Nouwen, Wallace: what we read and do on Memorial Day

 Henri Nouwen, Henry Wallace: Spiritual writing, what we read

“Spiritual reading is food for our souls. As we slowly let the words of the Bible or any spiritual book enter into our minds and descend into our hearts, we become different people. Henri Nouwen, Henri Nouwen Society Daily Meditation, from Bread for the Journey, Harper SanFrancisco 1997.


For most of my life, I have daily read spiritual material primarily nonfiction. However, the “spiritual” material I presently read sounds more like fiction. I am reading editorials in our nation’s major newspapers and magazines about what is going on in our country and I listen to one news program every night. I don’t ever remember doing this or ever hearing what is being said.

 As I am now neglecting my traditional spiritual nourishment, is my soul really being fed by this different kind of fuel?  Last year I remember reading for the third time an article from May 12, 2017, New York Times, “America Fascism, in 1944 and Today” by Henry Scott Wallace, the grandson of Henry A. Wallace, one of Roosevelt’s vice presidents. I was initially turned off by the title, “Fascism,” but when several spiritual friends kept sending me the piece, I decided to read it.  Seventy-three years ago, Wallace’s grandfather wrote an article in the Times on the subject of the dangers of thinking nationally instead of globally and the dangers of populist leaders promising they alone can save the country, while abusing power for their own wealth and calling for opponents to be jailed.

I think on this Memorial Day of the many who gave their life for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. How do I best honor them today and their sacrifice?

Frederick Buechner writes that God calls us to “the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s great need.” In recent months, I have been trying to discern how I am best to serve my country and the world’s great need. I have this intense need to be more informed. I know my spiritual readings from the past have taught me to “bloom where I am planted,” to be a presence for those in need in my own backyard, so to speak. I locally go to marches, I make phone calls when I know it will not make any difference, I join and contribute to organizations that support those who have no support. I sign petitions, something I vowed I would never do. I talk to people hoping they will run for political office and support the poor, immigrants, those without health care, children, women’s health issues, LGBT rights, those who have no rights.

The information in material we are reading and hearing is certainly changing us. The question is does what we hear and see move us to stay connected to God or does it block us from staying connected to God?  My answer to people in direction is that if love is a part of any action, if seeing and listening and caring for Christ in others is in any action, we have a chance of keeping that connection to the God of love who constantly calls us to love one another and to listen to one another.