Quotes by Henri Nouwen
Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Henri Nouwen. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.
Wikipedia Summary for Henri J. M. Nouwen
Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (January 24, 1932 – September 21, 1996) was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. Over the course of his life, Nouwen was heavily influenced by the work of Anton Boisen, Thomas Merton, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, and Jean Vanier.
After nearly two decades of teaching at academic institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, Nouwen went on to work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the L'Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
As long as we have our stories there is hope.
Friendship and love are impossible without a mutual vulnerability.
Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply.
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.
To learn patience is not to rebel against every hardship.
Peacemaking is a full-time vocation that includes each member of God's people.
A friend is a hand that is always holding yours, no matter how close or far apart you may be. A friend is someone who is always there and will always, always care. A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart.
True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who've found the center of their lives in their own hearts.
Do not tell everyone your story. You will only end up feeling more rejected. People cannot give you what you long for in your heart. The more you expect from people's response to your experience of abandonment, the more you will feel exposed to ridicule.
The best of community does give one a deep sense of belonging and well-being; and in that sense community takes away loneliness.
People who pray stand receptive before the world. They no longer grab but caress, they no longer bite but kiss, they no longer examine but admire.
Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?-are not questions with an answer but questions that open us up to new questions which lead us deeper into the unshakeable mystery of existence.
Community always calls us back to solitude, and solitude always calls us to community. Community and solitude, both, are essential elements of ministry and witnessing.
In solitude we become aware that we were together before we came together and that life is not a creation of our will but rather an obedient response to the reality of our being united.
God's Kingdom is a place of abundance where every generous act overflows its original bounds and becomes part of the unbounded grace of God at work in the world.
Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.
Pay attention to the people God puts in your path if you want to discern what God is up to in your life.
The Question is not how much are you going to accomplish? Or can you show some results? But are you in love with Jesus? In our world of brokeness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God; a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal.
Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way. Those who think they have reached their goal, have missed it. Those who think they are saints, are demons.
We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.
Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living.
Today's reading was if they ask you to walk a mile, walk two. Don't take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. You have chances every second to live this Word, but it has to be in you. It can't just be an idea; it has to sink from the mind into the heart.
Good families always ritualize the table. You can say, This is a Christmas meal; this is a birthday meal.
Is my growing old making me any closer to Christ? Am I only getting older or am I getting more godly?
If you start with community and want to be faithful to community, you have to realize that what binds you together is not mutual compatibility or common tasks, but God. In order to stay in touch with that call to community, we always have to return to solitude.
The immense joy in welcoming back the lost son hides in the immense sorrow that has gone before....our brokenness may appear beautiful, but our brokenness has no other beauty but the beauty that comes from the compassion that surrounds it.
The third discipline is community. Whom do you choose as your companions? Whom do you choose to be friends with, to live with? Are they people who love you, and care for you, and nurture you?
I choose L'Arche; L'Arche chooses me. I would be dead if I weren't here. I need people to love me and care for me.
Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity- an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says: You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.
Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.
As those who are chosen, blessed, broken, and given, we are called to live our lives with a deep inner joy and peace. It is the life of the Beloved, lived in a world constantly trying to convince us that the burden is on us to prove that we are worthy of being loved.
Through discipline, discipline is the other side of discipleship. If you want to follow Jesus, you have to have discipline.
Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering end up disconnecting our suffering from God's suffering for us. The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through.
The great challenge is to discover that we are truly invited to participate in the divine life of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In community, where you have all the affection you could ever dream of, you feel that there is a place where even community cannot reach. That's a very important experience. In that loneliness, which is like a dark night of the soul, you learn that God is greater than community.
I am deeply convince that the necessity of prayer, and to pray unceasingly, is not as much based on our desire for God as on God's desire for us. It is God's passionate pursuit of us that calls us to prayer.
Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me.
We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness.
The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.
In a strange way the spiritual life isn't useful or successful. But it is meant to be fruitful. And fruitfulness comes out of brokenness.
God, help me to see others not as enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.
The more you are called to speak for God's love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of that love in your own heart. The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be. Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.
My hope is that the description of God's love in my life will give you the freedom and the courage to discover... God's love in yours.
