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The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,067 ratings  ·  81 reviews
The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery is Henri Nouwen's journal of his seven-month stay in the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. His reflections on daily life with the Trappists are funny, wise, and often profound--resembling Kathleen Norris's The Cloister Walk, but a bit less thematically structured and more down to earth. Nouwen's goal is simply to ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published September 1995 by Darton, Longman & Todd (first published 1976)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  1,067 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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This is gentle, thoughtful reading, rather than OMG AMAZING reading. I vacillated between 3 and 4 stars here, because of that, settling on 3 only because I have other gentle thoughtful books that I still enjoyed reading more, and ate up in fewer sessions. But this is very much worth reading, gently and thoughtfully.

It's also a diary, which means it won't always be as thematic or developed as another kind of book would be. This isn't a flaw; just a fact of the book.

I particularly liked Nouwen's c
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: god-stuff
Nouwen's account of a 7-month sabbatical at a Trappist monastery near Rochester, NY. He went there to avoid the busyness of teaching/speaking/writing about God and prayer, which kept him from experiencing God and prayer.

On his sabbatical, Nouwen struggles with being "unimportant," unnoticed, unexceptional, etc. due to his withdrawal from the world. Manual labor (working in the bakery, for example) triggers negative emotions, which Nouwen examines. He learns how his pride and lack of trust are t
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful story of life in a Trappist monastery. Although only living there for seven months, Henri is brutally honest in his writing and faces his feelings of inadequacy, anger, confusion, and moodiness. It is refreshing to experience his struggles and how to become a better person. He learns a lot and this book is full of good advice and uplifting quotes and verse. Keep it simple- that seems to be the building block of their lives.
My favorite line is "God is in the gentle breeze with
Mar 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic, religion
A book at my folks' place that i started last time i visited, and finished up this time around. It's a diary of Nouwen's 7 months at a Trappist monastery and what it's like to be part of a cloistered community (tho from a slightly outsider point of view, since Nouwen is not, himself, a Trappist). He sometimes slides into pouting that he's not being changed as much as he had hoped by the experience, but then he also captures a good many moments of insight & introspection. Probably better to read ...more
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm not a huge fan of Henri Nouwen. Some of his books I like, others I don't. I picked up this book on a whim at the library at church. I find myself enjoying it, and hating it, at the same time. A lot of the questions Nouwen asks himself about his spiritual growth are the same ones I'm asking myself now. So its interesting to see the struggle played out in someone else's diary, yet upsetting to have so much laid bare. Other than that, its an easy, fun read.

Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think this is the fourth or fifth time, I've read this very honest and self-effacing book which has earned its classic status in Christian spirituality. This time around Nouwen's struggle with maintaining a good attitude while doing physical work or, really, anything other than just reading and thinking resonated with me, largely because I recognize the same struggle in me. Well worth reading and re-reading.
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most formative books I have ever read. It instilled in me a deep desire for contemplative prayer. My success at being more contemplative comes and goes, but my desire for it never changes. Henri Nouwen is a Catholic academic who chooses to spend the better part of a year in a Trappist monestery. The book traces his spiritual evolution during that time.
Josh Gaudreau
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So incredibly insightful. Even though Nouwen and I are very different I saw my struggles in his.

I began reading this book on an airplane, an old and used 2nd hand copy, and forgot it in the country I visited. Knew I'd have to get another copy and didn't regret it at all.

This is a book I'll come back to again.
diane nienhuis
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A constant reminder to live a Simple Life.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many years ago and rereading it now, i realise it still speaks to me.
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Inspiring and is very human in its discovery of himself. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A strikingly honest and interesting journey through Nouwen’s seven months in a Trappist monastery. He shares of his struggles and joys with contemplation, prayer, and simple living.

This quote, while not a summary of the book, was really encouraging to me:

“The basis of community is not primarily our ideas, feelings, and emotions about each other but our common search for God. When we keep our minds and hearts directed toward God, we will come more fully ‘together.’”

