Saturday, September 6, 2008

Nouwen On: Solitude

There is absolutely no reason for most people to be as busy as they are. You want to earn more money than you need. You want to see more television than you need. You want to read more books than you need to read. You want to see more people. You want to keep in touch with too many friends. You want to travel too much. You can even be busy with looking for the meaning of solitude! . . . . I shall have no time to pray whatsoever unless I radically say that prayer and solitude - being alone with God - is a priority. But my senses aren't saying that to me.
Solitude is a hard discipline, because we have the luxury of so many stimulations.
Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the one who says, "You are my beloved, I want to be with you. Don't go running around, don't start to prove to everybody that you're beloved. You are already beloved." That is what God says to us. Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves.

- Henry Nouwen, Beloved, pp. 11-13


  1. Arnold,

    This is a great bit of commentary from one of my favorite Roman Catholics! Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son had a dramatic impact on me when I read it a few years back. I haven't read this book, Beloved. It sounds like another great one.

    A Protestant-Catholic bridge builder I admire is Steve Bell, the Canadian singer. Based on your blog, I'd say you might appreciate his artistry. It goes nicely with the writing of folks like Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, Francois de Fenelon, Thomas a Kempis, Augustine of Hippo, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Blaise Pascal, etc. You can find him at Steve is the owner of the site, but usually you find other artists at center stage. Look around the site and you'll find Steve somewhere - perhaps off in some third world country feeding the poor. He's quite the social activist.

    Grace and peace,
    Derek Ashton

  2. Derek -

    Return of the Prodigal was the first Nouwen book I read. It's excellent. I don't always agree with Nouwen's theology or viewpoints, but I always find him to be full of good, helpful insights, and I appreciate the humble spirit with which he shares them.

    Thanks for the tip on signpostvillage. I'll check it out.

  3. Yes, it must be said that there are some rather sharp theological disagreements between protestants and catholics. A friend once told me he doesn't identify with the theology in some of the authors he likes, but he recognizes a shared devotion to the same Christ he loves. Some anti-catholic folks want to re-hash all the old theological arguments, but why not simply feed on the good parts, acknowledge the points of disagreement, and walk away edified? I worked for a Catholic dentist for 6 years. I found that I benefitted much more from our discussions of shared ideas than I did from our philosophical arguments. In fact, he contributed to my discipleship in ways no Protestant ever has. God apparently isn't stuck in the same theological ruts we are. But this is not to imply that theology is unimportant or better left undefined. I suppose there's a need for BALANCE AND PARADOX on this issue.

    I agree, Nouwen's humility is appealing. Better a humble Catholic than a proud, "correct" Protestant!