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Henri Nouwen Society

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Tending Our Own Wounds First    Living Faithfully in an Ambiguous World    Friendship in the Twilight Zones of Our Heart    On the Journey Towards Living With Reverence    Befriending Our Inner Enemies    The Joy of Being Like Others    Choosing Joy    Healing Our Memories    Forgiving in the Name of God    Healing Our Hearts Through Forgiveness    Receiving Forgiveness    Community, a Quality of the Heart    Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life    Community Supported by Solitude    The Voice in the Garden of Solitude    Finding Solitude    Building Inner Bridges    The Gift of Friendship    Spiritual Choices    Fruits That Grow in Vulnerability    God's Imagination    A Ministry that Never Ends    Being Safe Places for Others    A Nonjudgmental Pressure    Claiming our Reconciliation    The Task of Reconciliation    The Peaceable Kingdom    Unity in the Heart of God        On the Journey Towards Universal Solidarity
written by CLARA FRASCHETTI
    On the Journey Toward Becoming Friends    The Two Sides of One Faith    other, August, 2007    Putting Our Temperaments in the Service of God    On the Journey Towards Being Vulnerable    Words That Become Flesh    The Fruit of the Spirit    On the Journey Towards Becoming More Gentle    Witnesses of Love    Small Steps of Love    Journey to Gentleness    Coming Together in Poverty    Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds    The Virtue of Flexibility    On the Journey To Aging Gracefully    Solidarity in Weakness    Empowered to Call God "Abba"    Forgiving in the Name of God    Wikipedia   .

Tending Our Own Wounds First

Our own experience with loneliness, depression, and fear can become a gift for others, specially when we have received good care. As long as our wounds are open and bleeding, we scare others away. But after someone has carefully tended to our wounds, they no longer frighten us or others.

When we experience the healing presence of another person, we can discover our own gifts of healing. Then our wounds allow us to enter into a deep solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters. (7/9/08).

Living Faithfully in an Ambiguous World

Our hearts and minds desire clarity. We like to have a clear picture of a situation, a clear view of how things fit together, and clear insight into our own and the world's problems. But just as in nature colors and shapes mingle without clear-cut distinctions, human life doesn't offer the clarity we are looking for. The borders between love and hate, evil and good, beauty and ugliness, heroism and cowardice, care and neglect, guilt and blamelessness are mostly vague, ambiguous, and hard to discern.

It is not easy to live faithfully in a world full of ambiguities. We have to learn to make wise choices without needing to be entirely sure. (3/27/08)

Friendship in the Twilight Zones of Our Heart

There is a twilight zone in our own hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves - our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and drives - large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness.

This is a very good thing. We always will remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility but also to a deep trust in those who love us. It is in the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born. (3/24/08)

On the Journey Towards Living With Reverence

In 1932, addressing a 6th grade Sunday School child's question about whether scientists pray, Einstein replied: "...every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man and one in the face of which we, with our modest powers, must feel humble."

My own reading, responding and reflecting on life beyond the immediacy of the moment allows me the freedom to wade through the wonders of life and to breath deeply inward the awesomeness and awfulness of life. For me, more so than ever before, the shared mysteries of life, ever changing as life itself, send me deeply inward where I re-discover a commonality with all life...and then outward where I am, for my own sense of wellbeing, compelled to share and become one with the awe. Religious literatures of all people instruct me on the sanctity of the primary search and the secondary importance of the answers. God becomes neither judgmental nor manipulative but the cohesive and collaborative mystery in which I - we - and all that exists becomes One. And prayer becomes a means of unifying the individual with her deepest human convictions, the community with its most profoundly shared needs and values, and our universal condition to understand the magic and the mystery. And if, at life's end I am asked to summarize all I have learned, I want to be ready to say: "Life is a mystery floating on a sea of awe and I swam in it...as often as possible with the current."

By RABBI ALBERT M. LEWIS, the Director of the Emeritus College at Aquinas, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a weekly columnist for the Grand Rapids Press. (2/20/08)

Befriending Our Inner Enemies

How do we befriend our inner enemies lust and anger? By listening to what they are saying. They say, "I have some unfulfilled needs" and "Who really loves me?" Instead of pushing our lust and anger away as unwelcome guests, we can recognize that our anxious, driven hearts need some healing. Our restlessness calls us to look for the true inner rest where lust and anger can be converted into a deeper way of loving.

