The National Catholic Review

This carefully crafted selection of readings from 40 works by Henri Nouwen walks the reader through the seasons of the liturgical year. It invites us to travel on "a journey from chronos, the chronological world of clocks and calendars, to kairos, time viewed as opportunity or encounter." (It is also the first compilation of its kind, with passages covering each season.)

The editor, Michael Ford, a British journalist and the author of Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen (1999), points out in his introduction: "Henri Nouwen wrote his books to the rhythm of the liturgical year, just as his spiritual inspiration, Vincent van Gogh, painted landscapes that reflected the rotation of the earthÕs cycle." Focusing on the major cycles of Advent: Season of Waiting, Christmas: Season of Peace, Epiphany: Season of Revelation, Lent: Season of Repentance, Holy Week: Season of Passion, Easter: Season of Hope and Pentecost: Season of the Spirit, the book concludes with special reflections on the themes of Transfiguration (Season of Glory) and Recollection (Season of Remembrance), a time for remembering departed loved ones.

Ford draws a comparison between Nouwens literary style and his favorite artist, who painted landscapes with brilliant strokes of shimmering gold. In Fords view, Nouwen did basically the same with words: "With their different atmospheres and messages, the seasons enabled Nouwen to filter the light and the shade of his own experiences in his restless search for God.... Both men wanted their work to touch people." It is this down-to-earth approach, the ability to connect with human experience, that shines forth in the works of both Nouwen and Van Gogh. And it is the recognition of this quality that comes through in Fords selections from the Nouwen collection to guide, enhance and deepen our celebration of the liturgical year.

Ford is adept at summing up, condensing, distilling and penetrating to the essentials. He provides a short but pointed introduction to each season and the passages chosen. From the early writings, such as With Open Hands, The Genesee Diary and A Letter of Consolation, to the late works, including Bread for the Journey and Sabbatical Journey, Nouwens words are filled with passion, honesty, trust and soul-searching. They run the course of a deeply lived Christian life and spiritual quest.

As Nouwen once said of Van Goghs art, Ford writes in the hope that these texts "should gradually cultivate within you a deeper appreciation of sacred time" and lead not only to "a new way of seeing but also to a new way of living." Fans looking for inspirational reading during this Lenten season (or anytime) need look no further.

Robert Durback is editor of Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader (Doubleday, 1997) and, most recently, A Retreat With Henri Nouwen: Reclaiming Our Humanity (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2003).