading is ‘solitude: where we learn dependence upon God’. Nouwen says here, ‘with solitude, we learn to depend on God by whom we are called together in love, in whom we can rest, and through whom we can enjoy and trust one another…’ 2) Under the heading Solitude and Ministry Nouwen speaks of the new varieties of ministry available but also of the loss of communal character and therefore, common witness. Under the sub-heading ‘solitude: place where common vocation becomes visible’ Nouwen states, ‘We should never forget that God calls us as a people, and that our individual religious vocation should always be seen as a part of the larger vocation of the community. A further heading in this section is, ‘solitude: a place of communal obedience’. 3) In this section headed Solitude and Prayer, Nouwen begins by stating ‘It is very simplistic to say that emergencies make people pay more attention to God and re-awaken religious feelings’. He wonders if in fact, the opposite is not true. He goes on to remind religious to be aware of how much secularism has permeated religious life and how prayer is ‘has lost its central place’. There are two sub-headings:’ solitude: the place of the great encounter and conversion’ in which Nouwen says,’ In solitude we leave behind us our many activities, concerns, plans and projects, opinions and convictions, and enter into the presence of our loving God , totally naked, totally vulnerable, totally open, totally receptive’. In the second sub-heading entitled, ‘solitude: unlimited space for others’ Nouwen says ‘…through prayer and especially through intercessory prayer, the religious community stands open to the whole world. By their prayers, the members of a religious community form an open square in which there is space for any and everyone’. Nouwen concludes by saying ‘I hope that I have been able to convince you to some degree of the indispensability of solitude in the life of the religious community’.

The faces of community

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Faces of Community’, published in The Catholic Worker, March – April, 1978, p. 3 & 7. Nouwen begins the article by pointing out the competitive nature of society and its emphasis on outstanding performance by individuals. Nouwen goes on to suggest that in this atmosphere it ‘is not surprising that our sense of self, our self-esteem, begins to depend increasingly on those aspects of our life in which we are different from others’. Nouwen suggests that this is not a value of the Gospel. Nouwen quotes from Paul (Philippians 2:3-5) and states that on the basis of that, we are required to look for our identity ‘not where we are different or outstanding but where we are the same’. ‘It is the experience of the unconditional love of God that allows us to recognize our common human brokenness and our common need for healing’ which lies at the heart of community.


This item is a 12 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Celibacy’, published in Pastoral Psychology, Volume 27, No. 2, Winter 1978, pp. 79 – 90. This article was first presented as a lecture at the North American College in Rome, Italy, February 10, 1978. Nouwen begins the article with an image which he uses throughout: the contrast between the crowded streets of Rome and the domes of the many churches which offer space and tranquility and rest in God. Nouwen then identifies as his intention for this article that ‘I want to look at celibacy as a witness to the inner sanctum in our own lives and in the lives of others’. He states that he wishes to do this by focusing on three areas: ‘the world in which celibacy is lived; the nature of the witness the celibate offers to this world and the way of life through which this witness is enhanced and strengthened’. With regard to the first area Nouwen points to the great stress in society on relationships, being together and other forms of personal interaction. He follows this with his search for answers to the question, ‘Can real intimacy be reached without a deep respect for that holy place within and between us, that space that should remain untouched by human hands?’ With respect to the second area of witness, Nouwen begins by describing some of the misunderstandings there are about the nature of celibacy. He goes on to state and detail his sense of what celibacy is meant to be in the world: ‘ Celibacy in its deepest sense of creating and protecting emptiness for God is an essential part of all forms of Christian life: marriage, friendship, single life and community life’. He also suggests that,’ The celibate makes his or her life into a visible witness for the priority of God in our lives, a sign to remind all people that without the inner sanctum our lives lose contact with their source and goal’. In discussing the third area of celibacy as a way of life he stresses two aspects beyond sexual abstinence: contemplative prayer and voluntary poverty. This is followed by a short conclusion and summary.