There is a lot of unruly energy in lust and anger! When that energy can be directed toward loving well, we can transform not only ourselves but even those who might otherwise become the victims of our anger and lust. This takes patience, but it is possible. (2/3/08)

The Joy of Being Like Others

At first sight, joy seems to be connected with being different. When you receive a compliment or win an award, you experience the joy of not being the same as others. You are faster, smarter, more beautiful, and it is that difference that brings you joy. But such joy is very temporary. True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.

This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us. (1/31/08)

Choosing Joy

Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.

What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice. (1/30/08)

Healing Our Memories

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.

Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories. (1/29/08)

Forgiving in the Name of God

We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That's the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, "You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?"

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, "In the Name of God you are forgiven." Let's pray for that grace. (1/28/08)

Healing Our Hearts Through Forgiveness

How can we forgive those who do not want to be forgiven? Our deepest desire is that the forgiveness we offer will be received. This mutuality between giving and receiving is what creates peace and harmony. But if our condition for giving forgiveness is that it will be received, we seldom will forgive! Forgiving the other is first and foremost an inner movement. It is an act that removes anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge from our hearts and helps us to reclaim our human dignity. We cannot force those we want to forgive into accepting our forgiveness. They might not be able or willing do so. They may not even know or feel that they have wounded us.

The only people we can really change are ourselves. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts. (1/27/08)

Receiving Forgiveness

There are two sides to forgiveness: giving and receiving. Although at first sight giving seems to be harder, it often appears that we are not able to offer forgiveness to others because we have not been able fully to receive it. Only as people who have accepted forgiveness can we find the inner freedom to give it. Why is receiving forgiveness so difficult? It is very hard to say, "Without your forgiveness I am still bound to what happened between us. Only you can set me free." That requires not only a confession that we have hurt somebody but also the humility to acknowledge our dependency on others. Only when we can receive forgiveness can we give it. (1/25/08)

Community, a Quality of the Heart

The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naivete. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?" (1/24/08)

Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another "seventy-seven times" (see Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

But what is there to forgive or to ask forgiveness for? As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God! (1/23/08)

Community Supported by Solitude

Solitude greeting solitude, that's what community is all about. Community is not the place where we are no longer alone but the place where we respect, protect, and reverently greet one another's aloneness. When we allow our aloneness to lead us into solitude, our solitude will enable us to rejoice in the solitude of others. Our solitude roots us in our own hearts. Instead of making us yearn for company that will offer us immediate satisfaction, solitude makes us claim our center and empowers us to call others to claim theirs. Our various solitudes are like strong, straight pillars that hold up the roof of our communal house. Thus, solitude always strengthens community. (1/22/08)

The Voice in the Garden of Solitude

Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness."

Let's keep returning to our solitude. (1/21/08)

Finding Solitude

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love. (1/18/08)

Building Inner Bridges

Prayer is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious lives. Often there is a large abyss between our thoughts, words, and actions, and the many images that emerge in our daydreams and night dreams. To pray is to connect these two sides of our lives by going to the place where God dwells. Prayer is "soul work" because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one and where God is with us in the most intimate way.

Thus, we must pray without ceasing so that we can become truly whole and holy. (1/15/08)

The Gift of Friendship

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of marriage or community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends. (1/7/08)

Spiritual Choices

Choices. Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chose to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens. It is precisely these spiritual choices that determine whether we live our lives with dignity. (1/6/08)

Fruits That Grow in Vulnerability

There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another's wounds. Let's remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness. (1/4/08)

God's Imagination

So much of our energy, time, and money goes into maintaining distance from one another. Many if not most of the resources of the world are used to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position.

Imagine all that effort being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, "I can't imagine." But God says, "That's what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image." (12/31/08)

A Ministry that Never Ends

Reconciliation is much more than a one-time event by which a conflict is resolved and peace established. A ministry of reconciliation goes far beyond problem solving, mediation, and peace agreements. There is not a moment in our lives without the need for reconciliation. When we dare to look at the myriad hostile feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds, we will immediately recognize the many little and big wars in which we take part. Our enemy can be a parent, a child, a "friendly" neighbor, people with different lifestyles, people who do not think as we think, speak as we speak, or act as we act. They all can become "them." Right there is where reconciliation is needed.

Reconciliation touches the most hidden parts of our souls. God gave reconciliation to us as a ministry that never ends. (12/29/07)

Being Safe Places for Others

When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.

Many this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it. (12/28/07)

A Nonjudgmental Pressure

To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation. (12/27/07)

Claiming our Reconciliation

How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.

Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God's Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled. (12/26/07)

The Task of Reconciliation

What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people - in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task? Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another. As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation" (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18). So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people? (12/25/07)

The Peaceable Kingdom


All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God's creation will come together in complete harmony. Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision. Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox. The infant will play over the den of the adder; the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair. No hurt, no harm will be done on all my holy mountain, for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive.

Unity in the Heart of God

Love unites all, whether created or uncreated. The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love. That's what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages. Benedict, Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Dag Hammarskjold, Thomas Merton, and many others, all in their own ways and their own languages, have witnessed to the unifying power of the divine love. All of them, however, spoke with a knowledge that came to them not through intellectual arguments but through contemplative prayer. The Spirit of Jesus allowed them to see the heart of God, the heart of the universe, and their own hearts as one. It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated. (11/16/07)

Weekly Reflection

On the Journey Towards Universal Solidarity
written by CLARA FRASCHETTI

I recently spent a week in a small rural village called Sega, in Ghana, West Africa. My purpose was to establish a partnership with the local school where my organization, Intercordia Canada, hopes to place student volunteers. One day I met with about 50 parents, some of who would be asked to host our students for three months this summer. Mister Godwin, the head of the school, introduced me and asked me to say a few words about Intercordia. When I was done, Mister Godwin asked if any parents had questions. A small, older gentleman stood up, his back hunched, his skin wrinkled by the hot sun, and he asked in Dambe, "What are your first impressions of our community?" Mister Godwin translated as I described my time in Sega. I told them about my first morning and how the children had immediately taken my hand and led me through the village. As we passed people on the road, they recognized right away that I was new in town and most nodded or said "You are welcome!" Some enthusiastically took my face in their hands and said something in Dambe and then repeated "You are welcome! You are welcome!" I looked at the man standing there amongst the other parents and told him that if a stranger came to my neighbourhood, with different coloured skin, who dressed differently, no one would offer a greeting. In fact people might look at that person with suspicion and turn away. The old man looked at me with concerned eyes and said, "But, that is no way to treat a stranger". I humbly agreed with him. Then he said with conviction, "Then you must send your students, so that we can help to develop your community".



- CLARA FRASCHETTI lives in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband, Tim, 4 preschool children and 2 cats. She is a member of the L'Arche Daybreak community where she facilitates youth retreats and works part-time for Intercordia Canada as a Campus Representative.

On the Journey Toward Becoming Friends

written by DOUG WEIBE, emailed 2007/10/24

Friendships are mysterious. They often begin and end when we least them expect them to. We sometimes become friends with people we are not initially drawn to. Sometimes we don't develop the kind of friendship we desire with someone we are attracted to. Some friendships take a lot of work, while others are as natural as breathing.

Friendship is a gift waiting to be revealed with every person I meet. With just a few people, the gift of covenant relationship will be revealed. With very many people, the gift of friendly waves and weather conversations will unfold. In between are the gifts of healthy working friendships, close lifelong friendships, friendships born in crisis, celebration, a shared passion for coffee, golf, children, faith, travel, et cetera.

Friendships are life-giving when we accept, nurture, and celebrate the particular gift that is present in each. Friendships are draining and difficult when we reject the gift by either not accepting the intimacy offered or trying to make the gift more intimate than it was ever meant to be.

These gifts of friendship are scattered like ripe fruit in the gardens of our lives, waiting to be tasted and enjoyed. Each gift is given by a loving God, who knows what we need and who desires a friendship with every one of us. Therefore, while we may choose our friendships, we do not create the gift of friendship. We can work on our friendships, but we cannot change them into something they are not gifted to be. This is the pain and the joy, the poverty and the incredible freedom we experience on the journey to becoming friends.

The Two Sides of One Faith

Our faith in God who sent his Son to become God-with-us and who, with his Son, sent his Spirit to become God-within-us cannot be real without our faith in the Church. The Church is that unlikely body of people through whom God chooses to reveal God's love for us. Just as it seems unlikely to us that God chose to become human in a young girl living in a small, not very respected town in the Middle East nearly two thousand years ago, it seems unlikely that God chose to continue his work of salvation in a community of people constantly torn apart by arguments, prejudices, authority conflicts, and power games.

