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The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers Paperback – September 22, 2009
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“Brings desert spirituality to bear upon the contemporary scene. ... Hauntingly relevant for us today.” (Christianity Today)
“Gemlike in its clarity.” (The Christian Century)
“Inspiring, to the point, and eminently practical in his advice about living spiritually in the world of today.” (Spiritual Book News)
“On the long road it’s good to have Nouwen and his divining rod. Deftly he bends toward the drop of spiritual wisdom caked in the most ordinary things.” (Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of Dead Man Walking)
From the Inside Flap
Inspired by the ancient teachings of St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers, "The Way of the Heart clears before us a spiritual path consisting of three stepping-stones: Solitude (learning not to be alone but to be alone with God); Silence (the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive); and Prayer (standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart).
Distinguished theologian Henri Nouwen brilliantly illuminates each of these disciplines. In reflections that are beautifully clear and practical, as uplifting on the fourth reading as on the first, he helps us separate the wheat from the chaff in our spiritual lives-and reconnects us with what truly matters.
Within this one small book lies the most relevant and inspiring challenge that we shall ever face: to surrender the compulsive noise of the world for the way of the heart that leads us to God. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
His first section on solitude is right on. Too many of our church leaders are so action oriented they shy away from solitude. The resulting religion is as cold and pragmatic as any profit driven corporation. Your pastor needs to read this chapter.
Nouwen's second section on silence picks up where the discussion on solitude ends, and goes a bit deeper. Here, he offers a call for measured speech. All speech must have purpose and come from a quiet center. This is a good section for any person who wishes to grow deeper in the Christian faith. However, those who are too quick to act or ADD to accept it may lay the book aside about this time.
The final section deals with hesychasm. Nouwen describes this as prayer of the heart (entire being) as opposed to usual prayer of the mind. Prayer of the mind usually asks things of God, or tries to understand God. These ways of praying are not bad, but limited. Nouwen opts for a style of prayer that offers constant communion with God.
However, it is as this point that I feel the book breaks down. Nouwen does a good job of stating the need for such prayer, and refers to it with illustrations and theology, but he doesn't quite teach the reader how to go about practicing this form of inner prayer.
Someone well versed in contemplative prayer may feel affirmed by this book and get a lot out of it.
Someone who wishes to break the yoke of busy, busy Christianity will find a seductive light of hope within the pages of these books.
But the novice who wishes to dig deep, must use the book as a springboard to other readings. Fortunately there are many other good sources out there to continue feasting upon.
Nouwen borrows not only the content, but the habit of desert wisdom in providing commentary that is brief and compelling. His invitation to follow in the practice of Abba Arsenius by embracing three movements (to flee, to keep silence, and to pray) is simply organized and powerfully presented.
Nouwen's description of the 'compulsive minister' is accurate in every detail and served to draw me into the lessons as if this book were written for me in particular.
"The Way of the Heart" is directed at those who are engaged in the practice of ministry - but it's lessons are easily applied to life outside the practice of ministry. I heartily recommend it to one and all.
The book, like much of Nouwen's work, could easily be said to be a collection of short essays collected into a book (albeit a short 75 pages). It is unified by its deference to the Desert Fathers, the early monks who escaped the busy-ness of their own age with a lifestyle of retreat. The three major subsections are: solitude, silence, and prayer. Solitude is the withdrawal from the secularly-driven lifestyle of activity. Silence is the intentional reevaluation of whether or not our words are intentional and necessary. Prayer is to be an incessant activity no matter what our tasks for the day.
Nouwen does a tremendous job on three levels. He accurately assesses the contemporary milieu, then develops a spiritual remedy for it, and finally makes pragmatic application fro modern readers. This book is a must-read and an easy read. Ver refreshing.
It did give me answers, but it wasn't a quick read. It was the kind of book that had me reading a page, then pacing the floor, waiting for the million thoughts it excited to settle down so I could read the next. This went on for a week. And then I read it again, and read it out loud to friends. The cheap copy I bought is already wearing out.
What's it about? Simply, it's about the ancient practices of the Desert Fathers, of solitude, silence and prayer, how and why they came about, why they are needed now, and how they can be made to work in our crowded, noisy, distinctly non-contemplative lives.
The thing that first got my attention, was Nouwen's description of the problem of worldliness in the church, our tendency to think the way everybody else thinks. Worldliness, not simply in the way we've all come to see it, drinking and carousing, that sort of thing. He talks about the sneakier form, the kind that creeps in without our noticing, that has us convinced that what makes us valuable, what makes us worthwhile, is what we own, what we have accomplished, and what people think of us. Take those away and we have no reason to exist.
Think what that does to us. Think how it drives our choices, how it colors our view of others.
That's what began to get my attention - but I knew the book would be precious to me when I read the story of St. Anthony, who after some twenty years of practicing the disciplines of solitude, silence and prayer was finally able to pray genuinely - talking to God as himself, not the person he thought or wished or hoped to be.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Takes careful and consistent reading and Nouwen always keeps you wanting more.Published 18 days ago by katherine
An excellent read. If Nouwen wrote it, you should own it.Published 3 months ago by Leslie Cornelius
A great book that deals with prayer, Biblical reading and living out the Christian life. "The Way of The Heart" is a great read.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Terrific little book that has changed my prayer life to one of constant praying out loud of a huge variety of prayers, chaplets, novenas, etc to one of quiet, silence and focusing... Read morePublished 4 months ago by BELIEVESINMIRACLES
Some great teaching and wisdom with the usual care Nouwen takes in engaging our mind and emotions but this one didn't land as solidly for mePublished 5 months ago by T. B. Young