Today would have been Henri Nouwen’s 88th birthday. He wrote:
“Celebrating a birthday reminds us of the goodness of life, and in this spirit we really need to celebrate people’s birthdays every day, by showing gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, and affection.”
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” – I Thessalonians 4: 11-12
To be alone by being part of the universe – fitting in completely to an environment of woods and silence and peace. Everything you do becomes a unity and a prayer. Unity within and without. Unity with all living things, without effort or contention. My silence is part of the whole world’s silence and builds the temple of God without the noise of hammers. – Thomas Meeting, journal entry, January 28, 1953
I urge you earnestly not to spend time thinking about the past. If your time was well-used, then let us give God glory. If it was wasted, let us despise it and trust in the goodness of the heavenly Father. Therefore I exhort you to set your mind at rest with a consoling thought that any part of your life that was not well spent has already been forgiven by our most tender God. – Padre Pio
There are some griefs so loud
They could bring down the sky,
And there are griefs so still
None knows how deep they lie,
Endured, never expended.
There are old griefs so proud
They never speak a word
They never can be mended
And these nourish the will
And keep it iron-hard.
Photo: Grindstone, Maine – September 2019
Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen.
That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”
– Henri Nouwen
photo: Abiquiu, NM – September 2018
Still my unforgiving thoughts, the grudges I nurse from my past, from the betrayals I’ve suffered, from the negativity and abuses I’ve been subject to. Quiet in me the guilt I carry from my own betrayals. Still in me all that’s wounded, unresolved, bitter, and unforgiving. Give the quiet that comes from forgiveness. – Ronald Rolheiser
Fear is an addiction for a lot of people. They don’t know how to motivate themselves without being afraid of something. They don’t know how not to worry. When you’re living an inauthentic life, you’re going to worry because your subconscious, your spirit, knows your life has no truth. That is why we are creating so many fearful people.
The more illusory stuff we have to protect, the more fearful we will be. There’s almost a correlation between fears that people have and the false lives they live. Beneath all the layers of behavior, it is fear that brings more people into counseling than any other emotion. The counselor’s role is to help people identify what is behind their fear. Real lives start then. – Richard Rohr
I posted the above on Facebook a number of years ago. I knew the truth of this then – that it described my inner life, my false self – but was unable to admit to myself that fear and shame were mixed in with my other addictions – and pride, misguided pride, kept me from admitting it to myself, to another human being, or to God.
As Rumi wrote:
Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave
give the opening we most want
photo: Grindstone, ME – September 2019
Sometimes we have to “step over” our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on. The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there. Then we become the “offended one,” “the forgotten one,” or the “discarded one.” Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them. It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on.
– Henri Nouwen
(photo: Monastery of Christ in The Desert, Abiquiu, NM – September 2018)
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
– from Collected Poems, 1987