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Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation [Paperback]

By Henri J. M. Nouwen (Author)
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Item description for Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation by Henri J. M. Nouwen...

Now reissued is this classic work by one of the 20th century's most beloved spiritual writers. In this account of the time he spent in Rome, Nouwen offers reflections on solitude, celibacy, prayer, and contemplation.

Publishers Description
A classic work by one of this century's most beloved spiritual writers now reissued.

The inspirational writings of Henri Nouwen have touched millions of readers all over the world, and since his death in September 1996, widespread recognition of their enduring value has continued to grow. Now, after being unavailable for several years, Nouwen's Clowning in Rome is available again as an Image trade paperback. In this classic account of the time he spent in Rome, Nouwen offers reflections and spiritual insight characteristic of his best works. During the months in Rome, it wasn't the red cardinals or the Red Brigade who had the most impact on Nouwen, but the little things that took place between the great scenes. In some ways, Nouwen discovered, the real and true story was told by the clowns he often saw in the city streets. In his own words, from the Introduction to Clowning in Rome: "The clowns are not the center of events. They appear between the great acts, fumble and fall and make us smile again after the tensions created by the heroes we came to admire. The clowns don't have it together--they are awkward, out of balance and left-handed, but--they are on our side. The clowns remind us with a tear and a smile that we are sharing the same human weakness. The longer I was in Rome, the more I enjoyed the clowns, those peripheral people who by their humble, saintly lives evoke a smile and awaken hope, even in a city terrorized by kidnapping and street violence."
"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."
--Christianity Today
Henri J. M. Nouwen was a Catholic priest who taught at several theological institutes and universities in his home country of the Netherlands and in the United States. He shared the final years of his life with people with mental and physical disabilities at the L'Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, Canada. He died in 1996. He authored many books on the spiritual life, including Reaching Out, The Wounded Healer, and The Return of the Prodigal Son.
Solitude and Community

Solitude and Intimacy

The forces of fear and anger

How can solitude help our world? How can we, by practicing solitude, bring love into the world? In our emergency-oriented society, fear and anger have become powerful forces. Not only do we see in the daily newspapers people driven together by fear or bound together by anger, but we also start to realize that many of us in our families and communities are plagued by a restlessness tainted by fear and anger. We search to satisfy a growing need for community that offers a sense of belonging, a place where frustrations can be expressed, disappointments shared, and pains healed. We who in the past felt quite secure and self-confident today suffer from self-doubt, and sometimes from a deep sense of powerlessness. We who for years felt quite content in our choice of vocation are questioning the meaning of our life choices, wondering if our lives are valuable for others. We may even wonder if we are tainted by dubious motives and false aspirations, and we certainly ask ourselves whether or not we ever make truly free decisions.

This context of self-doubt leads to a deep sense of alienation and loneliness that has challenged us to develop new, more comfortable lifestyles within our own cultures and communities. Here we are discovering how deep our real needs are and how hard it is to feel satisfied in our own homes. It is not surprising that deep yearnings for affection, friendship, and intimacy, which until now had remained beneath the threshold of our consciousness, come to take their place in the very center of awareness. We are troubled and pained in the areas of sexuality, freedom, responsibility, guilt, and shame. These painful yearnings push us to desire a total break with the past and to seek new forms of intimacy that can be more directly experienced. Often those of us who are most sensitive to the fear and anger of our world seek most intensely for solutions, but we also experience deeply a need for affection and tenderness that no family or community can satisfy. This need is troubling and painful.

Thus we wonder if the fear and anger of our world have made it impossible for us to be like children playing pipes and inviting others to dance (Lk. 7:32). Inner torments and restlessness have reached such an intensity that our primary concern has become our own physical and emotional survival. This concern depletes our energy, so that a vital and convincing witness to God's loving and caring presence is hardly possible.

All this suggests that when there is no real intimacy in our lives we are unable to experience a safe and happy environment for very long in our fearful and angry world. For this reason we will take a very careful look at the importance of solitude in our lives. It might be that by de-emphasizing solitude in favor of the urgent needs of our world, we have endangered the very basis of our lives as Christian witnesses. Hence I would like first to discuss solitude as the source of a lasting sense of intimacy.

Free from compulsions

Solitude is the place where we can connect with profound bonds that are deeper than the emergency bonds of fear and anger. Although fear and anger indeed drive us together, they do not give rise to our love for one another. In solitude we come to the realization that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God's all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that family or community is not some common ideology but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed experience that community is not made but given.

Solitude, then, is not private time in contrast to time together, nor is it a time to restore our tired minds. Solitude is very different from a "time-out" from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. It is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together. Much growth certainly occurs in such human interactions, but these interactions derive their fruit from solitude, because in solitude our intimacy with each other is deepened. In solitude we discover each other in a way that physical presence makes difficult if not impossible. In solitude we know a bond with each other that does not depend on words, gestures, or actions but is rather a bond much deeper than our own efforts could ever create.

If we base our life together on our physical proximity, on our ability to spend time together, speak with each other, eat together, and worship together, life quickly starts fluctuating according to moods, personal attractiveness, and mutual compatibility, and thus becomes very demanding and tiring. Solitude, on the other hand, puts us in touch with a unity that precedes all unifying activities. In solitude we become aware that we were together before we came together and that life is not a creation of our will but rather an obedient response to the reality of our being united. Whenever we enter into solitude, we witness to a love that transcends our interpersonal communications and proclaims that we love each other because we have been loved first (1 Jn. 4:19). Solitude keeps us in touch with the sustaining love from which we draw strength. It sets us free from the compulsions of fear and anger and allows us to be in the midst of an anxious and violent world as a sign of hope and a source of courage. In short, solitude creates that free community, that natural family that makes bystanders say, "See how they love each other."

