Henri Nouwen 1932-1996
Henri Nouwen is a common name among many different faith traditions. He has written over 40 books. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Stanford Universities. He was beloved among the students. His classes were the most popular on the campuses. One of the first books he wrote that touched me was the Wounded Healer. The title itself says it all. We are all human and have brokenness and pain which is what makes us the presence of Jesus and healers.
Of course, there are so many good books he has written over his life time. He was a man who suffered profoundly with depressive episodes and yet his heart was so tender and understood the pathos of others. “He was acutely aware of the ways we get caught in the undertows of self-rejection and where we long to be dwelling—in an inward, prayerful place of safety, beauty, compassion and truth—wherever we are whatever we are doing.” from “The Essential Henri Nouwen”as edited by Robert Jones
In his later years of life he lived with a L’Arche community in Toronto. L’Arche are communities for the disabled who in many ways have been discarded from their families. It was there that he was particularly touched by a young man named Adam( another book). I wonder if this was not a place where he could really embrace his own humanity and his vulnerability. One of the greatest tragedies for him was his painful struggle with his sexual orientation. Being a part of our Roman Church, with it’s stance on homosexuality, created a great suffering for him. “His whole life centered on one thing—conveying the love of God. He feared that if he disclosed his sexual orientation, he might distract people from that core message and even cause them to lose respect for him.” -“The Essential”
So let us be grateful for this man whose life was complicated, beautiful and touched by God.
Clare Carr, OSB