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Henri Nouwen fonds Item
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Feature review

This item consists of a 3 page book review by Henri Nouwen and Joseph Wissink of A Search for God in Time and Memory by John S. Dunne C.S.C., Macmillan Publishing. The authors begin the review by stating that ‘John Dunne has written a great book. Certainly not an easy book but a personal, unique and insightful study worth entering as deeply as possible.’ Nouwen and Wissink indicate that the subject of the book is ‘ how is God relevant to modern man in his search for meaning?’ ‘The autobiographies of men like Augustine, Luther, Pascal, Newman, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Camus and Jung serve as the main data for the quest...’. Nouwen and Wissink describe the book as: having a unique clinical and empirical touch; as having a high degree of insight…’which does not lead to a proud “now I know” … but to a compassionate understanding that the night can pass into day and to some inkling of the turning point which lies ahead’. They go on to describe Dunne’s method suggesting that ‘A better title might be “From Time Out of Mind to Time Within Mind” because the whole book is based on the process of bringing to one’s mind the time that is absent from the mind’. The reviewers then go on to describe what this means : ‘Here we are meeting the great time history books are written about. We all live in it, but it is not the exclusive property of anybody, unless maybe of God, or death…what is the place of my life in this great time, in the death time or, hopefully, God’s time?’. Nouwen and Wissink end the review by stating, ‘Again, this is a great book. It offers more than a new idea, a new concept or a new insight. It offers a new perspective on life for modern man’.

Education to the ministry

This item is a 9 page copy of a paper given by Henri Nouwen entitled : Education to the Ministry included in Integrating the Disciplines in Theological Education; Report of the Twelfth Biennial Meeting of the Association of Professional Education for Ministry, June 15 – 18, 1972 Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, p. 8 – 16. Nouwen indicates at the beginning of his paper that his intention is to ‘present to you some ideas on ministry from the perspectives of hospitality in the hope that these can help us to see how the spiritual and professional life of the minister are related and what the implications of this relationship are for seminary formation’. Nouwen outlines his thoughts under three headings followed by his conclusion: 1) Ministry as Hospitality, 2) Ministry and Spirituality and 3) Education to the Ministry. In 1) Ministry as hospitality, Nouwen opens by saying that ‘the call to ministry is the call to be a host to the many strangers passing by.’ But he also points out that our attitudes toward strangers are ambivalent : sometimes hostile, sometimes hospitable and that the minister is to convert hostility into hospitality. It is ‘the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way’. In 2) Ministry and Spirituality Nouwen asks how the minister can remain faithful to hospitality to the stranger. He suggests that ‘This will come to pass only when ministry is undergirded by spirituality,.. when the outer movement from hostility to hospitality is supported by an inner movement from property to poverty. Poverty means that my identity in the final analysis is not determined by what I can do, say or think, but by what God’s Spirit can do, say and think in me’. This then allows the pastor to be open and not defensive and free to listen. In section 3) Education to Ministry, Nouwen outlines three general principles: 1) The first and most important ministerial task of every educator is to help the student face his own condition and that of the world realistically and without fear. 2) The second principle in education to the ministry is to help the student become available to himself, that is to become at home in his own house. 3) The third principle to guide us in education for the ministry is the principle of compassion. This latter principle Nouwen suggests, is powerful in a world which is ‘on the edge of suicide’ as a ‘power for world peace in which the many barriers visible in prisons, hospitals, ghettos and war fields can slowly be taken away and in which this world can become again a hospitable place for man.’

The new pastor

This item consists of a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: The New Pastor, published in the National Catholic Reporter, December 4, 1968, p. 6. This article was written shortly after the Second Vatican Council. In this article Nouwen is raising questions about the role of the pastor following the upheavals that are affecting the church. He states as the underlying concern, "Familiar channels through which we could function and reach thousands of men, women and children are leaking or completely broken down…we feel ourselves victims of a religious strip tease in which the critical modern man is insisting we remove one vestment of office after another…" In order to discuss what he feels can be the role of the priest in this new situation he uses two major headings: 1) How can the parish priest be an efficient and skillful pastor in our modern society? and 2) How can he remain a whole and integrated man in a rapidly changing world , which by its own nature is constantly challenging his own commitment? Under heading 1) Nouwen suggests that a pastor should be able to offer his parishioners three things a) a climate in which questions which challenge faith can be raised without fear b) a word given by the pastor to others which is uniquely tailored to the need of the individual: "a word directed to the highly individual needs of our suffering fellowman can create new life" and c) a home in a parish which provides "intimacy with a vital balance between closeness and distance" for the parishioner. Under heading 2) Nouwen provides three further headings a) Silence which is necessary for the priest to listen to God and his own deepest center b) Friendship. Here Nouwen suggests the need of the pastor to find friendship outside of the parish, most particularly in what he suggests should be a carefully formed group that lives together in the rectory and c) Insight. "By insight, we mean a sound perspective of the pastor on the significance of his own priesthood". Nouwen concludes the article by stating: "when a priest is well-prepared for his task and is in lasting communication with those he wants to serve, he can fulfill his task without fear. With a realistic confidence in his abilities, with a sense of inner harmony and most of all with trust in the value of his service, he can be a free witness for God, who can strengthen hope, fulfill love and make joy complete".

A critical analysis

This item consists of a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘A Critical Analysis’ published in Ave Maria National Catholic Weekly, 3 June 1967, p. 11-13, 30. Nouwen discusses the rise and popularity of the Pentecostal movement at Notre Dame University in Indiana and states that the article ‘is an attempt to clarify certain issues and to be of some help in an honest evaluation’. Nouwen looks at the phenomenon from three perspectives: 1) A Historical Perspective: He writes of the past and current religious atmosphere at Notre Dame. Here he credits an article by Killian McDonnell. O.S.B. (The Ecumenical Significance of the Pentecostal Movement) where there is a discussion of the ‘sobriety’ and ‘objectivity’ of Roman Catholic liturgy in contrast to the more emotional freedom and sense of belonging in the Pentecostal services. Nouwen suggests that this latter may answer a need in the new more ambitious and competitive atmosphere at the university. 2) A Psychological Perspective. Here Nouwen asks how we can evaluate this new movement by asking several questions: Does it heal or hurt? He suggests that evidence leads to a conclusion that while there may be a short term benefit ‘it is very doubtful that it will cure deep mental suffering’. He also asks ‘Can it be dangerous’? He states that ‘for those who are not prepared every inducement of a strong emotion can break and do serious harm. He also suggests that for those who do not receive the ‘gifts’ such as tongues or joy there then may be the question ‘what is wrong with me’. This leads to the need for direction, guidance and care. Finally he asks: Does it create community? Nouwen suggests that the powerful emotions of belonging and sharing, may risk creating a community that is inward and elitist. ‘the Pentecostal movement creates a situation of oneness and togetherness, which makes the community highly self-centered and hinders the development of the autonomous Christian…’. 3) A Theological Perspective: here Nouwen is asking if the Pentecostal movement is reflecting the theological developments of Vatican II and suggests that it may not meet the new stress on incarnational theology. He concludes the article by stating: ‘the new wave of Pentecostalism at Notre Dame University obviously answers a burning need in many students. It worries many who are concerned about the effects on the mental health of some…It places heavy responsibility on the leaders of the movement, and it disturbs many theologians’ but it also offers a chance to come to a new realization of the crucial importance of the valid religious experience – as an authentic part of the Christian life’.

A psychologist on priests' identity crises

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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