Jesus says, Keep your heart on the kingdom first. Keep your heart on God's love. Keep focused on the fact that you are God's beloved daughter or son. That's the truth of who you are.
One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.
No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love.
To the degree that we embrace the truth that our identity is not rooted in our success, power, or popularity, but in God's infinite love, to that degree can we let go of our need to judge.
The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation.
As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their right place.
Community life is not easy for somebody like me, who is used to living by himself and doing what he wants. It's a demanding life, and you quickly get in touch with your own handicaps and weaknesses.
Those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. Love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.
Let's not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.
If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we become a demon. We say, Love me! and before you know it we become violent and demanding and manipulative. It's so important that we keep forgiving one another -- not once in a while, but every moment of life.
The great call for the Church is to not just be concerned about right or wrong behavior, which is moral life, but about communion with God, which is mystical life.
I have found it very important...to let go of my wishes and start hoping.
I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me.
Aging does not need to be hidden or denied, but can be understood, affirmed and experienced as a process of growth by which the mystery of life is slowly revealed to us.
As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through our words.
Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God's heart has become one with ours.
Feelings of guilt dominate our work as peacemakers we cannot last long. But when we have opened each other's eyes to the great human gifts among all people we can indeed make peacemaking a way of being.
A prayerful life is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.
A sense of solitude is one of the most beautiful things that parents can give a child. It doesn't mean leaving the child alone, but it does mean creating safe spaces where the child can be with other people. It does mean directing their attention to God.
The difference between rich and poor is not that the rich sin is more than the poor, that the rich find it easier to call sin a virtue.
One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there.
To receive spiritual direction is to recognize that God does not solve our problems or answer all our questions, but leads us closer to the mystery of our existence where all questions cease.
It is not that the university as such is against spiritual formation. It is just that often the university does not know how to integrate spiritual formation within its academic disciplines.
Solitude is an essential element for the spiritual health of a child. If we only stimulate our children -- keep them busy with endless stories with no space to be alone -- that's not good.
I can choose to grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly.
In this crazy world, there's an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they're never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.
Fear is the great enemy of intimacy. Fear makes us run away from each other or cling to each other but does not create true intimacy.
In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.
Solitude, community, and ministry are certainly not just for celibates! Celibates also have a hard time keeping up.
Where are you getting your affection? Who's touching you? Who's holding you? Who makes you feel alive? Who says, You are a beautiful person, you are the beloved of God, don't forget it? That's an important discipline.
Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives--healing, teaching, and guiding -- we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention.
Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope makes you see God's guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness.
We want to prove we are good writers or good business, good parents or good teachers. The world is very competitive and catches us in this frenzy. It wants us to go here, be there, and be part of this or that.
Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human.
The friend who cares makes it clear that whatever happens in the external world, being present to each other is what really matters. In fact, it matters more than pain, illness, or even death.
The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word and to taste fully God's infinite goodness.
Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, 'Come Lord Jesus!'
I loved to teach, I loved my students, but I wanted to find a community. I prayed: Lord, show me where you want me to go. I will go wanted wherever you call me -- but please be clear.
I speak of God's love and grace and redemption and freedom, but when I say in the context of this community, it is heard differently. To be with people so obviously broken, so obviously handicapped, and here to discover real joy and peace -- that makes the Word of God come alive.
Live, work, and travel with handicapped people, so I can stay close to them. But since I am often busy with many things, it's a constant struggle to keep the handicapped members of our community in the center of my life.
We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.
It's an incredible mystery of God's love that the more you know how deeply you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and your brothers in the human family are loved.
The word that seems best to summarize the desire of the human heart is 'communion.' ...wherever we look it is communion that we seek.
My whole life I have been complaining
that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered
that my interruptions
were my work.
His (Christ's) appearance in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross.
My writing has developed drastically . The Return of the Prodigal Son is the most important thing I've done, and my most mature book.
The most important thing I've come to believe in is that people with mental handicaps have a unique mission to bring God's blessing to the World.
Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.
Jesus invites us to abide in his love. That means to dwell with all that I am in him. It is an invitation to a total belonging, to full intimacy, to an unlimited being-with. The light of the Spirit reveals to us that love conquers all fear.
