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University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library, Special Collections Henri Nouwen fonds
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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.

Celibacy

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…’

Gratitude

This item is a two page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Gratitude’, published in America, December 4, 1982. This article is an entry from Nouwen’s book entitled, Gracias! Nouwen in this entry begins by reflecting, ‘Gratitude is becoming increasingly important for those who want to bring the good news of the Kingdom to others’. He goes on to state, ‘ Gratitude is the habit of mind that enables us to receive the hidden gifts of those we want to serve and to make these gifts visible to the community as a source for celebration.’ Nouwen develops the theme of the minister/missionary whose need is to realize their own poverty and to be willing to receive as well as to give. Nouwen concludes by stating, ‘Seeing God in the world and making Him visible to each other is the core of ministry as well as the core of the contemplative life’.

Service

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Service’, published in America, November 27, 1982, p. 325. This is an excerpt from Nouwen’s book, Gracias!: A Latin American Journal’. In this excerpt Nouwen writes of his sense of the power of the vocation to pray living amidst the poor of Cochabamba in Bolivia. He says, ‘True prayer always includes becoming poor. When we pray we stand naked and vulnerable in front of Our Lord and show him our true condition’. Part of the need for prayer as Nouwen describes it, using Psalm 80 as an example is to call God to task, ‘for challenging Him to make His love felt among the poor, is more urgent than ever’.

Prayer and peacemaking

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled:’ Prayer and Peacemaking’ published in the Catholic Agitator by the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, December 1982, Vol. 12, No. 10. Nouwen begins by stating, ‘A peacemaker prays. Prayer is the beginning and the end, the sources and the fruit, the core and the context, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking.’ Nouwen uses the image of dwelling place throughout: do we live in the dwelling place of fear or the dwelling place of Jesus. ‘Praying is living in the house of the Lord’. Nouwen then goes on to describe what he sees as the ‘depth of human need’: our need for attention, affection, influence, power, and to be worthwhile. He then asks ‘why is it that our own needs are spoiling even the most altruistic gestures?’ Nouwen heads the next few sections: Those who hate peace; Dark works of conflict; Holy duty, which outline his sense that fear is one of the most powerful forces which fight against peace. Nouwen then speaks of the gospel message that prayer drives out fear and that only peacemaking rooted in Love is real peacemaking. He concludes: ‘The life of prayer, the spiritual life, thus becomes not one of the obligations peacemakers should not forget, but the essence of all they do, think or say in the service of peace’.

On All Souls, Bolivia's living dine with the dead

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled,’ On All Souls, Bolivia’s living dine with the dead’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 29, 1982, P. 12/13. This item is an excerpt from Nouwen’s book, ‘Gracias: A Latin American Journal’. In this excerpt Nouwen describes a visit on November 2, All souls Day, to a cemetery with thousands of others to remember and to share with the dead. Nouwen describes a sense he had earlier in the day in which he felt strongly, ‘part of the meaning of life for the living is their opportunity to pray for the full liberation of those died before them’. Nouwen describes what he saw as he entered the cemetery, ‘Thousands of people were sitting and walking around the graves as though they were camping out with their beloved ones who had died’. He goes on to describe the young boys who offer at each grave to pray for the deceased and in return receive gifts of food. In his conclusion Nouwen says, ‘ When I returned home I had the feeling that the poor Indians of Cochabamba had given me a glimpse of a reality that mostly remains hidden in my rational, well planned and well protected life. I had heard voice, seen faces and touched hands that pointed to a divine love in which the living and the dead can find a safe home’.

Humility

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Humility’ published in ‘America’, December 11, 1982, p. 372. The item is an excerpt of two entries from Nouwen’s book, ‘Gracias!.Nouwen opens the article by reporting something said by Tom Burns, a Maryknoller: ‘the poor consider as a gift what we claim as a right’. Nouwen goes on to say how we think in terms of our right to food, health, shelter and education which then leads us to see these as possessions to be defended. Nouwen then states that a ‘basic sense of gratitude is indeed one of the most visible characteristics of the poor, I have come to know’. In the second entry Nouwen asks why people become missioners. He suggests two of the most ‘damaging’ motives as guilt and desire to save. Nouwen identifies the great challenge which ‘is to live and work out of gratitude’. He follows this by suggesting that when the missioner comes to realize ‘that our guilt has been taken away and that only God saves, then we are free to serve, then we can live truly humble lives’.

