Then he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them

I try to go to Catholic Mass and Holy Communion each morning, especially if there is some particularly stressful moment anticipated. Today I knew I was headed to see Thomas, who suffered a stroke just five weeks ago today.

So as I stood in line for Communion I asked the Holy Spirit for whatever strength He thought I might need and the ability to give that to Thomas, his family and to his many Care Givers.

Thomas had a stroke five weeks ago today: the same day I was trained as a Eucharistic Minister.

As I got closer to the Communion rail this morning, I heard Henri Nouwen in my head saying: “Taken, blessed, broken, given.”

Photo: Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

Those are the key words of the Eucharist. The words of the Consecration.

When the hour came, he [Jesus] took his place at the table with the apostles . . . Then he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:14,19).

The great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when conducting a retreat for teenagers, once gave a talk on the meaning of the Mass. He said, “If you don’t get anything out of Mass, it’s because you don’t bring the right expectations to it.”

Above: Bishop Sheen

I try to bring the right expectations: I need God’s help!  And most of all I need all the gifts God gives to me. I need to see them, grasp them and put them into practice. To use the gifts. That’s my journey of discovery. To use my gifts for the Glory of God.

We are, each of us, taken, blessed, broken, given.

We are taken into His arms and into His heart. We are taken into the hearts of many around us each day – if we allow that to happen.

We are blessed by God: an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I think of this as a little pilot light within me; just like the small pilot light-flame in a gas stove.  When I add prayer, sacrifice, sacraments and other good fuel: my indwelling of the Holy Spirit turns up the flame. Sometimes I feel a bonfire. At other times I am famished and need to refuel.

And I am broken: I have fallen. I have crashed. I have failed.

And I no longer feel sorry for myself.

Who hasn’t fallen? Who hasn’t been broken? If we hang around the human race long enough we get to experience brokenness whether we want to or not. I mean; Thomas didn’t wake up five weeks ago and choose to have a stroke.

It was a gift from God. A hurdle of extreme brokenness.

How we get over these hurdles or climb these mountains determines our story.

Since we are Blessed and Given to others, we are also Taken. From time to time we get to be “Care Giver.” At other times I need all the “Care Givers” I can get.

Henri Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.”

So these words today from my heart are here to honor Henri Nouwen and as a gift to you.

We are all “Taken, blessed, broken, given.” And that’s a pretty great gift from God!

More will undoubtedly be revealed!

John Francis Carey

June 24, 2012


The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen (pronounced Henry Now-win) wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. He corresponded regularly in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish with hundreds of friends and reached out to thousands through his Eucharistic celebrations, lectures and retreats. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages.

Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21st, 1996, in Holland and is buried in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Henri Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.” His spirit lives on in the work of the Henri Nouwen Society, Henri Nouwen Stichting, the Henri Nouwen Trust, the Henri J. M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection, and in all who live the spiritual values of communion, community and ministry, to which he dedicated his life.You can get to know Henri by reading some of his great pile of written work; for which I am greatful to him and Father Thomas Ferguson who sent me to Henri or Henri to me!


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