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My Spiritual GPS

In conversation with friends the topic of favorite spiritual writers came up. New books, recent articles, favorite quotes from various sources were shared. And then someone offered the following question: Who is your spiritual GPS? A few moments of silence and then a lively discussion ensued! I was at first intrigued by the question and then there he was with his various publications lining my book shelves! Henri Nouwen! He was a Dutch priest, professor, spiritual writer, and theologian. He based his thesis for an advanced degree on the work of Anton Boisen, an American minister who founded Clinical Pastoral Education, the training and education undertaken by every board-certified hospital and hospice chaplain. I did not know this about Henri Nouwen until much later in my spiritual journey with him. As a board-certified chaplain I appreciated him and his work even more. Fr. Nouwen focused on psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice, and community. In his writings and lectures he used psychology as a means of exploring the human side of faith. He realized the importance of integrating spiritual ministry with modern psychology. In the United States Fr. Nouwen taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School, and Harvard Divinity School. In the 1970's some of the Sisters in my congregation heard him speak at Yale Divinity School and remarked on his thoughtful presence and firm belief in hope as a guiding force for good. Later in his life Fr. Nouwen worked with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at L'Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Fr. Nouwen unfortunately died at 64 in 1996. His work and his life continue to touch so many people. On my prayer table I have a copy of his reflection on optimism and hope. I find myself returning to this reflection during these dark days of unrest and disillusionment. I share his reflection with you: "Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things - the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on - will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands. All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let's live with hope."                                                   
                                                                                      --- Sr. Edith Menegus, OSU

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