Solitude is the furnace of transformation

This item is a photocopy of a ½ page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Solitude is the furnace of Transformation’ published in The Episcopalian, June 1983. This item is identified as an excerpt from Nouwen, Henri: The Way of the Heart, The Seabury Press, 1981. Nouwen opens by writing of the call of Anthony one of the desert fathers into solitude where ‘ he had to face his enemies – anger and greed – head –on and let himself be totally transformed. That, Nouwen suggests, is necessary for all ministry to be fruitful.

The spirituality of peacemaking

This item is a 12 page article/talk by Henri Nouwen entitled The Spirituality of Peacemaking, given on the occasion of the celebration of the anniversary of the Norbertine Foundation of the Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, on November 18, 1982. Nouwen opens by suggesting that various of the Beatitudes ‘jump out’ at certain historical times. He states his sense that for this time the question is ,’how are we going to live out “blessed are the peacemakers”? Nouwen states that this is a question for all Christians and all churches. Nouwen states that he wishes to use the words of Jesus, ‘May you have peace in Me; in the world you will have trouble. I have come to conquer the world’. Nouwen goes on to say that he wishes to use these words to speak about peace in terms of prayer, resistance and community. Nouwen suggests that human beings act out neediness, woundedness, aggression and this is a barrier to peace. ‘But I say that Jesus Christ came to take us out of that interlocking world of needs…Prayer and the life of prayer is the life in which we move out of that dwelling place of needing and move towards the house of the Lord’. Nouwen follows this by suggesting that prayer gives us the ability to resist evil, to resist being overcome by suffering and death. Finally, Nouwen states that ‘it is the community that helps us to see the true meaning of prayer and resistance’. Nouwen concludes by stating that ‘we are a Eucharistic people and that is to be peacemakers’.

Thoughts from Henri Nouwen

This item consists of 7 pages of printed notes from a talk given by Henri Nouwen in Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 1983 to an unidentified meeting of Religious Sisters. The first section is entitled: ‘Intimacy: the Discipline of Prayer’. The section begins with questions: Where have you made your home? Where do you belong? Where do you have your address so you can be addressed? Nouwen links these questions with Jesus’ announcement that he will live in us. Nouwen discusses the need we all have to be liked, to be respected, to be successful. ‘The more compliments we get, the more we seem to need.’ Nouwen describes humanity’s struggles with this through all time, the violence and greed associated with this and then reminds us that the Good News of the Gospel can break the network. ‘To do this takes a discipline of prayer because in the WORD intimacy is nurtured and developed’. In the second section entitled: Fecundity: Discipline of Community Nouwen reminds us that we are called to be fruitful and to help others to be so as well. Nouwen sees that this discipline develops in community where we recognize God in our neighbor. The third section is entitled: Ecstasy: Discipline of Healing. Nouwen identifies ecstasy as a ‘life of joy’ and states that we have to move out of the static place. We are to move out of the place of safety and security ‘and to move to the openness of life’.

Reflections of Fr. Henri Nouwen after a month in Nicaragua

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Reflections of Fr. Henri Nouwen after a month in Nicaragua and appears to be notes made by someone from a talk given by Nouwen at the Catholic University, July 1983. Some of this material appears in Nouwen, Henri: The Road to Peace , ed. John Dear, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y., 1998 and in an article entitled ‘Christ of the Americas’, published in America, April 21, 1984. Nouwen begins by stating that ‘God wants…North and South America…to live in peace and express their faith together’. He goes on to describe the inflamed and dangerous situation of ‘the chord that binds them’ Central America. Nouwen describes some of the people he listened to in his visit to Nicaragua and his feelings about the role played by the churches and the government including that of the United States. He sees hope in the situation even in face of the injustice and terrible hardship.

