In My Own Words by Henri Nouwen :An Advanced Birthday Gift


I am sure that one  of the things a bookworm would love to receive on his/ her birthday is a book. What else ? He/she  is a full-time reader, a book lover, or a bibliophile, whatever names or slang  you can make up , all he/ she wants  on any special occasions is a book. So, although a few days off before my  30th birthday, a special friend of mine has already sent me  her  love with an advanced gift recently. It is another work by Henri NouwenIn My Words compiled by Robert Durback.

Book Description: 
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 5th 2001 by Liguori Publications


This is a thematic collection of memorable writings of Henri Nouwen inviting readers to share spiritual intimacy with this popular writer about prayer, depression, friendship, peace, and other topics.
His works connect to or touch the lives of people in a language they can understand, and lead them to places where they need to be. Henri J. M. Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest who died in 1996, was one of this century’s most popular spiritual writers. His accounts of his experiences as a leader in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and in the antinuclear movement are models of balance between the political and personal aspects of Christian faith.

Portrait of Henri Nouwen  in the 1990s taken by Frank Hamilton (Photo: Wikipedia)

Nenri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian.He had deep passion for psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. In fact, he authored 4o books on spiritual life.

He caught the attention of the world  for his working with mentally and physically handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond HIll, Ontario.

As far as I remember , I learned of Henri Nouwen when my Korean nun student brought  him up in our class and told me that she wanted to follow him. Thereafter, I started to be obsessed with his works, curious about his  strong passions for others, how the man made a difference to her. At that time, I was still religiously bothered and agitated as how I  looked up to Thomas Merton a lot. So, I had access to one  of his works when one of my other nun students  lent me the  Aging: The Fulfillment of Life. You can read my  simple review here .


Given the fact that I am now an advocate atheist, reading such a book   still piques my interest, especially I find Henri Nouwen an influential person, a la Thomas Merton or Mother Theresa. Besides,  I love reading people’s works which give a profound impact upon the world .

Thanks Sister Clara. 🙂

I  wonder what is the next gift someone will give me. 🙂

Age is a number and mine is unlisted. –Anonymous–






Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela: A Book Review

nelsonI learned  Nelson Mandela’s life   from my high school history because of  the word,  apartheid. (Thanks to  Mahatma Gandhi; he introduced him to us on his cause of Caste  System in India.) However, I just scratched  the surface of him as my teacher did not tell much details about him as if he was not   attached much importance to the subject. ( If I were my teacher, I would have told much more about him.) In fact, I mistook him for a Black-American. Uh-oh! I was still an ignoramus at that time despite the fact that I was enthused about  studying  history.  Few years later, he drew my attention when he was in the news ; he was reported to have passed away. The world was so grieved by  his death  that he was almost  the headlines of all the newspapers and news programs. Only that time did I realize  that he was such a big name in the world. As usual, I desired  to know him more by reading his life. However, I  did  not afford to buy his book then. Eventually, my generous-to-fault student gifted me this book. Of course,  I grinned from ear to ear with joy.  Full of enthusiasm, I started to read it. However, it took me time to finish it and ended up on my study table for a few months. The book is light  because of  Mandela’s prose but steeped in geographical places and  anthropological and  political terminologies only South African can  almost relate to. Nevertheless, I liked it on account of Mandela’s ideologies, experiences, and speeches he delivered before his people.

