By Michelle O’Rourke
“We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved”.
Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
If you have ever reflected on the notion of understanding yourself as the Beloved of God, chances are you have been influenced by the vast literary works of Henri J. M. Nouwen. For more than fifty years, people from around the world have been enriched by Henri’s honesty and wisdom, and continue to ponder and pray with his writings.
My true spiritual work is to let myself be loved, fully and completely, and to trust that in that love I will come to the fulfillment of my vocation. I keep trying to bring my wandering, restless, anxious self home, so that I can rest there in the embrace of love.
Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey
Fr. Ron Rolheiser referred to Henri Nouwen as our generation’s Kierkegaard. “By sharing his own struggles, he mentored us all, helping us to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while feeling restless, to be at peace while tempted, to feel safe while still anxious, to be surrounded by a cloud of light while still in darkness, and to love while still in doubt.” (From his dedication to Henri in The Holy Longing.)
The Life of Henri J.M. Nouwen
Born in the Netherlands in 1932, Henri J.M. Nouwen was raised in a nurturing home, and ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1957. He found himself involved in a progressive post-war church that was focused on outreach, while attempting to speak to the needs of modern people in a changing world. After pursuing further studies in psychology, he moved to the USA to study Clinical Pastoral Education, eventually teaching for many years at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard. In the 1970’s, Henri began to publish his ideas and reflections on faith and life, while his classes overflowed with students eager to glean his wisdom—many who became life-long friends.
A restless seeker himself, Henri eventually left academia, and spent time exploring both the monastic and missionary life. Then, in 1986, he answered a call to serve as pastor of L’Arche Daybreak, near Toronto, Canada. There, Henri lived in community with men and women with intellectual disabilities and the assistants who came to live, work and learn with them. He continued to preach, teach and write for ten years while he lived at Daybreak, until his untimely death at age 64.
Henri’s wealth of lived experiences, his passion for helping others come to know God, and his affinity for honestly sharing his own questions and struggles, helped him to become one of the most well-loved and influential spiritual writers of our time. Nouwen published over 40 books on spirituality and the spiritual life that have sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages. New generations of readers continue to be drawn to Henri’s teachings on discovering and living the spiritual life.
Although I never met Henri, I was blessed with the opportunity to study his extensive writings and spend time with his friends at Daybreak, as I sought to absorb his wisdom regarding care, compassion, and dying for some thesis work I was engaged in. As a palliative care nurse, his words impacted me personally and professionally, and helped me to become more comfortable exploring not only my patients’ questions about living and dying, but my own as well. His legacy continues through my books and my work, as it does through the efforts of countless authors and lifelong friends of Henri who have been impacted by him and continue to explore and publish the riches of his vast body of work.
The ‘Art of Living’ – a book series
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Nouwen’s death, and we are excited to announce the launch of Henri Nouwen and the Art of Living: Insights from a Spiritual Master – a new series of publications from Creative Communications/Bayard, which reflect on five of Nouwen’s most essential teachings. Each 32-page booklet breaks open Henri’s words and places them in today’s context, offering fresh understanding and new insights. Perfect for personal meditation, the series is also crafted for group study and sharing, with questions for reflection and meaningful conversation, and each booklet includes a handy guide for facilitators. Now more than ever, the church and the world need a fresh perspective on the transformative power of Christian spirituality. Spiritual master Henri Nouwen offers this hope for renewal, speaking to the heart of today’s believers.
These beautiful booklets cover key reflections on the spiritual life, including Identity; God; Love; Suffering and Freedom. They are woven with Henri’s wisdom, and developed by two authors who have been deeply touched by his work in their own lives and vocations. Marjorie Thompson studied under Henri in the Divinity School at Yale, and remained a close friend until his death. The author of a number of books on prayer and the Christian life, including Soul Feast, she is a sought-after teacher and retreat facilitator. Author Chris Pritchett is a parish pastor and board member of the Henri Nouwen Society, who has also been influenced greatly by Henri’s life and writings. Their development of these resources, filled with Henri’s insights, make this series a must-read for every Christian today.
The Art of Living Conference – June 4 & 5, 2021
To commemorate the anniversary of his death, and celebrate his remarkable life and work, the Henri Nouwen Society is pleased to announce the Henri Nouwen and the Art of Living online conference. The conference takes place: Friday, June 4, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST and Saturday, June 5, 2021, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm EST. [Article continues below…]
This one-of-a-kind event will explore key themes drawn from the new five-booklet series, which we are delighted to launch during the conference. This exciting event features keynote speakers Sister Helen Prejean, Dr. Vanessa White, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Sister Simone Campbell, Roberto Goizueta Jr., and the series authors, Marjorie Thompson and Chris Pritchett.
Topics for The Art of Living Conference include: Discovering the Divine, Finding Myself in God, Experiencing Deep Connection, Transforming our Pain, and Finding Peace in Anxious Times. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion, and participants will no doubt discover valuable insights and practices for living a more gracious, grateful, and meaningful life.
Parker Palmer, a long-time friend of Henri’s who will make an appearance at the conference, believes that Henri’s immersion in the gospel gave him ‘X-ray vision.’ “He could see through the world’s illusions, refusing to look merely at surface realities. Henri’s gift was reaching into the deep well of spiritual truth, and searching for what lay ‘backstage’ in the human psyche—both individually and collectively. We might say that Henri saw human life with kingdom clarity.”
The Henri Nouwen Society is committed to continuing the Henri’s legacy and introducing him to a new generation of spiritually-hungry readers and seekers through creative programs, partnerships and initiatives.
Visit www.henrinouwen.org to learn more, and to register to this exceptional online conference. Participants receive an exclusive discount code that they can apply to the purchase of the Henri Nouwen and the Art of Living: Insights from a Spiritual Master series.
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