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Henri Nouwen fonds
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Personal records

Series consists of records of a personal nature which were created and kept by Nouwen throughout his life. These materials are arranged into sub-series and files which reflect the main value of that grouping of personal records.

This series has been arranged into five sub-series:
1.4.1. Weekly calendars
1.4.2. Retreat and discernment notes
1.4.3. Personal papers and official documents
1.4.4. Family papers

Series also contains two files: address books and mailing lists for books.

Henri Nouwen fonds

  • CA ON00389 F4
  • Fonds
  • 1910 - 1997, 1964 - 1996 predominant

Fonds consists of 15 series:

  1. Manuscripts
  2. General files
  3. Calendar files
  4. Personal records
  5. Publisher files
  6. Financial files
  7. Teaching materials
  8. Nouwen’s education records and study notes
  9. Published works
  10. Video recordings of Nouwen
  11. Sound recordings
  12. Collected materials
  13. L'Arche Daybreak administrative files
  14. Ephemera and artifacts
  15. Photographs

Nouwen, Henri J.M.

Personal papers and official documents

Sub-series consists of personal papers collected by Nouwen over his lifetime for sentimental reasons including mementos, ephemera, and materials relating to his childhood, career and his friends. Sub-series also consists of official papers kept for legal, insurance and professional reasons, including immigration papers, personal identification cards, wills, and royalties.

Certificate of registration to perform marriages

File consists of Nouwen’s Certificate of Registration from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations authorizing him to legally perform marriages in the Province of Ontario; including material relating to the Marriage Act of the Government of Ontario.

Curriculum vitae

File consists of Nouwen’s curriculum vitae from 1976 to 1982, including lists of his published works.

Ordination material

File consists of material from Nouwen’s ordination ceremony on July 21, 1957 in Utrecht and on July 28, 1957 in Scheveningen, including reminder cards, dinner menu and a copy of the photograph of Nouwen as a child playing priest.

Distribution card

File consists of a distribution card issued to Nouwen. This card identified Nouwen and indicated what resources he received following the Second World War.

Video recording of a day with Henri Nouwen

File consists of a video recording of Henri Nouwen speaking on the subject of "Being Big and Small". Nouwen gives a brief autobiography at the beginning of the tape. Alan Steers, David Harmon, and David Grey (members of L'Arche Daybreak) were also in attendance.

Henri Nouwen Interview

File consists of a video recording of an interview with Henri Nouwen by Bob Grip for the television station WAIA in Mobile, Alabama. Nouwen was in Mobile to give a talk at the L'Arche community there.

Video recording of open hearts, open minds, open doors / Pathways Awareness Foundation

File consists of a commercial video recording (V40) of the "That All May Worship" inclusion Conference held in Chicago on April 22, 1996, with excerpts from Nouwen's keynote address and commentary by Joseph Cardinal Bernadin on the subject of inclusion of persons with disabilities in liturgy and church life through affirmation, communication, and accessibility. Video produced by Pathways Awareness Foundation in partnership with the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Video recording of solitude, community and ministry: three ways to create space for God / Chicago Sunday Evening Club

File consists of a video recording (V29) of Nouwen giving a talk titled "Solitude, Community and Ministry: Three Ways to Create Space for God" as part of the "30 Good Minutes Series". The program was recorded on October 20, 1993 and aired November 7, 1993. Also includes James Wall, another guest on the program who spoke on the subject of "Speaking of God."

Video recording of Henri Nouwen on can you drink the cup?

File consists of a video recording of Henri Nouwen speaking at Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka, Illinois. This is an excellent recording of Nouwen speaking to a large audience. The title of Nouwen's talk was "Can You Drink the Cup? - Spiritual Life Today".

David and Mary Wedding

File consists of a semi-professional video recording of a wedding in which Nouwen performed the ceremony. David [Fitzgerald] is the son of James Fitzgerald and Sophie Fitzgerald-Albregts. Mary [Marlborough] is the daughter of Mike [Michael] and Breda Marlborough.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen at Noroton Presbyterian Church

File consists of a video recording of a Henri Nouwen speaking at Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, Connecticut. Nouwen spoke on the theme of "Inclusivity and Compassion". His talk was divided into three parts: What does it mean to live the spiritual life? our spiritual life as a source of ministry and practical disciplines to help keep spiritual life alive. Bill van Buren accompanied Nouwen to this talk.

Henri J.M. Nouwen: April 3, 1996 interview / University of Notre Dame Alumni Continuing Education

File consists of a video recording of an interview with Nouwen at L'Arche Daybreak for the University of Notre Dame Alumni Continuing Education on April 3, 1996. Nouwen spoke on caring for aging parents and the spiritual challenges of aging.

The video is of high quality, although it is not possible to hear the questions of the interviewer. Nouwen covers many themes including belovedness, death, dying, caring, caregivers, aging, care, cure, and spiritual disciplines. Nouwen identifies aging as a letting go of our identity as what we do, what we earn etc. and learning our true identity as the Beloved sons and daughters of God. He suggests that aging brings us closer to our true identity. Aging is about becoming more dependent but it offers us the space to find the truth of who we are. This is the great spiritual challenge of aging.

He addresses some of the following questions:

How do we overcome our fear of aging? Answer: We require a discipline that reminds us constantly of being the Beloved. These disciplines are: friendship, prayer, community, and celebration of life. Again the spiritual challenge is how do I let go and discover the deeper truth of who I am.

