HENRI NOUWEN (1932 - 1996)
The world is evil only when you become its slave
Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesis and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart” and to lay this down as a template for both clergy and lay persons. Nouwen, as Merton before him, always stressed the relational. He writes very directly about our contemporary longings for meaning, belonging, and intimacy and, at the same time, integrates this with a powerful vision of service and social justice. Nouwen often used the three core themes of solitude, community, and compassion to help people enter into a fresh vision of the spiritual life.
In 1986 Henri Nouwen left Harvard University to join one of the Christian communities of ‘L’Arche’ founded by the internationally known lay Roman Catholic theologian Jean Vanier. Henri lived in the L’Arche community until his death in 1996. This became Henri’s home and the mission and spirituality of L’Arche became an integral part of Henri’s own spiritual vision. Daybreak was his homecoming. He lived in one of the homes and was asked to help Adam Arnett, a man with a severe disability, with his morning routine. Nouwen’s book Adam, God’s Beloved describes how Adam became his friend, his teacher and his guide. After recovering from a severe depression, Nouwen began to experience perhaps his deepest fulfillment as a priest, friend, author, lecturer and mentor. He gave countless talks and retreats, welcomed hundreds of people for counsel and still found time to write. Whenever he traveled or lectured, he invited a core member (person with a disability) to accompany him as a co-facilitator. His contribution to the spirituality of L’Arche was as profound as the transformation he experienced at Daybreak.