Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

Spiritual Formation by Henri NouwenMy friend and counselor, Tim Stauffer, referenced this book in our last session. I’m glad he brought it up! I’m not much of a reader (maybe have read 1 book every year or other year, LOL), but I have included reading a book each month into some planning I’ve done recently. I decided to tackle this one first.

I’ve listed my five favorite pieces of the book  at the bottom of this post, and here is a link to my entire notes (thanks to Evernote).

The past few years, following my heart attack, have been filled with lots of fear, uncertainty, shame, and I’d have to admit a good amount of misunderstanding on my part. This book really opened my eyes to the fact that we can never “arrive” in God’s eyes on our own. Our spirituality is always growing, and we sometimes want to mature faster than we want to become child-like in our faith.

Our culture thrives on progress and impressing others with our confidence and determination. I’ve believed that about my faith for far too long. Being afraid of dying because of falling short with my faith or not loving those closest to me as well as they deserve. God’s love continues to wait for me to let all of that go. Letting so much go that you even befriend your own mortality and death.

While reading this book my next door neighbor, a 7-month old, had open heart surgery. I won’t go into details, but he (and his family) got through the surgery and we got to enjoy their smiles and laughter days after it. Sure, my heart attack was very serious (100% blockage in a main artery), but to see this young boy embrace life after going through what he has teaches me quite a bit. I go through life depending on myself and others so much, without acknowledging just how much I really am in the hands of God every moment.

I really do suggest that you read the book, or at least scroll through these few short parts of it below. My faith always needs to grow, but God’s love doesn’t. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit has convinced me that I already belong. It’s my prayer that we start looking at our own faith as love and not as a list. Because He loved us ALL first, and hasn’t stopped doing so.


On Silence:
I have never met anyone seriously interested in the spiritual life who did not have a growing desire for silence.

On Prayer:
Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.

On Pain:
Suddenly, I knew, “I am part of humanity!” I am not the great exception. I suffer as other people suffer. I cry like other people cry, and I can dance as other people dance. Suddenly I realized that, yes, I want to live this truth together, I want to live it in community. Community and solidarity are at the heart of the movement from sorry to joy.

On Befriending Death:
I deeply believe that when we become lovers of life and death, when we embrace our enemy, when we befriend our mortality, we can become better warriors and stronger resisters through the power of love. I say this with some intimate knowledge of the truth.

On Spiritual Development:
By the time he arrived at Notre Dame as a professor of pastoral psychology, he (Nouwen) had turned the ladder of ascent on its side and taught spiritual formation as a series of horizontal movements of the heart, back and forth, that require daily devotion and discipline, with the goal of human wholeness rather than divine perfection.

  1. Dear Marie,My heart goes out to all you women and men who have been abused physadiadcally or sexaduadally. It is a teradriadble vioadlaadtion of trust and rspeect for the digadnity of the human peradson. It is a sin that cries out to heaven for jusadtice and is ceradtainly often influadenced by demonic influadences which always try to dehuadmanadize us.The good news is there is hope for healading and strengthadenading. Spiradiadtuadally there are two main types of prayers that can help immensly in such cases. One is to offer up a Mass (or series of Masses) for our ancesadtors who are in Puradgaadtory and who have passed on to us the affects of thier sinadfull lifestyles. The Sacred Scripadtures tell us that we are not morally culadpaadble for the sins of our ancesadtors (Ezekiel 18) but that we sure do sufadfer the conadseadquences of thier sinadfulladness (Ex 20:5). We can have tenaddenadcies to depresadsion, suiadcide, addicadtions, poor self-confidence, indifadferadence, anger issues, etc. One of the worst affects of paradents with scanaddeadlously sinadfull behavadior is that it is difadfiadcult to deveadladope a trustading, affecadtive relaadtionadship with God. What one does to preadpare for a Mass for the famadily is to make a famadily tree includading paradents, grandadparadents and great grandadparadents. One can also include aunts and uncles as well. On the paper with the tree one also puts sigadnifadiadcant behavadiors or events that could affect me (such as divorces, infiaddelity, peradverse behavadior, involveadment in cults, new age, atheadism, cursading, vioadlence, aboradtions, witchadcraft, being orphaned or abanaddoned, unloved, loneadliadness, etc). Durading the Mass we put them all on the altar (When I conadduct these Masses I put the sheets of the famadily trees on the altar) and plead that preadcious blood of the sacadriadfice of Jesus over them all grantading them mercy and also prayading for all the other peoadple who have been hurt by them that they too find healading and the lovading presadence of God in thier lives. We also give thanks for thier lives becouse in the end God used them to bring us into exhisadtence, He loves them too, and we have also inheradited good aspects from them as well (could be inteladliadgence, or skill in a craft or music, etc) It is a prayer of soladiaddaradity where we pray that our whole famadily will be blessed by Godb4s meradciadfull healading and freeading love through Jesus. The secadond type of powaderadfull prayer that I would recadomadmend is the healading of memadoadries. In this prayer one asks God to bless our bodadies, feeladings, emoadtions, memadoadries, imagadiadnaadtion and inteladlect and will. Then we ask the Holy Spirit to bring up a memadory that He would like to heal. When a memadory comes to mind, such as physadiadcal or sexadual abuse, we put ouradselves in the memadory as if we were re-living it, but this time we ask Jesus (and Mary) to come to us and help us, to conadsole us, and to help us not to be afraid. We can ask them what they think of us, because we can feel much shame or disadgust in what we have expeadriadenced or peradhaps we even blame ouradselves instead of the adult or other peradson who is truly at fault. It is amazading to me what Jesus and Mary say and do in these cases. Our past is litaderadally changed. It becomes filled with the love from heaven. The prayer using immagadiadnaadtion has this power because with God past, present and future are all in the present. He can heal the past by takading away the negadaadtive emoadtions that are trapped deep within and which conadstantly haunt us. One may do this prayer alone but I find many peoadple need help to enter into this type of prayer. For More inforadmaadtion on this topic one can google Healading of Memadoadries (Fr. DiGranaddis is a good author on this and Healading the Famadily Tree).The third recadomadmenaddaadtion is the groups of ALANON and the litaderadaadture. They deal with the emmoadtional sickadness that can infect us when we have lived with an extremely unhealthy peradson. Many who have not actuadally lived with an addict attend these meetadings because they find it is a solid and pracadtiadcal path to findading emoadtional peace. I finadish by leavading you with the serenadity prayer which is extemely simadple as it is powaderadfull.Lord, grant me the serenadity to accept the things that I canadnot change,Courage to change the things that I can,and the Wisaddom to know the difadferadence.God bless you,Fr.a0Isaac

  2. in a comment in your previous post: “….The whole place was so quiet. No people. That was the best part…..”This would explain why: “…….In the desert, you can remember your name,‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain……”

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