How to be a good caregiver? Answer: Nouwen refers to the gospel which says "Blessed are the poor" and exclaims that we are all poor. The caregiver must believe and perceive that God's blessing is rooted in the poverty of the poor. To be a good caregiver we must start discovering the gift our aging parent has to offer us. One of these gifts is to be called back to the centre of your being. All the work of caring for the aging can make us resentful, but we have to make an inner shift that allows the parent to give us the gift of going deeper within ourselves to find out what life is all about. Burnout happens when a caregiver does not receive the gifts of the poor. It requires a discipline to receive and we can only do this if we are well cared for. Need to constantly renew perspective on what we are doing and live joyfully receiving the gifts of the dying. This is an enormous spiritual challenge - to discover the gifts of aging and dying people.

To be really present to the person dying (ministry of presence); know the value of the ministry of absence and when to set some limits to look after your own needs; take time out to be with people who can support you. The most difficult thing is to be half way there and resentful. Be fully present for shorter periods of time.

Care means to struggle with. It is the same word as compassion. To care is to be with people in their weakness, pain and struggle without needing to cure. All you need to say is "I love you and really want to be with you, even if I can't cure you." Joy comes from being with. It is hard to be with people we can't change, but you can develop a spiritual discipline to care rather than cure.

Nouwen also emphasized the importance of the caregiver coming to terms with their own mortality. He reminds the interviewer that aging and dying don't start at the end of life, but that we are all in the process of aging and dying. Compassion means "I am with you because I know in my own self that I too am dying, that I am on the same journey as you." The caregiver needs to feel solidarity and intimacy with the person dying in order for care to be possible. Not only does the caregiver need to be in touch with their own dying, they need to learn the discipline to deal with little disappointments as well.

Nouwen talks about the reasons for his decision to leave Yale and Harvard. He says: "I realized that to get to the core of my being, to move to a different plateau I needed to be more focused on the poor and the weak. I knew that by connecting myself with the poor they would lead me to the core of life. They would allow me to find the blessing they had for me.

Regarding his accident in 1989: Through this near-death experience Nouwen learned the importance of forgiveness and what is important in life. He explains that although he is still compulsive in some regards, underneath is a sense of being God's beloved son and that the people he meets are God's beloved sons and daughters too. It is through this common identity that we can meet each other.

Regarding his father: He was extremely grateful for the time he was having with his 93 year old father. He says: "I am immensely grateful for the time I spent with him, just for him.".

Regarding dying: He mentions the gospel story when Jesus says "It is good for you that I am dying because I can send you my spirit". He goes on to say that most people who are dying say "how much can I still do?". But the real question is: "how can I prepare myself so my death becomes a gift for those I leave behind?". The question of aging spiritually is "How can I make my life a gift for others?". This is aging into life. Of course there will be grief and mourning, but a person dying spiritually can say "I am ready to go. I hope you are ready to receive the Spirit of love that I will send you."

Reads from his book about his grandmother's death.

Alludes to death of Connie Ellis to say that being with her while she was dying brought him to an inner place of silence.

He concludes with some practical advice about how to
dying people:

  • speak but also be quiet
  • touch if appropriate and just be there
  • ask "do you like to pray?"
  • "do you want me to read something"
  • "do you want more/less visitors?"
  • "do you want to be alone for awhile?"
  • "is there anyone you would like to see?"
  • "can I write a letter for you?"
  • treat them like friends
  • take time for your own life
  • be clear when you are coming back and stick to it
  • invite people like priests etc.
  • visit like it is a privilege, try to give words to your affection, "I know it is hard for you, but I am here."

Life is an interruption of eternity, for what? For humans to have a chance to say to God I love you too.

With Open Hands / by Tim E. Wood

File consists of one video recording of a song, written by Tim E. Wood, titled "With Open Hands." Wood dedicated the song to Henri Nouwen, and recorded it on February 18, 1996. He sent this videocassette with his letter of February 26, 1996.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen and the Flying Rodleighs

File consists of a video recording of a performance of the Flying Rodleighs, a trapeze troupe from the Circus Barum. The recording also includes footage of Nouwen on the trapeze. This is an amateur video perhaps sent to Nouwen by the Rodleighs.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen on L'Arche

File consists of a video recording of Nouwen speaking on the subject of L'Arche at Washington Hall, St. Mary's, near Notre Dame university. Nouwen is introduced by Don McNeill. The theme of the event appears to be "The Year of the Family". This is an amateur video. Joe Vorstermans from L'Arche begins the program by speaking about the history of L'Arche and Jean Vanier.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen at the 1991 convocation of the Reformed Church in America

File consists of a video recording of Nouwen speaking at Praise and Promise '91, a denomination-wide convocation of the Reformed Church in America held July 25-28 in Irvine, CA. Nouwen was accompanied by Bill van Buren, and spoke on "Life of the Spirit". Nouwen addressed such questions as "what happens in the darkness?", "who am I", "how do I forgive and get on with my life, and 'belonging to this world". He drew the "clock-time" line and addressed the theme of chronology. Nouwen is extremely animated and elicits bursts of laughter from the audience at several intervals.

Letters from Myra Alexander

File consists of letters from Myra Alexander, many written on her behalf by Virginia Mullaney, and several addressed to Connie Ellis, including a VHS videocassette sent by Alexander to Nouwen and Ellis.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen on the spiritual life

File consists of a video recording of a talk Nouwen gave at Emmanuel Anglican Church in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Nouwen was invited to speak to a breakfast club which included David Harmon from L'Arche Daybreak. Nouwen spoke on "The Spiritual Life" in which he reflected on deepening connectedness with God and with one another. He used Luke's gospel, particularly the passage where Jesus went to the mountain to pray. David Harmon is introduced at the beginning.

Video recording of Henri Nouwen on beatitudes

File consists of a video recording of Nouwen speaking at Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church. He spoke on the theme of "The Beatitudes". Approximately half the cassette consists of the regular church service. Several core members from L'Arche Daybreak are present, and several receive blessings.

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