Still, believing in Jesus and believing in the Church are two sides of one faith. It is unlikely but divine! (October 19, 2007)

other, August, 2007

"Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle." - E.F. Schumaker

Putting Our Temperaments in the Service of God

Our temperaments - whether flamboyant, phlegmatic, introverted, or extroverted - are quite permanent fixtures of our personalities. Still, the way we "use" our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly. When we are attentive to the Spirit of God within us, we will gradually learn to put our temperaments in the service of a virtuous life. Then flamboyancy gives great zeal for the Kingdom, phlegmatism helps to keep an even keel in times of crisis, introversion deepens the contemplative side, and extroversion encourages creative ministry.

Let's live with our temperaments as with gifts that help us deepen our spiritual lives. (July 28, 2007)

On the Journey Towards Being Vulnerable

Our media are saturated with images of individuals wearing the mask of "all togetherness". I rub shoulders daily with people quick to reassure me of the unreality "I'm fine, thanks". I find myself trapped in a superficial community, stuffed in my self-imposed cocoon of fear and shame, afraid to admit my brokenness and weakness. I can't face the possibility of rejection and loss, not making the cut, not fitting in. To break out of this prison, we are invited into the honesty of becoming vulnerable. Vulnerability dismantles our obsession with getting it right.

As I take off the mask of "all togetherness", I discover a vast world of freedom. In my vulnerability, I become accessible to fellow companions on the journey. My vulnerability invites others in, offers understanding and empathy, but also can be a cry for help. Even though vulnerability's path is often painful, its reward of deepening intimacy is welcome. Being vulnerable opens my heart to a larger worldview. I become free to explore beyond the exhausting self-focus of supporting my false image of "OKness". I find myself challenged to deeper transparency as I sing along with Leonard Cohen "Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in". Written by STEVE IMBACH (sent July 24, 2007)

Words That Become Flesh

Words are important. Without them our actions lose meaning. And without meaning we cannot live. Words can offer perspective, insight, understanding, and vision. Words can bring consolation, comfort, encouragement and hope. Words can take away fear, isolation, shame, and guilt. Words can reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal. Words can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. Words, in short, can carry love on their wings. A word of love can be the greatest act of love. That is because when our words become flesh in our own lives and the lives of others, we can change the world.

Jesus is the word made flesh. In him speaking and acting were one. (June 22, 2007)

The Fruit of the Spirit

The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). These fruits speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question "How can I grow in the Spirit?" than the question "How can I make others believe in the Spirit?" (June 18, 2007)

On the Journey Towards Becoming More Gentle

I have on my desk a quote from David Steindl-Rast that states, "It takes only a slight shift of emphasis and the point of aloneness in dynamic stillness becomes the point of consummate union." It is a reminder as I sit quietly working at my desk to lift my thoughts to the One who animates life. It is a reminder of the gentle way the awareness of God is revealed to us. God gently encourages us to make that shift toward holiness in moments when love presents itself.

Once while visiting an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity in Jeremie, Haiti, the Sisters asked us to hold as many babies as we could during our visit. The room was filled with cribs of severely malnourished babies. It was overwhelming at first and we each stood apart from one another and wept for a while. As my friends and I began to go from crib to crib, gently picking up each child to hold and nurture for just a few moments, we felt that gentle consummate union with the Holy One.

The gentleness that flowed through us to the babies who were starved for affection and nurturing, was the gentle God energy moving through us. In those moments we were called to move from emotional steeling to a place of pure love. And the children's gift to us was their gentle and innocent spirit. How subtly the Holy One comes to be with us each day. And how often are we simply not aware of that love dwelling inside that seeks to be known. (written by VICTORIA S. SCHMIDT) (June 13, 2007)

Witnesses of Love

How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we'd better prove our right to exist?

The knowledge of being loved in an unconditional way, before the world presents us with its conditions, cannot come from books, lectures, television programs, or workshops. This spiritual knowledge comes from people who witness to God's love for us through their words and deeds. These people can be close to us but they can also live far away or may even have lived long ago. Their witness announces the truth of God's love and calls us to act in accordance with it (June 17, 2007).

Small Steps of Love

How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit ... all these are little steps toward love.

Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey. (June 15, 2007).

Journey to Gentleness

During the Christmas holidays I came home midafternoon from the office. My two adult sons were playing Internet poker while the kitchen was still a complete mess from their breakfast and lunch efforts! After a few minutes of heartfelt ranting and raving, the only response I got was a calm plea: "Dad, please, just go back to work."

Yes, the journey towards more gentleness may be a long road indeed. Countless times over the years I knew that what I was about to say or do would not help a situation, but that rarely stopped me. Progress came mainly from my painful awareness of all the times I did the opposite of what gentleness called me to choose. Today the temptation to be righteous, to be judgmental, to have the last say or be in control can still pull on me.

