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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’.

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’.

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’.

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…’

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’.

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’.

Saying no to death

This item is a 5 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Saying No to Death’, published in Seeds by Signpost Publishing, Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 2, 1984, pp. 20 – 24. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘To work for peace is to work for life. But more than ever before in history we are surrounded by the powers of death’. Nouwen goes on to write about the way the current sense of nuclear threat hangs over people, especially young people who wonder if they have a future at all. At the same time, he suggests that we as human beings are fascinated by death and destruction and that much of our entertainment involves violence. In a section entitled ‘The Deadly Judgments’ Nouwen then suggests that in our thoughts and judgments about others whom we come to see as the enemy, we commit violence. ‘Judging others implies that somehow we stand outside of the place where weak, broken, sinful human beings dwell. It is an arrogant and pretentious act that shows blindness not only toward others but also toward ourselves’. Nouwen suggests that the peacemaker must have the courage ‘to see the powers of death at work even in our innermost selves’. Nouwen speaks of the nature of death as against that of life: ‘Death in all its manifestations always involves a returning to a fixed, static, unchangeable place’… Life means mobility and change. Wherever there is life there is movement and growth…essential to living is trust in an unknown future…’ Finally, Nouwen states that ‘Real resistance [to death and violence] requires the humble confession that we are partners in the evil that we seek to resist’.

Excerpts from With open hands

This item consists of 2 short excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s book ‘With Open Hands’ published in The Newsletter of the New Hampshire Cursillo, Manchester, New Hampshire, May 1985, p. 2 & p. 4. The first excerpt is about prayer and God’s deep desire to give himself to us. The second excerpt is also about prayer and describes prayer as living. ‘ There are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life’.

Saying no to death

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Saying No to Death’ published in Fellowship the journal of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Vol. 51, No. 9, September, 1985, pp. 9 – 11. Nouwen begins the article by citing a visit to an exclusive preparatory school where everyone seemed polite, intelligent and good mannered. However, at some point they all watched a film containing great deal of violence which was obviously entertaining to the young audience. Nouwen points to ‘the fact that a large portion of contemporary entertainment is fascinated with violence and death’. Nouwen then goes on to write of the various ways in which human beings live death which includes hatred, fear, judgment of others, desire to destroy what we fear. By judging others Nouwen suggests we play God but ‘everyone who plays God ends up acting as the demon’. Nouwen goes on to state that the peacemaker never plays God, never judges but sees others as fellow sinners and fellow saints. He suggests that, ‘As peacemakers we must have the courage to see the powers of death at work even in our innermost selves’. Nouwen points to our need to see ourselves as forgiven people rather than living in self-hatred which brings depression and fear and a form of death. In contrast to death Nouwen suggests that ‘Life mean mobility and change. Wherever there is life there is movement and growth’. Nouwen concludes by stating that ‘real resistance [to death] requires the humble confession that we are partners in the evil we seek to resist’.

Peace, a gift we receive in prayer

This item is an 11 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Peace, A Gift We Receive in Prayer’, published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LII, No. 7, September 1985, pp. 7 – 18. It is indicated that this is part 1 of a 3 part series entitled: A Spirituality of Peacemaking. Nouwen opens the article by asking, ‘Must it remain this way? Must war drums constantly disturb us? Must we hear over and over that we need more and stronger weapons to safeguard our values and our lives?’. Nouwen goes on to describe his own struggle from hesitation to describe himself as a peacemaker to an understanding of the need to do so. Nouwen states, ‘I hope to show how peacemaking can no longer be regarded as peripheral to being a Christian’. ‘Christians today … have to find the courage to make the word peace as important as the word freedom’. Nouwen then goes on at some length to speak about the peacemaker as one who prays. ‘Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit, the core and the content, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking’. Nouwen describes peace as a divine gift which is received in prayer. It is in prayer, he suggests, that we find ourselves part of wounded humanity, one like those who create war. ‘Only when we are willing repeatedly to confess that we too have dirty hands even when we work for peace, can we fully understand the hard task of peacemaking’. Nouwen references the gospels and the words of Jesus about the prayer of the peacemaker and the receipt of the gift of love in the relationship with Jesus that comes from prayer. ‘Nothing is more important in peacemaking than that it flows from a deep and undeniable experience of love’. Nouwen describes prayer as ‘the first and foremost act of resistance against the arms race’. Nouwen concludes by referencing a story from one of the desert fathers and by stating, ‘ When we can see our own sinful self in a tranquil mirror and confess that we too are warmakers, then we may be ready to start walking humbly on the road to peace’.

Saying "no" to death in all its manifestations

This item is an 8 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘Saying “No” to Death in All its Manifestations’, published in the New Oxford Review, Volume LII, No. 8, October 1985, pp. 10 – 18. It is identified as Part II of a three part series. Nouwen begins by speaking of his experience of the Jewish holocaust when he was a child in Holland and of his awareness of the questions asked after, how could we let this happen? Nouwen realizes that now he is a well-educated adult and cannot claim that he does not see the horrors of the current nuclear threat or the injustices of American and other societies. He goes on to state, ‘Peacemaking is not an option any longer but a holy obligation for all people whatever their professional or family situation. Peacemaking is a way of living that involves our whole being all the time.’ Nouwen continues to write about the nuclear threat of the annihilation of the world as we know it; the way in which people who oppose it are treated unjustly; the way in which we enter into an ‘all pervasive fascination with death that is an integral part of our daily lives.’ Nouwen describes what he sees as the reality that ‘violence [is] mental before it is physical’. He writes that when we refuse to see others who are different as our brothers and sisters that is the beginning of future violence and death. He goes on to say, ‘I am moved by the idea that a peacemaker never judges anybody’ and that we become better peacemakers when we are able to forgive ourselves and others for our humanity. Nouwen then suggests, ‘Peacemaking requires clear resistance to death in all its manifestations…Real resistance requires the humble confession that we are partners in the evil that we seek to resist’.

