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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’.

Solitude and community

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

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.

Contemplation and ministry: making the clouded clear

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

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’.

The hell of mercy: confronting Merton's spirituality

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

Solitude: the inner fabric of Chrisitian community

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

Letting go of all things

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

The monk and the cripple: toward a spirituality of ministry

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

The monk and the cripple: toward a spirituality of ministry

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

The desert counsel to flee the world

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

Silence, the portable cell: the word which creates communion

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

Reflections on compassion: convention keynote address

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

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

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

Do not worry all things will be given: spiritual life

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

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’.

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’.

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.

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…’

The selfless way of Christ

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

Temptation: the pull toward upward mobility

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

A self-emptied heart: the disciplines of spiritual formation

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

Spiritual direction

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

The Genesee diary: report from a Trappist monastery

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

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

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

Latin America: living with the poor

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

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’.

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’.

Faith and war in Nicaragua

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

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’.

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.

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.

Henri Nouwen: a call to peacemaking

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

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

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’.

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

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

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