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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.

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…’

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’.

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…’

A cry for mercy: prayers from the Genesee

Item consists of a book of prayers which Nouwen wrote during his six-month stay, February to August 1979, with the Trappist Monks of the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. The book has been divided into the following: Prologue; I February-March: A fearful heart; II March-April: A cry for mercy; III April-May: Rays of hope; IV May-June: The power of the Spirit; V June-July: The needs of the world; VI July-August: A grateful heart; Epilogue.
As is stated on the back cover: "These contemporary prayers speak powerfully of one man's search for a closer relationship with his God and of his struggle to confront his own inner turmoil."

Heart speaks to heart: three prayers to Jesus

Item consists of a book containing three prayers which Nouwen wrote during Holy Week while staying with the Trappists in Holland, Manitoba. Nouwen had been encouraged to write about the Sacred Heart by Madame Pauline Vanier during his stay at L'Arche in Trosly, France in 1985 and 1986.
As is stated on the front flap: ". . .Instead of writing about the Sacred Heart [Nouwen] 'began to discern in [his] own heart a real desire to speak to the heart of Jesus and be heard.'"

Seeds of hope: a Henri Nouwen Reader

Item consists of a book containing passages from Nouwen's best published work. The book has been divided into the following: Acknowledgments; Introduction--Preparing the Ground, Henri Nouwen, The Person, Henri Nouwen, The Writer; Part One Seeds of Hope: Human Hungers, Breaking Ground, Our Restless, Busy Society, Words and Silence, Loneliness, Solitude, On the Possibility and Desirability of Love, Intimacy and Sexuality, Celebrating Humanness, Celebrating Children, Celebrating Life; Part Two Springs of Hope: Holiness and Humanness, Who is the Lord to Whom I Pray?, From Magic to Faith, The Search for God, Preaching and Ministry, Holiness, Humanness, and Prayer, How Can I Pray?--Three Rules, God's Presence and God's Absence, The Spirit of St. Francis, Displacement, Career and Vocation; Part Three The Roots of Hope: Human Destiny, Nature as Revelation, Advent: Waiting, Christmas at the Abbey, The Mother of Christ, The Face of Christ, The Body of Christ, The Agony of Christ, The Human Journey: Aging and Dying, The Last Hours of Christ, The Glory of Christ; Part Four Hope in a Nuclear Age, The Predicament of Humanity in a Nuclear Age; Apocalypse Now; Mysticism in a Nuclear Age, Thomas Merton on Gandhi and Nonviolence, Ecstasy in a Nuclear Age, A Parable, The Task of Peacemaking, Resistance, Second Coming, Last Judgment; Epilogue--Adam's Story: The Peace That is Not of This World; Bibliography; Index; Printing History.

Here and now: living in the spirit

Item consists of a book written by Nouwen featuring meditations about the spiritual life. The book has been divided into the following: Acknowledgments; Preface; Chapter I Living in the Present, One: A New Beginning, Two: Without "Oughts" and "Ifs", Three: Birthdays, Four: Here and Now, Five: Our Inner Room, Six: With Others, Seven: The Hub of Life; Chapter II Joy, One: Joy and Sorrow, Two: The Choice, Three: Speaking about the Sun, Four: Surprised by Joy, Five: Joy and Laughter, Six: No Victims, Seven: The Fruit of Hope, Eight: Beyond Wishes; Chapter III Suffering, One: Embracing the Pain, Two: A Meal on a Tombstone, Three: A Fellowship of the Weak, Four: Beyond Individualism, Five: Our Desire for Communion, Six: Stepping Over Our Wounds, Seven: Faithful to Our Vocation, Eight: The Way of the Dalai Lama, Nine: The Hurts of Love; Chapter IV Conversion, One: The Spirit of Love, Two: Turn Around, Three: Answer from Above, Four: Invitation to Conversion, Five: Why AIDS?, Six: The Reverse Mission, Seven: God's Questions, Eight: The Burden of Judgment, Nine: Claiming God's Love; Chapter V Disciplined Living, One: Living for the Gold, Two: A Clear Goal, Three: Eternal Life, Four: Spiritual Reading, Five: Reading Spiritually, Six: In Search of Meaning; Chapter VI The Spiritual Life, One: The Still Small Voice, Two: Do You Love Me?, Three: From Fatalism to Faith, Four: Under the Cross, Five: The Grateful Life, Six: The Blessings from the Poor, Seven: Adam's Gift, Eight: Two by Two; Chapter VII Prayer, One: Mother Teresa's Answer, Two: From Worrying to Prayer, Three: From Mind to Heart, Four: Nothing is Wanting!, Five: Contemplating the Gospel, Six: Pictures on Our Inner Walls, Seven: A Spiritual Milieu; Chapter VIII Compassion, One: From Competition to Compassion, Two : Being the Beloved, Three: Downward Mobility, Four: The Secret Gift of Compassion, Five: Right Where We Are, Six: Suffering with Others, Seven: Together in Silence, Eight: Giving and Receiving, Nine: The Gift of Self-Confrontation, Ten: God's Heart; Chapter IV Family, One: Leaving Father and Mother, Two: Free to Follow Jesus, Three: Forgiveness and Gratitude, Four: Many Mothers and Fathers, Five: To Be Forgiven, Six: Children Are Gifts, Seven: The Pain of Love, Eight: Our Worrying Minds; Chapter X Relationships, One: Complexity of Intimacy, Two: To Be Called Together, Three: Living Witnesses of God's Love, Four: Revealing God's Faithfulness, Five: Living Discipleship Together, Six: Choosing Our Friends; Chapter XI Who We Are, One: We Are God's Beloved Children, Two: Claiming Our Belovedness, Three: The Discipline of Prayer, Four: No Victims of Clock-Time, Five: Preparing for Death, Six: Going Home; Afterword.