How we become more gentle is a critical personal and community concern in a world so prone to anger and violence. I offer three suggestions:

First, we must learn to love the parts of ourselves that we still reject. Otherwise we may project our faults onto others.

Second, we must listen to those around and closest to us. The feedback, challenge and affirmation we need to change and grow are there every day if we welcome them.

Finally, we must pray and ask for the grace we need. "Glory be to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). And thank God too.

On the Journey Towards Becoming More Gentle, by Joe Egan (May 23, 2007). JOE EGAN is a husband and father of three adult sons, a life long member of L'Arche and currently the Director of Human Resources for L'Arche Toronto.

Coming Together in Poverty

There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other's wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

Living community in whatever form - family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community - challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness. (March 18, 2007)

Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: "Well, I don't have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one." Often we also treat people this way. We say: "Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business...we'd better not take the risk of working with them." When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak. (March 17, 2007)

The Virtue of Flexibility

Trees look strong compared with the wild reeds in the field. But when the storm comes the trees are uprooted, whereas the wild reeds, while moved back and forth by the wind, remain rooted and are standing up again when the storm has calmed down.

Flexibility is a great virtue. When we cling to our own positions and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken. Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy. It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground. A humorless, intense, opinionated rigidity about current issues might cause these issues to break our spirits and make us bitter people. Let's be flexible while being deeply rooted. (March 16, 2007)

On the Journey To Aging Gracefully

written by LISA CATALDO On my last birthday, I turned forty-six years old. To some people, this is very young, while to others it's an age so advanced they cannot imagine being there. I fall into both camps - I don't feel old, but I find myself becoming aware of my mortality in little ways. For instance, although I have always gone through phases of exercising and attempting to eat healthy foods, it was admittedly about vanity, and not about my current thought that women my age have heart attacks. I never paid that much attention to my skin, because the thought of wrinkles was, well, unthinkable. Having been blessed with good health and physical ability, I now see and feel my body changing. I can't bend like I used to, party like I used to, or see like I used to. These are real losses that are also symbolic of my human fragility and weakness, my ultimate lack of control over the universe.

Accepting this reality brings its own gains. There is a kind of solidity to my being that wouldn't have been possible in my twenties or thirties. I feel clearer about my vocation and my commitments, less willing to be compliant just to please others, and more mature in my faith. I take emotional risks I wouldn't have taken, because I finally believe the words "Life's too short." I feel more genuine compassion for others who suffer, whether because of disability, age, social reality, or emotional trauma. I am both more realistic and more hopeful. These are all spiritual capacities that have grown even as my physical capacities have begun to diminish. I wouldn't trade back for anything. The price may be wounded vanity or real physical limitation, but the gain is a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said, "I have come so that [you] may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). (February 7, 2007)

Solidarity in Weakness

Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with." It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty ... such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others (February 1, 2007).

Empowered to Call God "Abba"

Calling God "Abba, Father" is different from giving God a familiar name. Calling God "Abba" is entering into the same intimate, fearless, trusting, and empowering relationship with God that Jesus had. That relationship is called Spirit, and that Spirit is given to us by Jesus and enables us to cry out with him, "Abba, Father."

Calling God "Abba, Father" (see Roman 8:15; Galatians 4:6) is a cry of the heart, a prayer welling up from our innermost beings. It has nothing do with naming God but everything to do with claiming God as the source of who we are. This claim does not come from any sudden insight or acquired conviction; it is the claim that the Spirit of Jesus makes in communion with our spirits. It is the claim of love. (June 11, 2007)

Forgiving in the Name of God

We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That's the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, "You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?"

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, "In the Name of God you are forgiven." Let's pray for that grace. (January 30, 2007)

The above were e-mails from the Henri Nouwen Society.

Wikipedia

The following are from Wikipedia

"We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love." -Bread For the Journey, 1996

"Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people." -Bread For the Journey, 1996

"Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his milieu to the point of being executed as a rebel. In this sense he also remains for nuclear man the way to liberation and freedom." -The Wounded Healer, 1972

"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self." -In the Name of Jesus, 1989

"What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life." -In the Name of Jesus, 1989

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." - Out of Solitude

"Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, or repressed. But you have to keep searching for your body's deeper need, the need for genuine love. Every time you are able to go beyond the body's superficial desires for love, you are bringing your body home and moving toward integration and unity." - The Inner Voice of Love

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