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Image
Pages   128
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.22" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 18, 2000
Publisher   Image
ISBN  038549999X  
ISBN13  9780385499996  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Mar 26, 2017 11:06.
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More About Henri J. M. Nouwen

Henri J. M. Nouwen Donald McNeill is a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Don taught theology and developed service learning programs at the University of Notre Dame for three decades where he helped found the Center for Social Concerns. He is currently a Senior Fellow living and ministering in Chicago with the Metropolitan Chicago initiative of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies.
Douglas A. Morrison is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hatford whose background includes parish, hospital and pastoral conseling ministries as well as college and university teaching and administration. He is presently Deputy Director and CEO of Unity Health Care, Inc., whose mission is to provide health and human services to the homeless and underserved in Washington D.C.
Henri Nouwen was a priest of the Archdiocese of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers, and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Henri taught at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. In 1986 Nouwen came to make his home at L'Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21, 1996. in Holland and is buried in King City, Ontario.
Joel Filartiga, a medical doctor in Paraguay, drew the illustrations for this book in memory of his seventeen-year-old son, Joelito, who was tortured to death by a police squad in 1976.

Henri J. M. Nouwen was born in 1932 and died in 1996.

Henri J. M. Nouwen has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Campion Book
  2. Crossroad Book
  3. Henri Nouwen Spirituality

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( N ) > Nouwen, Henri > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( N ) > Nouwen, Henri > Paperback
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Inspirational
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Roman Catholicism
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Worship & Devotion > Devotionals
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Devotionals
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General

Christian Product Categories
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Reviews - What do customers think about Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation?

Wonderfully Inspiring, Practical and Relevent!  Feb 6, 2007
While this is perhaps the oldest of Nowen's mainstream published works, it is still worth reading today. Written in the late 60s (some of the psychology is dated) Nouwen explores some of those basic human issues that rest at the center of relationship. The focus is clearly geared toward seminarians and religious, but the text offers much for layperson as well.

Like most of Nouwen's work, this is a very approachable. His writing style is engaging and this little book will take no time to finish. It's style, an adaptation of presentations, allows for the reader to take in a little at a time and rest with it, intellectually digest it. A good book to reflect on.
A must have!  Feb 27, 2006
Clowning in Rome is a must have for anyone who is serious about seeking the face of God! I am an avid reader and there are honestly only 4 books total that I can recommend as highly as this one. The vocabulary is unique (ie. solitude, celibacy) but if you can look past it to the virtue Henri is alluminating I promise you, you will be forever changed.
A taste for the paradox  Dec 12, 2001
This is one of my favorite Nouwen books, along with Compassion (which I'm about to read again) and Return of the Prodigal Son.

I think that what I appreciate and enjoy most about Henri Nouwen is his taste for the paradox, the upside-down-kingdom perspective on things that must be under a lord who declares that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And that sense of upsidedownness is probaby in its finest form in Clowning in Rome -- hence the title. In his quiet yet confident voice, Nouwen speaks of profound paradoxes -- how solitude is the foundation of community, celibacy the key element of a good marriage (or any intimate relation), and silence the basis of conversing with God.
I am learning how to read Nouwen's books as well, and it is something like the prayer life he talks about. I have been frustrating by the somewhat repetitive content of them in the past, but in some way, it is good and true that he sings the same tune repeatedly, with different variations. Somewhat in the same way of the Gospels -- it is good that there are four, though the story is basically the same. I am learning to quiet myself when I read Nouwen's books, not to read them quickly or intellectually or academically or even necessarily for content. It is amazing to me how often the Spirit speaks to me while reading these books: sometimes directly related to the content, sometimes not related at all. I am thankful for Nouwen's willingness to be a vessel for the Spirit through his writing, and for the environment these books help create within my spirit -- one in which I am especially attentive to the Spirit's whisperings.

I strongly wish that more people would read brother Nouwen's books, and hope that others find the same gold in them that I do. I strongly, firmly believe that it is Christianity of this sort -- this quiet, irrelevant, powerless spirituality -- that has the power to profoundly affect the world: indeed, that it is this kind of Christianity that has changed the world in past centuries.

Sensitivity training for your spirit  Jun 19, 2001
This book may never hit the top of the charts or appeal to the general christian populace, but if you want to develop your spirit-man so as not to offend the gentle dove of the Holy Spirit, this book will stir you to contemplation and quieting the noise of your flesh so that your spirit may hear deeply. Though it is small, this is not a book to be read quickly. Allow it to seep into your spirit and gradually change your heart.
Clowning In Rome  Jul 20, 2000
Excellent book that brought a lot of closure to certain episodes in my life. Nouwen had a great gift for being able to write in very easy to understand ways about topics such as celibacy, solitude and contemplation. He gave wonderful insights into why these virtues are so wonderful and necessary for those wanting to grow in holiness. His section on celibacy was very enlightening, especially in this world where it is so misunderstood. I'm thrilled the book is now available again to buy!

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