- May 17, 1967 (Creation)
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Item consists of a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: "A psychologist on priests' identity crises" published in The National Catholic Reporter, 17 May 1967, p. 6. The article is about three perceived threats to the mental health of priests. These are described in terms of problems with time, with space and with self-understanding. 1) The new priest starts by giving his whole time to his ministry with little or no demarcation between work and rest. He thrives on being at the center, being available to everyone all the time. In time , because there is little change in fact, this can and does frequently lead to being ‘ an irritated, empty, routine, tired man’. In addition, at a daily level there is no demarcation of time between ‘work’ and ‘home’. No time to stop and reflect or even pray. 2) ‘Besides a healthy use of time, a healthy use of place is of great importance for the mental health of the priest’. Because he is always at work there is no space to find rest; because the people he lives with are the people he works with, there is no personal space. The demarcation lines of authority are vague and unhealthy. ‘…healthy spacing not only refers to healthy defining of places and rooms, but also connected with that, to healthy clarification of responsibilities and authority which belong to the different roofs under which we live’. 3) With a lack of privacy and no demarcation of personal, private relationships the priest often lacks a firm self-identity. ‘Without a spiritual life and a good friend he is like a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal’. In addition, there is a lack of clarity of his role as a professional, he receives little praise from anyone including superiors so he does not know how well he is doing. The author stresses the importance of the priest’s everyday confrontation with living theology in the people he serves and that is not used or appreciated.
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Published in The National Catholic Reporter, 17 May 1967, p. 6.
Annotated top right: "Vim v. Harrie".
The article was published in Intimacy : pastoral psychological essays / Henri J. M. Nouwen. Imprint Notre Dame, Ind. : Fides Publishers, c1969 as Chapter 7 , 'The Priest and his mental health'.