January 20, 2021

Henri Nouwen: “You must keep looking for a new order”

Tuscan Sunset (2019)

“You must keep looking for a new order”
By Henri Nouwen

And yet you are Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society in which you live, and only so long as you emphasize the need for conversion both for yourself and for the world. You are Christian only so long as you do not let yourself become established in a situation of seeming calm, only so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe that you have a role to play in the realization of this new kingdom and when you urge everyone you meet with a holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian, you must keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.

…What does this have to do with prayer? Praying means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you. Whether we call that vision “the Unseen Reality,” “the total Other,” “the Spirit,” or “the Father,” we repeatedly assert that it is not we ourselves who possess the power to make the new creation come to pass. It is rather a spiritual power which has been given to us and which empowers us to be in the world without being of it.

The praying person looks on the world with compassion, penetrates its hidden meaning, and calls it to an always deeper conversion.

…Dear God,

Give me the courage to live and work

for a new heaven and a new earth as Jesus did.

Give me the freedom to be critical where I

see evil

and to offer praises where I see goodness.

Most of all, make me faithful to the vision

you have given me,

so that wherever I go and whomever I meet,

I can be a sign of your all-renewing love.



• Henri J. M.Nouwen, With Open Hands (pp. 103-104; 114; 119)


  1. Christiane says

    ” it is not we ourselves who possess the power to make the new creation come to pass. It is rather a spiritual power which has been given to us and which empowers us to be in the world without being of it.”


    ““Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist,
    since he did not offer an ideology, but HIMSELF”

    Henri J.M. Nouwen,
    (The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society)

  2. Burro (Mule) says

    After the storm and fury of yesterday’s remarks, it is helpful to be reminded of these things.

    • anonymous says

      nevertheless, we are who we stand up for, we are who we protect: this lesson begins at the foot of the Cross and is a life-long learning that empowers us to care for those who cannot protect themselves in this world

      may we not lose ‘who we are’, good people, so that something of our humanity survives to stand witness to Christ

  3. Robert F says

    I commend all those who are able to follow Nouwen’s direction, pray and follow Christ as he outlines in this meditation. But I remain Lazarus at the gate.

    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

    — T.S. Eliot, East Coker

    • Christiane says

      I hear you, Robert F., one size doesn’t fit all – Christ helps us to become our true, authentic selves in the healing process on our journey

      here’s some advice from Nouwen you might want to know about also:

      ““when the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived His, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian.”

      (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)

    • Robert, it seems to me that part of the dissatisfaction with the world that Nouwen talks about here involves a dissatisfaction with ourselves and our weakness and brokenness.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Part of what Fr. Stephen Freeman emphasizes on his blog, although I do not believe it is original with him, is that we should be prepared to bear the burdens of ourselves.

        For this reason, I find myself growing more irritated than not with our vocabulary; “giftedness”, “empowering”, “anointing”. It has been my experience that those who have left their mark on me most deeply were the pricks, the entitled, the querulous, the losers, the mendacious, the dogmatic, the whiners, and the weak, among whose noble company I am not ashamed to find my place.

      • That’s certainly how I read it…

  4. Robert F says

    at sunset the light
    receives its last imprint
    of the Tuscan day

  5. That photo is stunning, CM.

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