An introduction by Sue Mosteller
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest, enjoyed a long career as professor in Holland, at Notre Dame University, Yale, and Harvard. During his teaching years he began to publish his insights and as a spiritual writer published more than forty books. People sought Henri out for retreats and spiritual conferences, as well as for personal spiritual direction, so he became a lecturer and a spiritual director. Henri lived a short stint as a Trappist monk, and a short time as a parish priest in Lima, Peru.
In all his roles he was a passionate pastor, encouraging and calling forth those seeking a spiritual life.
In 1986 Henri responded to a call to become the pastor of L’Arche Daybreak, part of the International Federation of L’Arche founded by Jean Vanier. His pastoral leadership brought wisdom and depth in a Christian community striving to find ways to live together and celebrate the gifts of each spiritual tradition held by Community Members, including Christianity, the Islamic tradition, and Judaism.
Besides being so fruitful, Henri’s own spiritual journey was difficult and he found important inspiration from his friendship with Adam, a man with a disability for whom he was responsible at Daybreak; from the paintings of the two Dutch artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt; from a group of trapeze artists performing in the circus; and from the sacred Scriptures. He wrote about all of these influences in his books.
Henri was priest, professor, spiritual writer, lecturer, spiritual director, monk, parish priest, and pastor. But most of all he was a man who cherished his many, many friends, and he was profoundly loved and treasured as friend in return. In all his prolific teaching, preaching, and writing, Henri wasn’t afraid to talk about his personal experience, his needs and difficulties, because he believed that the spiritual journey included naming and working with our need for God and for each other. Henri’s spirituality touched a common chord within the human heart and inspired people to become more accepting of their own and others’ wounds. People identified with his word so much, that one has said, ‘How did he know so well, the map of my heart?’
Another of Henri’s gifts was his ability to break open God’s Word as an invitation to spend our time in both personal solitude and caring community, and then to move out and share experiences with others by speaking, teaching, and writing. In his later years, as Henri personally discovered God’s unconditional love by meditating on Rembrandt’s painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son, he could not cease to remind people,
‘You are the beloved daughters and sons of God. God loves each of you with a unique and never-ending love. Listen for the voice of the one who loves you.’
Henri Nouwen lived for the last ten years of his life as the beloved pastor of L’Arche Daybreak. He died in Holland on September 21, 1996, and is buried in Canada beside his beloved friends from the Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
This introduction is taken from Letters to Marc About Jesus (DLT: 2013). Sue Mosteller is a Sister of St. Joseph, who for the past forty years has lived with people with disabilities in the L'Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto. She served as leader of the Interational Federation of L'Arche, working with Jean Vanier, and has had a wide experience with different cultures and different religious traditions. Sue was a close friends and confidant of the late Henri Nouwen during the ten years he was pastor at Daybreak prior to his death.
Six of Nouwen's best: The new editions
In 2014 DLT decided to reissue six of its most acclaimed and well-loved works by Henri J. M. Nouwen. The Genesee Diary, The Wounded Healer, Sabbatical Journey, The Inner Voice of Love, The Road to Daybreak and Letters to Marc about Jesus were all reset and revitalised with beautiful, contemporary cover designs fresh for rediscovery by Nouwen fans old and new. This website showcases the books and their author - Henri J. M. Nouwen, a man whose spiritual life and writings remain as relevant and prescient today, 20 years after his death.
The Road to Daybreak - Henri J. M. Nouwen (DLT: 2013)
The Road to Daybreak is Henri Nouwen's intimate diary recording his most poignant year at l'Arche, which began in the summer of 1985, a
precious time of inner renewal and self-discovery. With simplicity and honesty, he describes how the experience changed his attitudes and enriched his spiritual life.
He recounts the struggles and self-doubts he faced along this rocky road to a new vocation, and introduces us to the people of l'Arche and many others whose impact on him was deep and long-lasting. Such was the impact of this experience that he chose to say yes to the call to go to l'Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto and make it his permanent home and ministry.
