Top Quotes from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Reading Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey, I was struck by the parallels found in his short reflections and Pope Francis’ big themes: the importance of mercy, presence, joy, and being a church of the poor. These themes are deeply rooted in the actions and teachings of Christ. Here are some of my favorites from Nouwen’s book, which offers a short reflection for each day of the year: 

  • Let’s not forget the preciousness and vulnerability of life during the times we are powerful, successful, and popular.
  • The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves.
  • Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy.
  • We want to hear, “I’ve been thinking of you today,” or “I missed you,” or “I wish you were here,” or “I really love.” It is not always easy to say these words, but such words can deepen our bonds with one another.
  • As John the Evangelist writes, “Perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18). Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.
  • Love is eternal…When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love…It is the divine, indestructible core of our being.
  • To love is to think, speak, and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible in this world.
  • When we truly enjoy God’s unlimited generosity, we will be grateful for what our brothers and sisters receive. Jealousy will simply have no place in our hearts.
  • When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity. It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness.
  • Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be! Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters—they require our first attention.
  • Being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty…such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family.
  • When people say of us, “See how they love on another,” they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as a magnet.