Book Review: You Are The Beloved

You Are The Beloved:  Daily Meditations For Spiritual Living, by Henri Nouwen, compiled and edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Convergent Books.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As someone who has read a few of the posthumous author’s books before [1], my attitude towards this is the same as my attitude towards many of these books and ones by related authors, and that is that if the books are going to be this good, I don’t mind in the least that they contain particularly quotable bits and pieces from works that the author wrote while he was alive and the odd unpublished letter.  The editor/compiler here deserves some considerable credit for making this feast of scraps a worthwhile and contemplative work, and of course, Nouwen was a profound thinker not only because he had a keen mind and a skillful way with words, but because he was a man deeply in touch with his own reservoir of anxieties and brokenness from which he wrote movingly, a fair amount of which is included here.  This book is distinctive enough from the run-of-the-mill 365 (or, in this case, 366) day devotional to be well worth reading as its meditations are not often biblical but are at least thought-provoking and worthwhile.

The format and contents of this book are relatively uncomplicated.  The book is about 400 pages and contains 366 daily meditations taken from the writings of Henri Nouwen.  The year is divided into Gregorian months, and the devotions for most months end with a prayer taken from one of Nouwen’s works.  Each day is noted in the top right or top left corner, along with a title for the day’s meditation a paragraph or two (generally), frequently with ellipsis, taken from Nouwen’s large body of work and then a note about which work it is taken from.  More detailed citations are in the back.  The meditations sometimes relate to the particular season–some make note of Lent, Pentecost, and Advent, for example–and often touch on themes of interest to the writer, which means one gets a lot of reflections about solitude, anxiety, longing, community, friendship, aging, death and dying, and the brokenness of human existence.  As a whole, the book is a suitably practical but also intensely mystical discussion of how we can be at one with God and with others and embrace and overcome the difficulties and limitations of our frailty and our humanity.

I personally enjoyed this book a great deal, as the author and his thinking struck me as being similar to what I would sound if I was a contemplative Catholic priest of sorts rather than being what I am.  For me, the book reminded me that there are a lot of good books that Nouwen has written that I would love to read if they were available.  That said, not everyone will find this book to be their cup of tea–this book is a lot less enjoyable if one has no interest in reading about the lives of the Desert fathers or has no tolerance for Nouwen’s open Catholicism and general interest in the contemplative and mystical.  Some readers will find the book’s few citations of scripture to be off-putting as well.  Nevertheless, for those who are fond of Nouwen’s reflections and find them a pleasant and comforting set of writings to read and reflect upon.  Obviously, those who are fans of Nouwen’s writing will find a lot to appreciate here, and Earnshaw deserves a great deal of credit for finding and compiling these quotes from such a diverse collection of Nouwen’s writings.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: You Are The Beloved

  1. Pingback: Book Review: A Testament of Devotion | Edge Induced Cohesion

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