Love, Henri—A Quote-Full Book Review

It took me six months to read Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life. It’s not what you think. I was so excited to receive this book from Blogging for Books for this review. I had heard so much about Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest and author, and wanted to read these personal writings.

So why did it take me six months to read?

Because I couldn’t read more than a few pages without being stopped by a sentence or a paragraph that expressed a spiritual truth I needed to deal with. The processing took the form of first transcribing the quote and then sharing it on Twitter, if it was short enough, or on Facebook. Then I continued to contemplate it as my community interacted with it.

Over and over again the process repeated: read, stop, type, share, interact, contemplate. Hence, six months to read the book. (The process got slightly faster when I discovered I could use the voice recording function in Notes to speak the quote into my iPhone.) But it has been well worth the  investment.

You may not need six months to read Love, Henri. Your process may be different. But I  cannot imagine you will not be impacted by it.

Henri Nouwen received more than 16,000 letters and kept them all. And he replied to every one of them! The letters in Love, Henri were chosen from 3,000 letters collected back from people he wrote to. Each shows a genuine concern for the individual; each is written from a pastor’s heart.

I culled the quotes down to a dozen to share with you today. I hope you’ll find one or more you want to contemplate. And then maybe you’ll choose to read Love, Henri for yourself.

“We all want to be of service, but it is very hard to be a servant when we realize that that implies that we cannot determine the nature of our service ourselves.”

“We need to focus on the poor, not primarily because the poor need us, but because we need the poor. Jesus says: ‘Blessed are the poor.’ He does not say: ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor.’ The poor are holding a blessing for us that we need to receive. As receivers of the blessing of the poor, we can bring justice to the world. All injustice somehow comes from looking down on the poor and not expecting anything from them. We first of all have to discover Jesus in those who come to us in their poverty. Then we won’t burn out caring for them and walking with them.”

“It is so important to discern constantly if our words and actions bring others closer to God or not.”

Mayur Gala via Unsplash

“Be sure to pray much, that is, to keep your inner eye focused on Jesus. When you will discover Jesus within you, you will also be able to recognize him around you and have the energy to care for him.”

“Prayer should be our first concern. Without prayer even our ‘good busyness’ will lead to our destruction.”

“It seems crucial to me that now, more than ever before, you realize deeply that your worth and value does not depend on anyone else. … You are a person worth being loved and called to give love, not because anyone says so or acts so, but because you are created out of love and live in the embrace of a God who didn’t hesitate to send his only son to die for us.”

“We are meant to be signs of hope to each other, especially in moments like these.”

“If we are no longer centered by Jesus in prayer, it becomes harder and harder to experience Him in the people we work with. … If you want to do it long term and remain faithful in it, I think it is very important that you ‘spoil’ yourself—spend some good time with Jesus and Him alone. This is the way to prevent burn-out and to remain joyful even when you see so much suffering and pain.”
John Wilson via Unsplash

“True ministry is letting other people drink from the water that overflows from your fountain.”

“Power that comes from our deep connectedness with God is life-giving and healing; whereas the power that comes of our need for affirmation and success in the human community leads easily to manipulative and destructive behavior.”

“We can only love people well if we make our love of God our primary concern.”

“Fruitfulness is what Jesus calls us to. Not successfulness. Successes come from strength and power. Fruits are born in weakness. Jesus was born in weakness and died in weakness. His life was a failure but very fruitful.”

Learn more about Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life here. Let it spur you on to live a more spiritual life.

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