Read an Excerpt From "Love, Henri"

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Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life
by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Henri loved clowns. He often used clowns as a way to describe being a minister. In this letter to a young couple working at a food program, Henri addresses their concern that they are being exploited by some patrons of the program.

AUGUST 31, 1981

Dear Judd and Evy,

Many thanks for your very kind letter. I really appreciate your tak­ing the time to write me. I very much enjoyed our conversation and I only wish we could have had more time. I appreciated very much what you write about your frustration about the food program. I understand very well the questions you raise.

There is just one little observation I would like to make. Some­times we have to dare to be fools for Christ. That means that sometimes we have to be willing to give food to people who don't really need or deserve it. And sometimes we have to be willing to work with some people who might even exploit us. Maybe that is as close as we can come to an experience of self-emptying. It is the experience of being useless in the presence of the Lord.

Understand me well, I am not trying to praise impracticality, nor am I trying to suggest that you should not stop doing the things you are doing when they prove to be counter-productive, but I am saying if you come in touch with the experience of being used or the experience of being useless, you might in fact be close to a true Christian experience, or closer than you sought.

Meanwhile, I keep you in my prayers and hope that your parish experience will be really filled with joy and peace.

I am enjoying my stay at the Abbey very much. I am praying with the monks and working with them in the bakery. Meanwhile I am still relaxing from the 10 exhausting years at Yale. If you ever want a few days of retreat, this might be the place for you.

Yours in friendship,

Henri Nouwen