Over the last few years I’ve become a fan of Henri Nouwen’s writings, so I was pleased to pick up a second-hand copy of Sabbatical Journey in the last few months. The book is a diary of September 1995 to August 1996, when Nouwen had been given a sabbatical from l’Arche Daybreak, the community in which he worked and lived. His final entry in the journal was on 30th August 1996, only three weeks before his death.
Nouwen’s diary reminds me of a Bill Bryson styled travel book, but instead of a focus on the geography, history etc., his focus is on the relationships, the conversations, the mood of the people he met with. His travels take him to California and New Mexico, Holland and Ireland, Watertown and Peapack, Freiburg and Toronto to mention a few. Alongside this we see more detail in the relationship with people like his ageing father
The main thing that struck me was the importance that Nouwen placed on celebrating Holy Communion regularly, and by that I don’t mean each Sunday, but nearly every day, be it in The Daybreak Community, with family and friends, or in a hotel room. His reflections as he celebrates this are a source of spiritual food that sustains not only his community of friends (and he has many!) but his readers as well. He also writes about the tug of war he feels between wanting to write more, yet wanting to be available as a pastor for his friends, to preside over their weddings and baptisms and funerals.
If you enjoy reading Henri Nouwen, then it’s well worth your time to sit and read snippets of this.