Ministry and spirituality

Item consists of a book containing three of Nouwen's previously published books: Creative Ministry, The Wounded Healer, and Reaching Out. The book has been divided into the following: Introduction: Beyond Professionalism; 1 Beyond the Transference of Knowledge, Teaching; 2 Beyond the Retelling of the Story, Preaching; 3 Beyond the Skillful Response, Individual Pastoral Care; 4 Beyond the Manipulation of Structures, Organizing; 5 Beyond the Protective Ritual, Celebrating; Conclusion; Epilogue.

Compassion: a reflection on the Christian life

Item consists of a book which Nouwen co-wrote with McNeill and Morrison about compassion. The book has been divided into the following: Preface; Acknowledgments; Introduction; Part One: The Compassionate God, 1 God-with-Us, 2 Servant God, 3 Obedient God; Part Two: The Compassionate Life, 4 Community, 5 Displacement, 6 Togetherness; Part Three: The Compassionate Way, 7 Patience, 8 Prayer, 9 Action; Conclusion; Epilogue; Notes.
As is stated on the front jacket flap: "In this provocative book of meditations, three teachers of pastoral theology challenge us to make God's compassion manifest through the disciplines of prayer and action."

Desert wisdom: sayings from the desert fathers

Item consists of a photocopy of an introduction which Nouwen wrote while in Peru and in which he stated in part: ". . .this book is a work of love, the fruit of a deep friendship and a way of whispering into your ears what Abba Bessarion whispered into the ears of Abba Doulas: 'God is here, and God is everywhere.'"

Space for God: the study and practice of prayer and spirituality

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the preface, stating in part that the book "creates space for God." Nouwen also states that it "is a hopeful sign of this mystery of gratitude." As well, within the chapter "An Invitation" the author expresses his appreciation for Nouwen's inspiring words and thoughts which he was sure had crept into what he has written.

The Church is all of you: thoughts of Archbishop Oscar Romero

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the foreword, stating in part: "I pray that those who will read this book and allow the words of Oscar Romero to enter into their innermost being will also sense that something new is happening in them."

Modern spirituality: an anthology

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison have written Chapter 12, beginning on p. 106, titled: "Action" which is a selection from their book Compassion.

Dictionary of pastoral care and counselling

Item consists of a photocopy of the title page and a definition Nouwen co-wrote with J. Imbach for "God's Will, Acceptance of." He included a section titled: "1. A Life According to God's Will" and "2. Pastoral Implications."

Is God deaf?: a meditation on prayer

Item consists of a book in which a quote from Nouwen appears on the cover: "By a man who has guided many men and women in their spiritual journeys, and has acquired keen insights into the fears, hesitations, and inhibitions that prevent us from tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord."

The taste of new wine

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the foreword, stating in part: "The Taste of New Wine is today as important as it was when it was first published. . . .Indeed God's spirit blows where it wants, and the renewal of the church in large part, comes from the people of God who trust in their own spiritual gifts. . . ."

A dry roof and a cow: dreams and portraits of our neighbours

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the introduction, stating in part: "I trust that, as we let the words and images in this book penetrate our hearts, we will experience a deep desire to do whatever possible to make the dream of a worldwide community of love and peace become a reality."

En ondertussen kiemt het zaad: schriftmeditaties

Item consists of a Dutch translation of Let All God's Glory Through, which features excerpts from Nouwen's books: Lifesigns (in Chapter 10), and The Genesee Diary = Vreemdeling in het Paradijs (in Chapter 11).

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’.

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’.


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’.

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