I read this while on vacation
Laura Kisthardt
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow what an incredible book. I savored this book during the time of COVID-19. It is a diary of Nouwen's seven month sabbatical at the Abbey of the Genesee. I read a few pages every day. So many diary entries were thought provoking. This is a book to return to again and again. I don't think I would recommend it if you have not read any of Nouwen's work. But I think it is a good book for those who have read one or two of his other books and want to dive deeper.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I've never read anything by Nouwen but if this is anything like his other works I would love to read more. This is Nouwen's diary from living in a monastery for 7 months. Nouwen's analysis of his own thought life is challenging and by far the most prominent take away. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The best expression of the frailty of a person's insecurities; especially poignant since it comes from an esteemed psychologists and theologian. I will re-read, especially when I am struggling with separating myself from the demands of the world. The ending is totally apt, yet not satisfying...completely real.
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up after finished the posthumous collection of Nouwen's writings on Spiritual Direction. Nouwen was a great writer and his reflections feel like a voicing of common struggles with the Catholic spiritual life and prayer. A wonderful, page-turning read which I will eventually pick up again for a second time through.
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-life
This is a collection of Nouwen's journal entries from a stay in a monastery. The raw and unfiltered reflections give me hope in my own very non-linear journey and encourage me to continue being honest with God and myself about where I am at!
Tim Hatton
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nouwen’s introspective humility is inspiring and insightful.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This diary offered some profound thoughts on prayer, contemplation, the struggles of ministry, sacred space, worship, and many other areas of the Christian life.
Donald W May
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Spiritualiry

Father Nouwen learned a lot.from his at the happiest monastery. His thoughts were much more reasonable than those from Thomas.Merron.
Dylan Bryce
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in awhile
Karen Wilk
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting, honest reflections...
Andy Littleton
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pleasant surprise! Reading Nouwen’s honest reflections awakened me to similar reflections and encouraged me to form deeper spiritual practices.
Brice Karickhoff
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're gonna read someones journals, George Muller is better I think. But this one is really cool. My first real glimpse into the monastic life that isnt 1800 years old.
Kyle Tabet
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, vulnerable and gentle book about a man discovering how to find a deeper spiritual life.
Samantha Adkins
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual, nonfiction
“People expect too much from speaking, too little from silence. . .” p. 134

I first heard of Henry Nouwen via quotations in our church in Alberta. His thoughts and skill with
words drew me to read more.

I took my time with this book, as I think is fitting. It takes time to let these lessons and ideas find purchase in your heart and mind. I highly recommend it for spiritual guidance. It would be ideal reading for the Lenten season.

Here are a few quotations which especially spoke to me. (I realize
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion-books
Henri Nouwen’s book The Genesee Diary records the daily struggles he experienced while staying at a Trappist Monastery for seven months. The abbot, John Eudes, and other monks allowed Nouwen to spend his sabbatical from teaching living as a Trappist. Nouwen is able to fully experience monastic life, washing raisins, baking bread, moving rocks, and of course prayer. When I was a child I told my mother that I wanted to become a Nun. She laughed—we weren’t even Catholic. I think I watched Whoopi G ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This book was recommended to me by my friend Fr. Kremmell. Written over a seven month period in 1974, The Genesee Diary tells about the experiences of Jesuit priest Henri Nouwen as he lives as a Trappist monk in a monastery in New York. Nouwen was a teacher and a highly educated, tremendously busy person when he entered into the quiet life of the monks. He worked during the day helping to pull stones out of a nearby river to build a church, and in a large, industrial bakery making bread that the ...more
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book at the suggestion of my spiritual director while I was on a thirty day retreat at a Trappist abbey to see if I was called to the life of a monk. To be frank, a visit to decide whether or not to stay at an abbey for life (much less deciding to do so) is a far cry from a temporary visit, even one lasting as long as Nouwen’s seven months. The psychological pressure is much different, yet I enjoyed this book immensely.
Nouwen’s initial Merton like musing was at first off putting to
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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“The measure of your solitude is the measure of your capacity for communion.” 4 likes
“God should be sought, but we cannot find God. We can only be found by him.” 2 likes
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