My favourite most inspiring spiritual leader is the late Fr Henri Nouwen. Being of Dutch descent but having lived in Toronto area, and buried in Richmond hill, Fr Henri would have celebrated many a Canadian Thanksgiving Weekends. Here is one of his more potent and moving paragraphs on the necessity of gratitude in our lives.
Fr Henri, we miss your audible voice and passion.
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. 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.
Fr Henri J.M. Nouwen
COVID has revealed a lot about me—my fears, my anxieties, what and who I really care about and how I relate to people who operate from a different perspective and how I treat them or think of them.
Sadly, even while on the beach this week Covid reared it’s ugly head as some overly scrupulous people got into a social distancing argument about how close they determined we should sit as a family.
Yes, an argument erupted and I didn’t handle it well as a person got her stink face in my face over a grandchild who in her opinion was having a little too much fun with his sand shovel. Well, you can stink face me but when you come across mean and nasty to my grandkids, that’s another story.
Having said that, something I read this morning set me straight, but nevertheless we should all think twice before we stink eye others.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote these amazing words:
“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last pieces of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms is to choose his own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.”
I think if I have heard it once since our son was married, I have heard this phrase a thousand x.
Luch, you and Rosetta are so blessed!
As I think about what people mean by that is, ‘Luch, you are SO lucky.’
As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think I am more blessed or lucky than anyone else, but I do think, I have ‘chosen’ to live by His blessing rather than against it.
My favourite spiritual mentor hands down, Fr Henri Nouwen, says the following about blessings AND cursing.
And it seems to be written out of what the Jewish scriptures teach.
Deuteronomy 30:19This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
Without realising, we tend to curse ourselves. That cannot be so. That must be a joke. For who in his right senses would want to curse himself. Yet, unconsciously, we curse ourselves often. How can that be so? See how Father Henri Nouwen explains about blessings and curses: “It is an on going temptation to think of our lives as living under a curse. The loss of a friend, an illness, an accident, a natural disaster, a war, or any failure can make us quickly think that we are no good and are being punished. This temptation to think of our lives as full of curses is even greater when all the media present us day after day with stories about human misery. Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. But we must choose to receive that blessing and hand it on to others. Blessings and curses are always placed in front of us. We are to choose. God says, ‘Choose the blessings!’” (Bread for the Journey, Sept ) “To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore, we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.” (Bread for the Journey, Sept 7)
So, we bless ourselves:
· When we give thanks with a grateful heart.
· When we bless our family and others
· When we listen to the quiet, inner voice that says good things about ourselves.
· When we affirm ourselves and know that we have given the best of ourselves in whatever we have worked on.
· When we shut out the loud, busy outer voice that says we are being punished.
We bless others:
· When we speak good things about them and to them.
· When we show by our gestures that their presence is a joy to us.
· When we reveal to them their gifts, their goodness and their talents.
I think many of us might want to stop ‘hoarding the blessing’ and share it lavishly in spirit of Fr Henri’s words.
I am fascinated that many who say they are ‘believers’ have a hard time expressing blessing to another, while so called ‘non believers’(tragic expression) express blessing freely especially if they’ve never experienced it.
Sometimes mentoring doesn’t have to be long, drawn out, never getting to the point conversations. The late blessed St Mother Teresa provides an inspired example of giving direct communication to the late Dutch priest, Father Henri Nouwen. Known for his compulsivity, Fr Henri asked Mother Teresa how he could deal with ongoing issues in his life. Nouwen explains her direct response.
Once, quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was struggling with many things at the time and decided to use the occasion to ask Mother Teresa’s advice. As soon as we sat down I started explaining all my problems and difficulties – trying to convince her of how complicated it all was! When, after ten minutes of elaborate explanation, I finally became silent, Mother Teresa looked at me quietly and said,: “Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong . . . you will be fine!” . . . Reflecting on this brief but decisive encounter, I realize that I had raised a question from below and that she had given an answer from above. At first, her answer didn’t seem to fit my question, but then I began to see that her answer came from God’s place and not from the place of my complaints. Most of the time we respond to questions from below with answers from below. The result is more questions and more answers and, often, more confusion. Mother Teresa’s answer was like a flash of lightning in my darkness. I suddenly knew the truth about myself. HERE AND NOW book
While reading a book on Refirement by Eric Thurman,😂 and while so much is being made on the airwaves about our health, this paragraph from AARP an organization providing helpful accurate health information for those over 50 but also all ages especially if you are young but acting like you are old and unfit.