Rich in insights and sparkling with touching and inspiring anecdotes, The Road to Daybreak invites the reader to join this renowned spiritual writer on his journey to a deeper understanding of God and the human family.
The Inner Voice of Love - Henri J. M. Nouwen (DLT: 2014)
The Inner Voice of Love is Henri Nouwen’s ‘secret journal’.
It was written during the most difficult period of his life, when, following, the breakdown of a close relationship, he suddenly lost his self-esteem, his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved and even his hope in God.
For the countless men and women who have to live through the anguish and despair of broken relationships, or who suffer from the loss of a loved one, this book offers new courage, new hope, even new life.
Letters to Marc about Jesus - Henri J. M. Nouwen (DLT: 2013)
‘If I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really to live.’
In seven Letters to Marc about Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes from the conviction that Jesus is the centre of his own life. From that perspective, he shares the joys and sufferings of his own spiritual journey with his 19-year old nephew in Holland.
The letters deal with deep questions about life and faith in the light of the Gospel message, and with the spiritual search as experienced by a young adult today.
The Genesee Diary - Henri J. M. Nouwen (DLT: 2014)
‘Just as a whole world of beauty can be discovered in one flower, so the great grace of God can be tasted in one small moment.’
This observation is central to The Genesee Diary - a probing spiritual journey of Henri Nouwen written during his seven-month stay in a Trappist monastery: the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York.
During this period he had a unique opportunity to explore crucial issues of the spiritual life and discover ‘a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of our little world’.
Insightful, compassionate, often humorous, always realistic, The Genesee Diary is both an inspiration and a challenge to those who are in search of themselves.
Sabbatical Journey - Henri J.M. Nouwen (DLT: 2013)
Sabbactical Journey is a journal written during the last year of Henri Nouwen's life, ending shortly before his death in 1996. In it,
he describes his struggles with other people, his difficulty discerning what God intends for him, the direction his ministry is to take, and, woven throughout the book, are the continual, endless and beautiful themes of God's reconciling love, the Eucharist,
forgiveness and friendship.
Three weeks after writing the final words of this book, Henri died following a heart attack.
The Wounded Healer - Henri J. M. Nouwen (DLT: 2014)
What does it mean to be a healer in the modern world?
In The Wounded Healer, a hope-filled and profoundly simple book, Henri Nouwen offers a radically fresh interpretation of modern ministry. Here he inspires devoted men and women who want to be of service in their church or community, but have found the traditional ways of ministry alienating and ineffective.
According to Henri, we are called to identify the suffering in our own hearts and make that recognition the starting point of our service. We must be willing to go beyond our professional, aloof roles of service and leave ourselves open as fellow human beings with the same wounds and suffering as those we serve. We heal from our wounds.
The Return of the Prodigal Son and other Nouwen books
A chance encounter with a reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, catapulted Henri Nouwen into a long spiritual adventure. In his highly-acclaimed book of the same title, he shares the deeply personal meditation that led him to discover the place within which God has chosen to dwell. He probes the several movements of the parable: the younger son's return, the father's restoration of sonship, the elder son's vengefulness, and the father's compassion.
Other books written by Henri J. M. Nouwen for DLT
Other books about Henri J. M. Nouwen published by DLT
Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision - Michael C. O'Laughlin
Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen - Michael Ford
Befriending Life: Intimate Portraits of Henri Nouwen - Beth Porter, Philip Coulter and Susan M. S. Brown
Links and resources
A site created by Nouwen biographer and BBC journalist, Michael Ford, that celebrates the writings of Henri J. M. Nouwen as well as other spiritual guides such as Thomas Merton, Maria Boulding and Brother Roger of Taize, who draw us to God through a language of the heart.
The official website of the Henri Nouwen Society which exists for the express purpose of fostering the spirituality of solitude, community and ministry through the life and teaching of Henri Nouwen.
L'Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the
creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks for people with intellectual disabilities. Founded by Jean Vanier in 1964, Henri Nouwen spent time working with the organisation as documented in his book The Road to Daybreak (see above).