When I could no longer cling to my normal supports I discovered that true support and real safety lie far beyond the structures of our world.
In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face, and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile.
Becoming the beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour.
Prayer requires that we stand in God's presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.
If you feel loved, you can do a thousand things. If you feel rejected, everything becomes a problem.
When we approach fundraising in a spirit of gratitude, our confidence in our mission does not depend on how the person we are with responds to our request! We are free to remain secure in God's love with our hearts set joyfully on the kingdom.
The real 'work' of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.
If you want to know anything about community, you have to realize that the contemplative side is essential. Community without retreating and quiet time never survives.
It is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past and can learn new ways of responding. Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without wanting anything in return.
I am very grateful that I am in touch with so many different church groups. I am always very moved by the fact that so many people -- practically over the spectrum of the Christian world -- are responding to my writing.
Which questions guide our lives? Which questions do we make our own? Which questions deserve our undivided and full personal commitment? Finding the right questions is crucial to finding the answers.
The main question is not, how can we hide our wounds...but how can we put our woundedness in service to others.
Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one's own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.
Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other's vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, become part of the uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination.
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved.
Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God's incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God.
Although many, we might even say most, strangers in this world become easily the victim of a fearful hostility, it is possible for men and women and obligatory for Christians to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.
I often wonder if my knowledge about God has not become my greatest stumbling block to my knowledge of God.
Jesus didn't live alone. He had Peter, John, and James around him. There were the Twelve and the other disciples. They formed circles of intimacy around Jesus. We too need these circles of intimacy, but it's a discipline.
We can be unhappy about many things, but jy can still be there... It is important to become aware that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy... It is in the choice that our true freedom lies, and that freedom is, in the final analysis, the freedom to love.
Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.
Our life is full of brokenness -- broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God's faithful presence in our lives.
But still -- that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into a hospes, the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.
To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, welcome, to accept.
True Hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who've found the center of their lives in their own hearts.
That is our vocation: to convert the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.
Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.
Often we come home from a sharing session with a feeling that something precious has been taken away from us or that holy ground has been trodden upon.
The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.
To be baptized means to make the passage with the people of Israel and with Jesus from slavery to freedom and from death to new life. It is a commitment to a life in and through Jesus.
That's prayer to let God's Word speak deep within you and tell you, You are my beloved. You don't have to take an eye for an eye. No, no you're too rich for that.
Spiritual maturity is not knowing what to do with your whole life, but just knowing what to do next.
Every time there are losses, there are choices to be made. You choose to live your losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression and resentment, or you choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider, and deeper.
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...that is a friend who cares.
Somewhere we know that without silence, words lose their meaning.
Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.
In 1970 I felt so lonely that I could not give; now I feel so joyful that giving seems easy. I hope that the day will come when the memory of my present joy will give me the strength to keep giving even when loneliness gnaws at my heart.
God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, l from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.
In our production-oriented society, being busy, having an occupation, has become one of the main ways, if not the main way, of identifying ourselves. Without an occupation, not just our economic security but our very identity is endangered.
Ministers are powerless people who have nothing to boast of except their weaknesses. But when the Lord whom they serve fills them with His blessing they will move mountains and change the hearts of people wherever they go.
The journey from teaching about love to allowing myself to be loved proved much longer than I realised.
The evangelical movement has become just a bit victimized by a success-oriented culture, wanting the church -- like the corporation -- to be successful.
Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.
Asking people for money is giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the Kingdom.
Ministry is the least important thing. You cannot not minister if you are in communion with God and live in community.
To be a minister means above all to become powerless, or in more precise terms, to speak with our powerlessness to the condition of powerlessness which is so keenly felt but so seldom expressed by the people of our age.
The resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists. This image shows a tension, a desire to cling tightly to yourself, a greediness which betrays fear.
One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.
The man who can articulate the movements of his inner life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering.
The real enemies of our life are the 'oughts' and the 'ifs.' They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and now.
For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.
A life without a lonely place, that is, without a quiet center, becomes destructive.
A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identifiction, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.
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. God loves us, not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love.
The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.
Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on.
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