I enjoyed reading Mandela’s autobiography because of his  light English prose as the indication  that he  had studied well- typical of a  smart student studying  in English speaking countries. For your information, South Africa has many official languages, and English is one of them. Thus, not  the majority of its population uses the language every day. Another impressive thing about writing his autobiography is his capability to  incorporate his   various feelings, be they in positive or negative, into his compelling  narrations. Sometimes, other autobiographers  write with highfalutin, highbrow, and high-flown stories  or  with unfathomably philosophical insights  beyond my understanding (, but still I try to bend my mind to  them until I bash my head against the wall ending up into a library of books or surfing the internet. Ones of  best examples so far are Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Writings and Poems.)   Therefore, reading Mandela’s autobiography can be likened to a  teen-ager’s diary. Everyone  can   take a  fancy for his diary unless you are that a political animal. On the contrary,  his usage of some political, geographical, and anthropological terms which  I am not very  much familiar with undermine the said like-a-teen-ager’s-diary element. You might get tired of  them , saturated with the words you need to absorb in and turn over in your mind. In fact, it has 859 pages, the thickest book   I have read this year. Thus, you have no choice but to turn to Google or to a library of history books if you are a Luddite in order to understand them by heart. That’s why   I  did not lay a finger on it for a few months.  In the end, Mandela’s autobiography, in  my hypothetical suggestion, could still be a critically acclaimed book  for  its two kinds ,A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: An Abridged Version– expunged  some technical words and A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: Unabridged Version, same  with this original version.

Reading his speeches is also page-turning. There’s something about his speeches – they were  like causing mass hysteria among South Africans at that time. I tend to read his narrations as fast as I could in order to imaginatively listen to them . As a matter of fact, I tended to search  his speeches on Youtube wondering how he delivered them. I would say that Nelson Mandela, along with Malcolm X ,  has  most moving speeches  I have read so far.

Mandela’s autobiography reminded me of Malcolm X, another Black -American  revolutionary who had somewhat the same cause—racial equality. Malcolm X , based on his  best-selling authorized biography,  also believed that Black-Americans should be equal to White Americans . He demonstrated against   the  culture of discrimination  against his fellow Blacks. The only differences between their causes were: specifically, Mandela   fought against the Apartheid whereas Malcolm X against   general forms of discrimination. Still, both  of their causes  categorically fall to  racial equality.  Besides, there is one surprising thing that  made me jump to my conclusion: Nelson Mandela’s last resort was using violence when he came to the point that diplomatic negotiation did not work at all. In fact, he had been   influenced by the idea of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma  Gandhi  on civil disobedience. After all , he succumbed to  Malcolm X’  slogan , “ By Any Necessary Means.”, which I surmised he had disliked ;rather, admired  Martin Luther King’s , “ I Have a Dream.”I guess I can also conclude as well as you agree  that , sometimes , in any circumstances even  in history,  Malcom X’s slogan worked and is feasible as long as this is the last resort as was  Mandela’s. On the contrary, in the end,  Mandela  had proved that “virtue of patience” in the name of peaceful,  friendly, and sincere ,as he put it, negotiation can work.

Likewise, Mandela was weaned on  communism or Marxism – the political idea that also influenced Malcolm X and  Richard Wright, famous for his books, The Native Son and Black Boy. Did this idea also occur to some revolutionaries  in a place with insurgent atmosphere because of social injustice? So does to some at the present situation?

Before I finished it, Aristotle had taught me his The Republic, a philosophy book  that  also deals with the real meaning of JUSTICE. ( I haven’t written my review of it yet.)   It has the   dialogues   among the Philosophers   debating   over the  scopes  of justice. As a student of his , discombobulated, mulling over  his students’  philosophical explanation, upon reading Mandela’s autobiography, it dawned upon me  that  justice means equality.  In other words, I applied   understanding The Republic by Aristotle  to Mandela’s book. For instance, for Plato and Socrates, justice is fulfilling one’s appropriate role, and consequently giving to the city what is owed.  In a simple way, I want to illustrate  the virtue Nelson Mandela  believed in my life. I want  that life in some aspects  is “FAIR”. That’s why, without malice, without  this air of  pride and pompousness, I  want to  respect  people regardless of their skin color , sex , and race ; I respect in action people with deeply-seated religious beliefs   despite I have this  Richard Dawkins’s –desire to change the world;  I empathize “the destitute”  despite that giving alms is not my principle except for “the needy”, but bringing them to their senses  that capitalism is an evil, that living in this world is consummate “survival of the fittest”.