AARP is a prolific source of information about aging. This organization, representing a membership of nearly thirty-eight million people, advocates for adults age fifty and over. Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, put her finger on the primary factor that determines your health—you: The saying used to be that the secret to a long, healthy life was to choose your parents well. But today we know that only about 20 percent of a person’s health is due to genetics, and about 20 percent is due to the medical care we receive. The other 60 percent is due to social, behavioral, and environmental factors, many of which we can and do influence by the choices we make throughout our lives—what we eat, how much and what kinds of exercise we do, where we live, the quality of our relationships, whether we smoke, and our ability to handle stress. 12 Your private thoughts, desires, and actions are the driving force that determine how good and how long your life will be from this point forward. By AARP’s estimate, 60 percent of your thriving throughout the remainder of your life depends on you. With that in mind, you can see why famed Italian actress Sophia Loren argued there actually is a fountain of youth. It is inside you: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.”
A few days after Mother’s Day and within a month, Dad’s day, here is one of the hardest and yet most important lessons to practice as a mom and dad. At least for this old boy.
So well articulated by the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
This is a lesson Rosetta and I want to learn well.
Let our kids GO!!!
We gave them roots. Now they have to fly and make their own roots.🙏❤️
The Great Gift of Parenthood
Children are their parents’ guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while – fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years – and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about “our son” and “our daughter,” their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have to come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decisions.
The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxiety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life.
Do you find your tongue—speech gets you in trouble?
Mine does. Still.
This prayer for good speech in my Give us this day devotional was timely as lately my ‘tongue’ has gotten the better of me.
Prayer for Good Speech
Gracious God, with only words
you created the universe and called it “good.”
Help me, then, to use my words well,
to create only life and give blessings this day.
You numbered the stars and called each one by name.
Let me cherish each person I meet
and speak their name with reverence.
You promised that your word is very near to us,
already in our mouths and in our hearts.
Give me your Spirit, and teach me what to say.
Stand guard over my mouth and temper my heart
when emotions race and words so easily cut.
Help me know when to speak up,
to be a cry for the poor and a voice in the desert,
and teach me the wisdom to know when to be silent.
Give me the grace to speak the simple words:
“Please” and “Thank you.” “Yes.” “I love you.”
And strengthen me to say the words that need to be said:
“I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “Forgive me.” “I forgive you.”
Let my “yes” be “yes,” my “no” mean “no,”
and my promises be kept.
Above all, may I remember that
even if I speak with the tongues of angels,
yet do not have love, I am simply making noise.
So let my tongue be silenced if ever I forget you.
Lord, today, make me your word and open my lips, c*
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
*Make the Sign of the Cross on your lips.
Thomas Merton the late Trappist monk said something that could revolutionize our increasingly sick world.
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .
“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.
Let’s take a good look at our own fourth and walnut.
It was Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918-1956)who wrote The Gulag Archipelago, chronicling the evil of another kind of moral ‘pandemic’ suffering in a Russian prison camp.
So many are asking during this pandemic of our own if we will be better people when it’s over if ever….I love Solzhenitsyn’s view on ‘setbacks’
Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
Will you and I be able to say when it’s over, if ever, ‘bless you coronavirus, bless you for being in my life.’🙏🔥
Grateful expresses how I feel this morning, especially for Premier Doug Ford, Prime minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor John Tory and Education minister Stephen Lecce.
These 4 men—young and old—and the great teams around them have done their best as far as I can see and hear, to keep sanity for Canadians. And Ontarians. They have spouses and children and grandchildren too to worry about and yet they are not cowering and retreating but stepping up.
Two of the three self isolated and still do their job.
I may not agree with some of their ideologies and politics but who cares…what they have in common they have rallied around.
I love when reporter asked Doug Ford what he’s going to do to enforce social distancing.
His reply—‘Come on people….does it have to come to that?’
He actually believes that people are good at heart and will do the right thing.
Sadly that isn’t true but I am thanking God for these men and women staying at their post while we sleep relatively peacefully.
Lord, bless these men and women doing their best to guide our country. Give them peace, courage and wisdom to make good decisions for the common good. Amen