It All Begins With Tenderness


Written by André Drouin



Published by Penumbra Press



For several years Father André Drouin had been tending to the spiritual needs of persons living with AIDS when he decided to write It All Begins With Tenderness, an account of that ministry. At the time, Father Drouin was a parish priest at St. Anne Church and at Church of the Nativity in Ottawa.

For his work with sufferers from AIDS, Father Drouin takes his inspiration from the parable of the Prodigal Son. More than once he reminds the reader of the gesture of the father in that tale: “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him.”

Father Drouin introduces us to a varied cast of characters: the highly cultivated François, from whom the priest learns the infinite value of a handclasp; Jean-Guy, who recovered his spiritual vision even as his eyes were losing their sight; Étienne, a seven-year-old child with a profound knowledge of the meaning of gift-giving; Daniel, a drug-user from the streets, the last of three friends to die of AIDS, who learned to speak his needs in prayer, and who adopted Father Drouin as his “Pops.”

Not all of Father Drouin’s journeys are spiritual success stories. After weeks of tending to the most elemental physical needs of Jim, who had opted to end his days in desolate solitude away from his home city, all the priest was left with is a mystery. And some sufferers, like Emmanuel, simply reject any offers of help.

Caregivers of many kinds, in many different situations, no matter what their religious beliefs, will find Father Drouin’s example not only inspiring but also instructive. His message is simple, very human, and tremendously demanding and empowering: be there for the patient; make contact, literally and figuratively; listen; do not judge; and love.


It All Begins With Tenderness

André Drouin

ISBN 1-894131-03-7

Softcover, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 72 pages


Published by Penumbra Press


FROM: “I Don’t Disgust You Anymore — You Touched Me”


The first meeting with François was mostly a long monologue, but I did want to include John, his lover, in this delicate spiritual journey.

François let it all pour out. The message was very clear indeed. What an introduction to the daily visits that would follow over the next four months! So much for the monologue. What about John? How would he fit into the picture?

“John, you have shared many great projects with François. Here is the last one for you to live through together: prepare François for his meeting with God.” These were the only words I was capable of uttering. We experienced a moment of great peace during the prayer that followed. Moreover, instead of excluding John we succeeded in making him part of the tragic journey. John could not have guessed that this was a prelude to his own adventure. He would die six months after François.

The first meeting had served its purpose: it had allowed us to find our respective places. For a long time after that our visits always ended with a prayer. Nevertheless, we did not feel that we were progressing. Instead, we felt some sort of inexplicable blockage. I was even thinking of asking another priest to step in.

On Holy Saturday of that year, thinking that I would not be able to visit the next day, I held out my hand to François and wished him the best Easter of his life. He seized my hand firmly and looked me in the eye, and then, weeping abundantly, he said, “I don’t disgust you anymore! You touched me! People always treat me like garbage, you know. Every time they have to touch me, they put on rubber gloves.”

Admittedly, it hit me pretty hard. It was true. I had never before touched François. I was ready to walk along beside him, but not at the price of my life. The handshake broke the barrier. On that Easter morning François received his God with a renewed heart.



Since 1979, Penumbra Press books have been garnering praise for both their content and their elegance. We are confident that you will find much that is similarly rewarding in the handful of new titles I will introduce you to in the coming weeks as we celebrate our 45th anniversary.

As a small press publisher with a niche in northern and aboriginal subjects, we are offering a slight deviation from the norm with this season’s titles, looking both to the past and to the future for an understanding of who we were and who we are as global citizens in a troubled world.

The first 45 individuals who order books from our website will each receive a gratis copy of Volume 1, Then & Now, in the Bookmark Readerity Series, Readers & Writers on Books & Reading, which I wrote for Dan and Marlene MacDonald, proprietors of Bookmark in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Please visit our website,, or email me at for assistance in finding the right Penumbra Press book for you.

— John Flood, Publisher & Producer





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