Unceasing prayer

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Unceasing Prayer’, published in the journal, America, July29/Aug 5, 1978, pp. 46 -51. Nouwen begins by suggesting that we tend to think of prayer as one of many things we do. He then points to St Paul’s exhortation that we ‘pray unceasingly’. Nouwen then identifies what he sees as the goal of this article: ‘I propose to look at unceasing prayer as the conversion of our unceasing thought processes. My central question therefore is: “How can we turn our perpetual mental activities into perpetual prayer?” Or, to put it more simply: How can thinking become praying?’ Nouwen moves on to discuss in the first section his understanding of human thought processes and states ‘I have been wondering if we ever do not think?’ He speaks of reflective, non-reflective and dream thinking. Nouwen points to the great value of thinking to human beings and then moves in the next section to say, ‘This unceasing thinking, which lies at the core of our humanity, needs to be converted slowly but persistently into unceasing prayer’. Nouwen’s first suggestion is that unceasing prayer cannot be a constant thinking about God. ‘To pray, I think, does not primarily mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God’. Nouwen follows this by suggesting that prayer cannot be introspection but it must look outward, a conversation with God, where nothing is hidden. In Nouwen’s final section he suggests that to live this life of prayer requires the development of a certain discipline. He then describes in some detail one type of discipline that can be helpful. Nouwen concludes the article by stating, Paul’s words …about unceasing prayer might at first have seemed demanding and unrealistic. Perhaps, we can now see that they can be the source of an ever increasing joy’.

Parents and children

This item is a 1 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Parents and Children’ published in The Denver Catholic Register, Wed. January 30, 1980, p.15. The heading of the page says ‘1980 Family Year’. This article is an excerpt from Nouwen, Henri, ‘Reaching Out, Image Books, Doubleday, N.Y. 1975. Nouwen introduces the article by speaking of the relationship between parents and children as one of hospitality. He says, ‘Our children are our most important guests, who enter into our home, ask for careful attention, stay for a while and then leave to follow their own way’. He suggests that children are strangers parents need to get to know. Parents offer a safe home where children can ask questions without fear. Nouwen points to Baptism, the child’s entry into the church community, as one important source of support in an increasingly isolating society. Nouwen concludes, ‘ A good host is not only able to receive his guests with honor and offer them all the care they need but also to let them go when their time to leave has come’.

Article about Nouwen's feelings after attending the June 1980 Community of Communities Theological Conference

This item is a one column article by Henri Nouwen with no title but part of a larger article entitled ‘Hearing Heart to Heart, responses to a theological conference on prayer, published in Sojourners, October 1980, p.23,24. Nouwen begins by identifying his physical and emotional tiredness when he arrived at the conference but then states, ‘My week [at Woodland Park] will stick in my mind as one of the most hopeful events of my life’. Nouwen states that he does not speak of hope as optimism but the hope and trust in God who promises ‘unwavering faithfulness’. Nouwen then goes on to state that he learned from the conference that there are two essential aspects to the common life: prayer and resistance. Prayer holds the community steady and resistance is ‘an act of visible protest against the powers who are bent on waging war even at the cost of the destruction of humanity’.

Moving from absurdity to obedience

This item is a quarter-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Moving from Absurdity to Obedience’ published in Faith at Work, September/October 1980, p. 7. This item is part of an article entitled ‘What is the Goal of Spiritual Growth?’ Nouwen suggests that spiritual growth is ‘ a gradual development from an absurd life to an obedient life’. Nouwen identifies the origin of the word absurd as ‘surdus’ which means deaf and of obedience as ‘audire’ which means to listen. ‘An absurd life is a life in which we remain deaf to God. An obedient life is a life in which we try to listen carefully to his voice calling us to freedom’.

Spiritual direction

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Spiritual Direction’, published in Reflection by Yale University Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School, Connecticut, January 1981, Vol. 78, No. 2 pp. 7 - 8. 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.

A prayerful life

This item is a short quote from Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart and is entitled, ‘A Prayerful life’ published in Christopher News Notes, N.Y. , No. 279. No year is identified but the file suggests ‘after 1981’. The quote outlines the need in prayer to ‘include all people’.

Encounter in solitude

This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Encounter in Solitude’ and is an excerpt from his book ‘The Way of the Heart’ published in The Sign, February, 1981, pp. 12 - 17. Nouwen introduces the article by speaking of the desert fathers and mothers, in particular he writes 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’. Nouwen expresses concern that the lives of many people are ‘horrendously secular’. Nouwen identifies ‘the two main enemies of the spiritual life: anger and greed. He also suggests that the very busyness of life can be a way to avoid solitude, being alone with God. Nouwen describes solitude as ‘the furnace of transformation’. ‘Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self’. Nouwen speaks then of the fruit of solitude, ‘ it is compassion’. 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…’

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