Gratitude

This item is a 1½ page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Gratitude’, published in Radix Magazine, Sep/Oct. 1983, p. 23 - 24. This item is an entry from Nouwen, Henri: Gracias: A Latin American Journal. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘I have been thinking about the significance of gratitude in mission work’. He suggests that gratitude has not been a strong element in the life of missionaries. Nouwen then goes on to say, ‘True missioners are people who are hunting for the divine treasure hidden in the heart of the people to whom they want to make the good news known….The great paradox of ministry therefore, is that we minister above all with our weakness, a weakness that invites us to receive from those to whom we go’. Nouwen concludes by suggesting that gratitude is not a psychological disposition but a virtue that is only a fruit of prayer, ‘This viewpoint explains why true ministers, true missionaries, are always also contemplatives’.

Henri Nouwen's plea for Nicaragua

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, Henri Nouwen’s Plea for Nicaragua, published in the Forum section of the National Catholic Reporter, August 26, 1983. This is a photocopy of the original article. Nouwen begins this article by stating, ‘Having been for some time in Nicaragua, I feel a deep and painful urge to cry out to all who can hear me: please allow this country to live and be a sign of hope!’ Nouwen describes throughout the article the border attacks ‘by armies organized and supported by the United States’. Nouwen reports on the history of the Sandanista revolution in 1979, the deep Christian roots of its leaders and its hope to be allowed peacefully to rebuild their society. Nouwen describes the ever-present threat of war with United States backed rebels in Honduras on the northern border. Nouwen spends much of the article writing on his trip to the border region with an American reporter and an American forester who had offered his services to the government. Nouwen describes the people they meet on this journey and is especially struck by their hope for their country and its relatively new government. Nouwen concludes the article by stating, ‘ My most fervent prayer was that the people of the United States, especially Christians, would do all within their power to stop the destructive policy of the U.S. government toward this small, courageous and hopeful people, and express in any way possible their solidarity with their suffering brothers and sisters of Nicaragua’.

Entering the heart of God

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Entering the Heart of God’, published in The Catholic Agitator, February 4, 1984, pp. 4-5. This article is identified as a condensation from a talk which Nouwen gave in Pasadena, Ca. on October 10, 1983. Nouwen opens the article by stating, ‘Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we say, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”. I have repeated those words over and over again daily, but since I went to Central America they have taken on new meaning for me’. In the first section of the article entitled ‘Christ has died”, Nouwen says that in his visit to Nicaragua ‘I saw Christ being crucified again’. He reminds people that even though they may have many troubles at home the Christian also enters into the heart of God who ‘became all humanity’ and that there is therefore a broader responsibility for one another. Nouwen discusses his hope that the church in Central America would at least be providing a word of peace and hope but that instead he found division and confusion. In the second section entitled, ‘Christ has risen’ Nouwen begins by stating that this means that ‘there is no pain or agony or confusion or conflict that has the final say’. Nouwen speaks of the meeting between a number of Americans and some women of Nicaragua who had lost children, husbands and others to U.S. supported violence from Honduras. The Americans asked forgiveness for the actions of their government and in a moment of powerful presence, it was given. ‘They wanted us to be free from our guilt so that we could speak for them and for peace. In the third section entitled, ‘Christ will come again’ Nouwen says that that moment will be when Christ does not ask if you were successful but what we have done ‘for the least of these’.

We drink from our own wells

This item is a 4 page book review by Henri Nouwen published in America magazine, October 15, 1983, pp.205 – 208. Nouwen is reviewing a book by Gustavo Gutierrez entitled ‘We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People’ and that is also the title of the review. Nouwen opens the review by noting Gutierrez’ earlier book entitled ‘A Theology of Liberation’ which he suggests ‘soon became a charter for many Latin American theologians and pastoral workers’. Nouwen then goes on to describe this new book as ‘the nuanced articulation the Christ-encounter as experienced by the poor of Latin America in their struggle to affirm their human dignity and claim their true identity as sons and daughters of God’. Nouwen then goes on to describe his own personal experience of hearing Gutierrez speak before this book was written and his sense of the effect of his spirituality on those who were working for the poor in Latin America. Nouwen quotes Gutierrez “Poverty means death” and goes on to describe what this involves, ‘This death is not only physical but mental and cultural as well. It refers to the destruction of individual persons, peoples, cultures and traditions’. Nouwen then outlines three aspects of the spirituality of liberation described in the book: 1) that it is impossible to reduce liberation theology to a political movement, 2) that it is Christ-centered and 3) that is drawn from the concrete daily experiences of the Christian communities in Latin America. Nouwen states toward the conclusion, ‘When Gustavo Gutierrez points to freedom as the goal of a spirituality of liberation, he connects the struggle of the people of Latin America with the spiritual struggle of all the great Christians throughout the centuries’. Nouwen concludes the review with a re-iteration of his own sense that the spiritual destinies of the Americas are closely linked.

