Henri Nouwen died in 1996 but because of his writings and the influence he had on many people his memory lingers on. He remains one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers in contemporary times. This book examines thirteen different reflections upon his life and writings by a series of people who knew him personally and were greatly influenced by him. The essays not only include the merits of Nouwen but his warts as well. The essayists include former students, friends, editors and acquaintances. Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic diocesan priest, has exercised a great influence upon both Roman Catholics and non Roman Catholics, being one of the most widely read spiritual writers in recent decades. He published a total of forty-three books in the field of ascetical theology. With reference to his prolific writings, some have facetiously said that he never had an unpublished thought.
After his ordination to the priesthood, Nouwen studied in the United States at the Meninger Clinic and taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard Universities. At the time of his untimely death he was chaplain to the L'Arche Daybreak community composed of physically challenged and developmental disabled adults in Ontario, Canada. In an interview with Father John Eudes Bamberger, abbot of the Trappist-Cistercian Abbey of the Genesee in New York who first got to know Nouwen while he was visiting Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Bamberger is quoted as saying: "He [Nouwen] was happy at Yale. He was not happy at Harvard. Then he was happiest at L'Arche Daybreak" (p. 16). A friend of Nouwen's, Peggy Ellsberg, declared that "he found it [Harvard] rejecting, unspiritual, cold"(p. 34).
Nouwen's wide appeal naturally led him into a position of bridge builder to other non Roman Catholic and non Christian believers. One of the book's editors, Gerald Twomey, wrote that: "Nouwen followed the dictates of his conscience, bending the official church regulations" (p. 76). He reflected this especially with reference to his celebration of the Eucharist which he looked upon as the center of his life. Jean Vanier, one of the founders of the L'Arche movement wrote that: "Henri was among the greatest ecumenists of the century"( p. 79). Nouwen's downwardly mobile style of living naturally led him to identify with the poor, the oppressed and handicapped people, the same people with whom Jesus associated. His books are icons of his thinking and teachings. As a spiritual writer he is often compared to other spiritual writer giants of the twentieth century such as C. S. Lewis and Thomas Merton who were fellow explorers of God's presence in the world. This fascinating book about Henri Nouwen will not only introduce him to new readers but will help to deepen the relationship many already have with him through his writings.