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Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation Paperback – July 18, 2000
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Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation collects four lectures given by the Catholic priest Henri Nouwen at the North American College in Rome in the 1970s. The lectures, which explore each of the topics named in the book's subtitle, are direct, pragmatic, and delightful. Nouwen's views on these weighty subjects are suffused with a lightness inspired by the clowns whose street performances captured his imagination during a visit to the Holy City. He describes these clowns as "awkward, out of balance and left-handed," and sees them as reminders of human weakness whose fumbles offer important lessons about the holiness of play. "Whenever the clowns appear we are reminded that what really counts is something other than the spectacular and the sensational," Nouwen writes. "Clowns remind us of what happens between the scenes. The clowns show us by their 'useless' behavior not simply that many of our preoccupations, worries, tensions, and anxieties need a smile, but that we too have white on our faces and that we too are called to clown a little." --Michael Joseph Gross
"Acknowledged as one of the world's great spiritual writers, the renowned Catholic theologian left behind a wealth of insights that have brought
encouragement and ministered to thousands."
Top customer reviews
The first couple of chapters were great. Drawing upon the image of clowns, Nouwen talks about the characters life and how they can be the real show even when they are on the sidelines, similar to clowns at the circus. I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion on solitude and its effect on the individual and the community. Who were are in solitude helps us understand who were are not and how God works with us, things that we can take into community.
The other topics in the book are dull and boring. I was looking forward to his chapter on celibacy however if he admits that he avoids the more obvious questions.
In the end, it's still a good read, but not a life changer or a thinker.
Nouwen writes with such warmth and conviction. He is genuinely concerned with the reader's relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and he writes to offer encouragement and comfort. I found that when I read this book I would often breathe a sigh of relief or say out loud, "Thank you God for Henri Nouwen." The portion on "Unceasing Thoughts/Unceasing Prayer" (pgs 65-75) deeply affected me. Without realizing it, our minds are usually running a mile a minute; we think about ourselves, our desires, our past mistakes, etc. without ever slowing down. This mental confusion plagues us, and Nouwen teaches that we can turn such unceasing thinking into unceasing praying by confessing ALL of our thoughts, fantasies, and sins to our loving God. A constant conversation opens us up to Him and frees us. God wants to lead us out of our "fearful isolation into a fearless conversation with God" (71). I needed to read this book when I did.
He also suggests that there needs to be a renewed emphasis on celibacy. Love is of God and too many people seek full love in a marriage and their expectations are not met because of their over-high expectations. Chastity is a witness to the fact that sexual love is not the whole of love and that the love of God can fill a person's life and enable him to relate more lovingly to others than if he were married. Poverty should be part of celibacy - a witness to capitalist society that there is more to life than possession of money or a marriage partner.
I enjoyed this book as it challenged many of my assumptions about the primacy of action over contemplation. It also made reflective prayer sound useful in a positive