Henri J.M. Nouwen on prayer

This item is a ¾ page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘On Prayer’, published in Reflections, St. Luke’s Parish newsletter for Week VI of Spring, 1984, April 8 – April 14. The location of this parish is not identified. The item is identified as an excerpt from, Nouwen, Henri: With Open Hands, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN., 1972. Nouwen begins by speaking of the connection between prayer and silence. He suggests however, that for many people ‘silence has become a real disturbance’. Nouwen then goes on to speak of inner silence which, he suggests, when it comes is a gift, a promise. ‘It is the silence of the ‘poor in spirit’ where you learn to see your life in its proper perspectives’. He also suggests that ‘prayer is acceptance’.Nouwen concludes the excerpt by stating, ‘Above all, praying means to be accepting toward God who is always new, always different’.

Christ of the Americas

This item is a 10 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Christ of the Americas’, published in America magazine, April 21, 1984, Vol. 150. No. 15, pp. 293 – 302. This item was later published in Nouwen, Henri: The Road to Peace, ed. John Dear, 1998. In this article Nouwen is writing about the situation then current in Central America, specifically, Nicaragua which he had just visited. Nouwen states that he believes that the ‘suffering Christ of North America and the suffering Christ of South America were one’. Nouwen divides the article into three sections: Christ has Died, 2) Christ has Risen, 3) Christ will Come Again. In the first section, Nouwen states that there is no suffering which has not been suffered by God. ‘There can be no human beings who are completely alone in their sufferings since God, in and through Jesus, has become…God with us’. Nouwen goes on to say that the people of Nicaragua are our brothers and sisters and that no political ideology should blind us to that. Nouwen states that he had hoped to find the Nicaraguan church as a support to the people who are suffering but sees instead, division. ‘I had to hold on to the truth that the tearing apart of the Word outside as well as inside the church was the bitter fruit of five centuries of unfaithfulness’. 2) In this section, Christ has Risen, Nouwen begins by asking,’ Can we face the death of Christ without knowing about his resurrection?’ ‘Christ is risen means that guilt, loneliness, hunger, poverty, war and devastation no longer have the last word.’ Nouwen uses an example of this, a meeting he attended with some women on the border with Honduras who had lost family and suffered greatly from soldiers armed and supported by the American government. Nouwen describes in this meeting as a moment of unexpected forgiveness. In 3) Christ will Come Again, Nouwen suggests that this is about Christ returning as judge. The question asked of each person will not be how successful you have been but ‘what have you done for the least of mine?’. This question will be asked of nations as well as individuals. Nouwen writes of the fears of the United States government and their harsh treatment of a small, poor nation as resulting from a fear of communism and of the Soviet Union. Nouwen end s this section by suggesting ‘The Lord who becomes one of us in humility does not really judge us. He reveals to us what we have become to one another’. Nouwen concludes the article by stating how crucial prayer is and will be in our efforts to ‘keep our eyes fixed on Jesus’ to bring peace to our world.

Intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy

This item is a 7 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Intimacy, Fecundity and Ecstasy’ published in Radix, May/June 1984, N 8 – 23, pp. 8 – 12, 22-23. Nouwen begins with a quotation from John’s Gospel, Chapter 15, and introduces a connection with this gospel passage and the work of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche. ‘Out of that experience of living with severely handicapped people, Jean Vanier came to a conclusion, a kind of vision, that all human beings have three rights, or three privileges. They are the right and privilege of intimacy, the right and privilege of fecundity, and the right and privilege of ecstasy’. Nouwen then goes on to discuss each of these three ‘rights’. He begins by noting how difficult intimacy is for modern people; that people are unhappy and often at the mercy of their needs and the wounds of generations. Nouwen then asks, ‘Is there another way of living?’ and suggests that when Jesus says ‘make your home in me’, the answer is to be found there. With regard to fecundity, Nouwen begins by distinguishing between fruitfulness and productivity. He goes on to describe our society’s need to measure and control and duplicate, which he sees as productivity. Fruitfulness, Nouwen describes as a gift of vulnerability. ‘Probably the most important quality of fruit is that we have to leave it alone in order for it to grow’. In the final section on ecstasy Nouwen speaks of joy, the joy given by Jesus. Nouwen suggests that so many people live at a level of busyness, boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. He suggests that to be ecstatic is to move out of a state of being static; being willing to change and grow; to choose life. Nouwen concludes by saying,’ Wherever we live, we can live celebrating ecstatically, always having a party. There’s something new, a smile, because God is with us and we want to live’.

Intimacy and solidarity

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Intimacy and Solidarity’, published in The Round Table, by The Catholic Worker movement, St. Louis, MO, Autumn, 1984, pp. 3 – 6. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘The words we most need to hear during these turbulent days are: “Do not be afraid”’. Nouwen then goes on to describe the power of fear current in society. He suggests however that fear omnipresent as it is need not be considered acceptable; that it is still possible to live in ‘the house of love’. Nouwen identifies Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche movement as the one who helped him to see that ‘intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy are the three qualities of a life together in the house of love’. Nouwen goes on to talk about ‘home’,’ homelessness’ and suggests that intimacy is the first and most obvious quality of home. Nouwen writes of the connection between intimacy and what people might think is counter-intuitive, solidarity with others. The solidarity in intimacy is Nouwen’s sense of the meeting of all human beings, in the heart of Jesus. ‘Living in the intimacy of God’s home we can come to see that the God who loves us with a perfect love includes all human beings in that love without in any way diminishing the unique quality of this love for each individual person’. Nouwen concludes the article by again referencing Jean Vanier and his work with mentally handicapped people especially as it is a reminder of solidarity with the weak, the poor, the ‘inefficient’.

Letting go of all things

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ’Letting Go of all things’, published in Baptist Peacemaker, Vol. V, No. 2, April 1985, pp. 1 & 5. It was previously published in Sojourners, May, 1979.
Nouwen begins by stating ‘The call to prayer is not an invitation to retreat to a familiar piety, but a challenge to make a radical move toward prayer as “the only necessary thing”’. Nouwen suggests prayer is a dying to self, a call to martyrdom, an opening to God, and is the ground from which people move out into the world of action. Nouwen quotes from a recent book by holocaust survivor Floris B. Bakels about the power prayer had for him in the camp. Nouwen writes about our ambivalence toward prayer, being drawn to it and yet resistant to it because of the demands we feel will be made by God. 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’.

Prayer embraces the world

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Prayer Embraces the World’, published in Maryknoll magazine, Vol. 79, No. 4, April 1985, pp. 17 – 21. Nouwen opens the article by pointing to the immediacy of our awareness of the many trials and wars in our world via the media. He then asks ‘Do we pray more for our deeply wounded world since we know so much more about it?’. Nouwen describes the purpose of this article by stating ‘I’d like to explore why praying for the world and the missions has become so difficult and propose a way to make prayer the solid basis of all mission work.’
Nouwen points to the difficulty modern people feel in carrying in prayer the burdens of the world in part, he suggests, because we see these burdens in terms of issues rather than praying to a ‘personal God who loves us and hears us’. ‘Life becomes an unbearable burden whenever we lose touch with the presence of a loving Savior and see only hunger to be alleviated, injustice to be addressed, violence to be overcome, wars to be stopped and loneliness to be removed’. Nouwen suggests that burdens can be lightened because Jesus in his death ‘gathered up the human sufferings of all times and places’ and destroyed its fatal power. Near the conclusion Nouwen reminds us that ‘Prayer is leading every sorrow to the source of all healing…’. Nouwen believes that missioners will find support in knowing they are prayed for and that the people who pray will be part of ‘the new and joyful task of participating in God’s great work of salvation’.

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