For Lent, copies of a short book by famed spiritual writer, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, will be offered to our parishioners the First Sunday of Lent, the weekend of February 17-18. We hope that reading and reflecting on it will help increase our understanding of the meaning and purpose of celebrating Mass and living it in our daily lives. We will offer frequent email blasts and discussion groups for those interested.
One book per family. Digital copies of the book may be purchased at Amazon.com for $9.99. Books will be available at the Masses for the First Sunday of Lent, February 17 and 18.
Parish Emails: Daily emails will be created by Father Tom and Sister Loretta to help you to pace your reading and to highlight important points. To receive them, you must send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Parish Center at (908) 276-0360. These emails will be sent only to the people who register for them.
Book Blog: Visit Father Tom’s https://thelightofhisface.wordpress.com blog for his insights about Nouwen’s With Burning Hearts.
Discussion Groups: 45-minute long sessions in the Parish Center’s Pat O’Keefe Room for people who would like to talk about the book.
- Tuesdays, February 13 (pre-book-distribution topics on the Mass), 20, 27, March 6 and 13 at 12:45 PM and 7:30 PM. Attend any or all.
- (or have one at home with your family and friends)
Pat O’Keefe Room Discussion Group: No need to register. All are welcome to attend.
Here are three of the mostly 5-star and a few 4-star Amazon reviews:
Jeff: “If I did not have to read this for a class I would not have read it. That being said, after the third time through this book it has proven to be a challenge to my Christian walk and a huge blessing. This is not a quick or easy read, plan to take your time and read it at least twice.”
Oneill: “Beautifully written and illustrated. Like a wonderful meal, this book should be savoured slowly and shared with friends. Once again Henri Nouwen breaks open the Gospels, strengthens our Catholic faith, and helps us see beyond our own brokenness.”
Veronica: “Each section draws us into a deeper understanding of our life, and of our life as a people of the Word and of the Eucharist.”
We hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity to deepen your love for God and the Mass and to profit from the insights of Fr. Nouwen, a storyteller who never fails to move his readers closer to God. Share your insights with your friends and your parishioners. If you like it, let the people sitting round you in church know that. And perhaps read portions of the book to your spouse, friends, children and grandchildren.
In the book, Fr. Nouwen engages us in a conversation about the post-Easter story of the resurrected Jesus accompanying two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The story begins with the disciples expressing their loss and sadness about Jesus' crucifixion, then their sadness lifts as the stranger (Jesus) speaks. Their listening leads them to a sense of direction and hope, so they invite Him home where the Stranger becomes the host by taking, blessing, breaking and sharing the Bread of Life with them. The Stranger leaves and the disciples, with minds and hearts uplifted, go to Jerusalem and share their joy and experience with the other disciples. In the five short chapters Nouwen weaves our lives and our engagement in parts of the Mass into the story:
I. Mourning Our Losses: “Lord, Have Mercy”
“If there is any word that summarizes well our pain, it is the word loss” (24).
“To grieve is to allow our losses to tear apart feelings of security and safety and lead us to the painful truth of our brokenness. Our grief makes us experience the abyss of our own life in which nothing is settled, clear, or obvious, but everything is constantly shifting and changing” (30).
“Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift, a gift for which one is grateful” (34).
“The prayer for God’s mercy comes from a heart that knows that this human brokenness is not a fatal condition of which we have the become the sad victim, but the bitter fruit of the human choice to say “No” to love” (36).
II. Discerning the Presence: “This Is the Word of God”
“We cannot live without words that come from God, words to pull us out of our sadness and lift us up to a place from where we can discover what we are truly living” (51).
“Our little stories are lifted up into God’s great story and there given their unique place. The word lifts us up and makes us see that our daily, ordinary lives are, in fact, sacred lives that play a necessary role in the fulfillment of God’s promises” (59).
III. Inviting the Stranger: “I Believe”
“Maybe we are not used to thinking about the Eucharist as an invitation to Jesus to stay with us. We are more inclined to think about Jesus inviting us to his house, his table, his meal. But Jesus wants to be invited” (67).
“Without an invitation, which is the expression of a desire for a lasting relationship, the good news that we have heard cannot bear lasting fruit. It remains “news” among the many types of news that bombard us each day” (69).
IV. Entering into Communion: “Take and Eat”
“Eucharist is recognition. It is the full realization that the one who takes, blesses, breaks, and gives is the One who, from the beginning of time, has desired to enter into communion with us” (88-89).
“Community creates community, because the God living in us makes us recognize the God in our fellow humans” (96). “Thus communion not only creates community, but community always leads to mission” (97).
V. Going on a Mission: “Go and Tell”
“In the long run, mission is possible only when it is as much receiving as giving, as much being cared for as caring” (115).
“But when the giver receives and the receiver gives, the circle of love, begun in the community of the disciples, can grow as wide as the world” (116).
May we, individually and as a parish, have a truly Christ-centered Lent.
Father Tom and Sister Loretta