Mandela applied his rude awakening to equality  to understanding the people he got along with . With this belief, he became a freedom fighter, stalwart, determined, humble with undefeated fighting   spirit. That was Nelson Mandela, and in the end, despite the travails he had gone through, he   made it to his final walk  to FREEDOM.

Obviously, my long review of this book   indicates   my feeling of fulfillment. I am glad that I finished it after a short while. I do not regret   having   laid it  aside on my study table. Just I let the time permit.

Thanks to my student ( Sr. Angela )  for picking  it among the books in a book store,  without the idea that I had longed to read it  ; she had granted my wish. If I were a pantheist, I would exclaim  ,”What a divine intervention!”  ^_^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: A Book Review

evelynI learned this novel from one of Thomas Merton’s biographies. Then, I became curious why this novel had an impact upon his religious and spiritual journey.

Since Evelyn Waugh is said to have converted to Catholicism, I got confused about his real intention why he wrote such novel. There are some parts of the dialogues which appear to be inconsistent. Did he intend to channel his religious devotion in order to convert readers to Catholicism? Did he intend to differentiate between “believers” and “nonbelievers”? (Sighs!)

If an avowed atheist or agnostic like me reads it, without bias, there are some parts of the dialogues she /he will take an exception to:

(a) Sebastian Flyte’s and Charles Ryder’s characters. In the novel, Charles Ryder, the openly agnostic protagonist, is emotionally empty despite being financially comfortable, unsure of what he wants to do in his life. Did E. Waugh intend to symbolize him that life is “hollow” without religion? How sure E. Waugh of that (all) agnostics and atheists in general have these kinds of feelings? On the other hand, Sebastian Flyte is an alcoholic who gets astray since he ignores his deeply religious mother’s advice that he, if I’m not mistaken, enter an institution to rehabilitate himself. Eventually, he will abscond somewhere in Africa and become an object of charity under the auspices of a monastery. But he will still struggle for his alcoholism. What did E. Waugh intend to drive at?

(b) The ambiguous ending. Its ending is a little “lack of substance in plot”. In other words, it is not convincing for me that Charles Ryder converted himself in the end on account of Lord Marchmain’s concession to his (Lord Marchmain) daughter, Lady Cordelia’s suggestion that he he ask forgiveness for all the sins he has committed through the blessing and prayer of a priest. In fact, Charles Ryder insisted that Lord Marchmain could die or live to the other life, if there is one, without the blessing and prayer of a priest. Charles Ryder has more logical reasons, doesn’t he? Would E. Waugh reason that it could be the “Divine Grace”? Hmmm…it is another atomic collision between Religion and Science.

(c)The frustrating attitude of the religious characters. There is a scene that one of the characters made for the confession room, but was ignored. Another one is the Marchioness of Marchmain and her son, Bridey ‘s prejudice against Sebastian’s alcoholism as well as Lady Julia’s love affair with Charles Ryder; let alone Rex Mortamm’s insincere conversion. These plots are befuddling me. Should E. Waugh have characterized them positively? If she had done it, the story could be of use? Well, they must be the archetypes of religious upbringing. E. Waugh may have wanted to disclose the holier-than-thou in church.

Whatever Waugh‘s real intentions were, well, kudos to him! This novel is the product of his religious devotion- its content is creative, deep, and meaningful. I guess the panelists who included it in the list of the TIME’s 100 Best Novels of All Time could have been subjective.

I could be as subjective as the said panelists may have been, it is nevertheless compelling because of the intimate relationship between Sebastian and Charles Ryder. I wish E. Waugh meant to picture that homosexuality was repugnant at that time. Or I wish he were not that since their said relationship has been unsure and debatable among the readers whether both had a secret love affair. In my opinion, they had. ^^

To be enlightened, I read Evelyn Waugh’s biography in Wikipedia, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I am more intrigued by his religious viewpoints. I hope to read his other works.

Rating: 2 / 5 stars