Every so often, I find something remarkable on my wife’s bookshelf. Recently, this book caught my notice. As I paged through the first page of the prologue, I was struck by the author’s observation of the world of forty years ago:
Many voices wonder if humanity can survive its own destructive powers.
Henri Nouwen lists the buikldup of nuclear arms, but before that, his concern cites “rapidly spreading violence and hatred within as well as between countries.” I could have been reading something written in the Age of Trump.
This brief seventy-eight page book focuses on three qualities from the desert monastic tradition, solitude, silence, and prayer.
I know this volume was penned during Fr Nouwen’s time of association with the Trappist Abbey of the Genesee. It leans heavily on the Desert Tradition of the early Christian centuries. Based on a seminar at the Yale Divinity School, it also has an eye to people in ministry. One might ask the connection. The writer makes it somewhat more deftly than this century’s foray into the BenOp.
How do monastic traditions help a person become a better minister: that is the author’s question. The answers are good ones, mined from the wisdom of people who sought and found God during some difficult times in world. The last of three main sections, the one on Prayer, is especially good.
The advice for brief prayers, not long ones–very ancient and very effective. When I’ve been in difficulty the past few weeks, I’ve found “Jesus, save me” to be sufficient when the longer string of words fades away.
While Henri Nouwen was definitely a man of his age, the early post-conciliar, there is a timeless thread that runs through his writing. I can easily recommend this book. I took my time with it. About a month.