Item 1598 - Compassion: the core of spiritual leadership

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Reference code

CA ON00389 1-9-1-1598

Title

Compassion: the core of spiritual leadership

Date(s)

  • March 1977 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

6 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Compassion, The Core of Spiritual Leadership’, published in Occasional Papers by the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, Minnesota, March 1977, No. 2. Nouwen begins the article by stating that his discussion of compassion as the core of spiritual leadership can be looked at in three areas: 1) The phenomenology of compassion. How does compassion manifest itself? Answer: In solidarity.2) The ascesis of compassion. How is compassion disciplined? By voluntary displacement. 3) The theology of compassion. How is compassion lived out in the light of the gospel? In discipleship. Nouwen then goes on to discuss each of these areas. 1) Solidarity. ‘Solidarity, as the manifestation of compassion, does not mean resignation to the sad fact that we are about the same as other human beings, but it means desire to participate in our human sameness as fully and deeply as possible’. Nouwen discusses the implications of solidarity for the spiritual leader and states ‘ Not critical observation, but compassionate participation; that is the vital source of all authority.’ He suggests Jesus as the divine manifestation of compassionate authority. 2) Displacement. Nouwen identifies compassion as a gift rather than something that can be learned. Nouwen suggests that displacement is the discipline of compassion and uses a dictionary definition to define it: ‘to move or to shift from the ordinary or proper place’. In the concrete this means, according to Nouwen, moving away from ‘what is ordinary and proper’ and getting in touch with our own ‘inner brokenness as well as with the brokenness of our fellow human beings’. He concludes the section by stating, ‘ And so, the discipline of displacement is the mysterious way by which the expression of compassionate solidarity becomes possible. 3) Discipleship. Nouwen’s principle point here is described by him, ‘Every human attempt to be compassionate independent of Christ is doomed to failure. The discipline of compassion only makes sense as an expression of discipleship’. He further clarifies, ‘ In Christ we can do a little thing while doing much, we can show care without being crushed and we can face the pains of the world without becoming gloomy, depressed or doomsday prophets’. Nouwen concludes the article by stating that the school in which all this is taught is the school of prayer.

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Duplicate copy available in the file. Annotated: "Voor Vader en Moeder v Harrie." At the right hand top, written in pencil: 156 - 1598 c.2.
Preservation photocopy available in Articles by Nouwen Access Copy Box 1.

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Sound recording of this event is available. See Sound recordings series, box 316, item SR9.

Publication note

Published in Occasional Papers: Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, no. 2 (March 1977): 1-6.
Some of this material was appears in a slightly different version in: Nouwen, Henri; McNeill, Donald P.; Morrison, Douglas A. :Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Image Books, Doubleday, N. Y., 1983.

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Accession Number

2000 01

Location

Box 294

Previous Item Number

22-92

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