Excerpt from Gracias

This item is a short quote from Nouwen, Henri: Gracias!: A Latin American Journal, published at the top of the contents page of The Plough, No. 11, July /August 1985 by Hutterian Brethren, Rifton, N.Y. Nouwen identifies his sense that the poor often have a clearer sense of good and evil than do the wealthy who create many grey areas. ‘This intuitive clarity [of the poor] is often absent from the wealthy, and that absence easily leads to the atrophy of the moral sense’.

From the house of fear to the house of love

This item is a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘From the House of Fear to the House of Love’, published in World Peacemakers Inc., Washington, D.C., Fall 1985, p. 3. This article is identified as ‘a portion of three articles by Henri from a series entitled ‘The House of God: A Home amid and anxious world’ published in Sojourners Magazine, June, July and August-September, 1985. Nouwen begins the article by saying, ‘The words we most need to hear during these turbulent days are: “Do not be afraid”. These words from the Gospels are then followed by a list of some of the major fearful preoccupations of people in our time. Nouwen writes about how fear permeates so much of daily living and suggests that ‘Many of us Western people of the 20th century live in the house of fear’. He suggests that Jesus, when asked questions based in fear moved to ‘transform the question’ to a different level. Nouwen then asks, ‘Is it possible to live in the house of love and to listen to the questions raised there by the Lord of love?’ He identifies the ‘house of love’ not as a distant, hoped-for heaven but in Jesus, now, who is our home. ‘This is conversion: coming home. And this is what prayer is about: seeking our home where the Lord has built a home – in the intimacy of our own heart’. The fruits of this conversion as Nouwen sees it are: Intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy. Being in the home of Jesus is learning intimacy and trust which exclude no one; the fecundity that arises from this becomes ‘global’, for everyone. Nouwen finally, suggests that ‘complete joy is the reward of the fruitful life in the house of God. Ecstasy is this complete joy’. Nouwen completes this thought by suggesting that this joy, this fecundity can make nations less defensive and fearful and more inclusive.

Finding our home

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Finding Our Home’, published in Breakthroughs , by Moral Re-Armament, Inc., Washington, D.C., July 1985, p. 10. This item is identified as an excerpt from an MRA International conference speech given by Nouwen in June 1985. Nouwen begins by identifying the contrast between being deaf to what we do not want to hear and being willing to listen. He states, ‘Fear has always something to do with the unknown in us. It’s amazing to see how many people are afraid first of all of themselves and of what goes on in their own hearts’. Nouwen then suggests that ‘I see the spiritual life as one in which we have to move out of the house of fear into the house of love’.

Saying a humble, compassionate, & joyful "yes" to life

This item is an 8 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Saying a Humble, Compassionate, & Joyful “yes” to Life’ published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LII, No. 9, November 1985, pp. 19 – 26. This item is identified as being Part III of a series entitled, ’A Spirituality of Peacemaking’. Nouwen begins by reminding the reader that in a previous part he discussed the need for us to say ‘No” to death. He then goes on to say ‘Resisting the forces of death is only meaningful when we are fully in touch with the forces of life we want to uphold’. Nouwen writes that it is more powerful to work for the forces of life than to face directly, the forces of death into which we may be drawn and unable to resist. Nouwen writes of the need of the Peacemaker to work with the forces of life which is a gentle, vulnerable force in order to resist death. Nouwen writes at length about resistance and suggests that there are three aspects of life that are important to one who is a resister, a peacemaker: humility, compassion and joy. Nouwen then discusses at length these three aspects of life. Nouwen concludes this section by stating, ’Thus the “No” to death can only be fruitful when spoken and acted out in the context of a humble, compassionate, and joyful “yes” to life. Resistance becomes a truly spiritual task only when the “no” to death and the “yes” to life are never separated’. In the last part of the article Nouwen writes of demonstrations of peaceful resistance that he has experienced and about which he expresses a certain level of ambivalence. Nouwen speaks of the peacemaker’s need for prayer and concludes the article by stating, ‘It is hard for me to see how resistance can be fruitful unless it deepens and strengthens our relationship with God. Prayer and resistance, the twin pillars of Christian peacemaking, are two interlocking ways of giving expression to the peace we have found in the dwelling place of God’.

The spirituality of peacemaking

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘The Spirituality of Peacemaking’ published in The Lutheran, February 5, 1986, pp. 12 – 14. Nouwen writes of the peacemaker as one who prays. ‘Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit, the core and the content, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking’. Nouwen describes peace as a divine gift which is received in prayer. It is in prayer, he suggests, that we find ourselves part of wounded humanity, one like those who create war. ‘Only when we are willing repeatedly to confess that we too have dirty hands even when we work for peace, can we fully understand the hard task of peacemaking’. Nouwen references the gospels and the words of Jesus about the prayer of the peacemaker and the receipt of the gift of love in the relationship with Jesus that comes from prayer. ‘Nothing is more important in peacemaking than that it flows from a deep and undeniable experience of love’. Nouwen concludes, ‘Prayer – living in the presence of God – is the most radical peace action we can imagine’.

Excerpt from The living reminder

This item is a short paragraph by Henri Nouwen printed in The Builder, May 1986 and is identified as an excerpt from Nouwen’s book, ‘The Living Reminder’. The paragraph begins ‘A sustaining ministry requires the art of creative withdrawal so that in memory God’s Spirit can manifest itself and lead to the full truth’.

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