Vintage Reflections: Henri J.M. Nouwen

Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) Today's Vintage lunch welcomed students in from the cold and included hearty ham biscuits, sweet apple cider, and a heaping of warm welcomes. It's hard to believe that we're nearing the end of the fall semester, and today's reading of Henri Nouwen on gratitude and grace could not have been more fitting as students prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nouwen was an intellectual, a priest, and a servant of God. Born in war-time Holland, he would go on to teach at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, write thirteen books, and serve as pastor of a L'Arche community church, serving and assisting the handicapped. His experiences shaped his conclusions on gratitude, and Nouwen sincerely believed that gratitude was a choice in rather than a reaction to circumstances.

Students remarked on feelings of gratitude. Many feel gratitude when overwhelmed by positivity or when given an opportunity or a gift. Others feel gratitude when they're reminded of simple blessings such as the ability to walk or the chance to celebrate a healthy and happy family, but for Henri Nouwen, gratitude is not an occasional or spontaneous feeling. It's an active decision and habitual response to all situations - the good, the bad, the unexpected. Rather than remarking on intermittent reminders of blessings, individuals should practice gratitude with sincere effort. As Nouwen explains, "the call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life". Therefore, the Lord enables our gratefulness and peace in all circumstances through grace.

As discussion over Nouwen's writings continued over the hour, I started to feel grateful for the challenges that the Lord has put in my path lately. Not because they may end with rewards, but because they are opportunities to practice the choice of gratitude. Nouwen explained, "each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious... until finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace".

A very happy Thanksgiving, indeed. Sarah Salinas, UVa 2014 

Click here for the Henri Nouwen reading from this week.

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