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Life and holiness

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the introduction. Nouwen states in part: "'What book do I give to someone who wants to know what being-a-Christian looks like?' This is definitely the book. It is not a book about doctrines or dogmas but about the life in Christ."

Liberation: freedom to love

This item is a 1 ½ page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘Liberation: Freedom to Love’, published in Together by World Vision International, April-June 1985, No. 7. This item is identified as excerpts from Nouwen’s prologue to Gustavo Gutierrez’ book ‘We Drink from our own Wells’. Nouwen begins by stating, ‘The spirituality of liberation is deeply rooted in the lived experience of God’s presence in history’. Nouwen then writes that Gutierrez believes liberation theology cannot be reduced to a political movement nor is it a ‘theological rationale for a class struggle’. Nouwen states that Jesus is the center of the movement and Jesus loves both the oppressed and the oppressor. Nouwen reiterates a theme he has spoken of before that the spiritual well-being of the Americas, north and south are tied together and that the ‘inflamed’ cord of Central America that binds them together is reminding us that there is a deep spiritual crisis that involves the whole of the Americas. He concludes, ‘ In the name of millions of the nameless poor, Gustavo Gutierrez reaches out a hand to us and calls us to open our hearts again to the life-giving Spirit of Jesus…’

Liberation thinking: an evangelical assessment

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written Chapter 4, beginning on p. 23, titled: "Liberation: Freedom to love". The chapter represents excerpts from Nouwen's prologue to Gutierrez' book: We Drink from Our Own Wells, in which he speaks directly to several of the issues of "Venezuelian Agenda."

Letting go of all things

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Letting Go of All Things’, published in Sojourners magazine, May 1979, pp. 5& 6. This article is identified as a ‘response to “The Work of Prayer” a project of Sojourners to pray for peace in face of the arms race. Nouwen begins by asking what this call might mean: does it represent a failure of action? A turning to God because turning to people didn’t help much? A capitulation to quietism? A dramatic gesture? Nouwen believes not: ‘I believe that the Sojourners are discovering a dimension of prayer they did not see before…I see their call not as an invitation to retreat into a familiar piety , but as a challenge to make a radical move toward prayer as “the only necessary thing”’. Nouwen suggests prayer as a dying to self, an opening to God, is the ground from which people move out into the world of action. Nouwen concludes, ‘ When …our act of prayer remains the act from which all actions flow, we can be joyful even when our times are depressing, peaceful even when the threat of war is all around us, hopeful even when we are constantly tempted to despair.

Letting go of all things

This item is a 2 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ’Letting Go of all things’, published in Baptist Peacemaker, Vol. V, No. 2, April 1985, pp. 1 & 5. It was previously published in Sojourners, May, 1979.
Nouwen begins by stating ‘The call to prayer is not an invitation to retreat to a familiar piety, but a challenge to make a radical move toward prayer as “the only necessary thing”’. Nouwen suggests prayer is a dying to self, a call to martyrdom, an opening to God, and is the ground from which people move out into the world of action. Nouwen quotes from a recent book by holocaust survivor Floris B. Bakels about the power prayer had for him in the camp. Nouwen writes about our ambivalence toward prayer, being drawn to it and yet resistant to it because of the demands we feel will be made by God. Nouwen concludes, ‘ When …our act of prayer remains the act from which all actions flow, we can be joyful even when our times are depressing, peaceful even when the threat of war is all around us, hopeful even when we are constantly tempted to despair’.

Lessons of the heart: celebrating the rhythms of life

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the foreword, stating in part: "The beauty of Lessons of the Heart is that it makes little things shine brightly. . . . [It] is a truly hopeful book, a book that opens our eyes to see the mystery of God right where we are."

Lazarus interlude: a story of God's healing love in a moment of ministry

Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the introduction, stating in part that the book "says much about loneliness, fear, despair, and the deep human need for love. But it says even more about the mysterious possibility of letting these painful human experiences become gateways to the unlimited love of God."

Latin America: living with the poor

This item is a two page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Latin America: Living with the poor’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 1982, pp. 7 – 8. This item is an excerpt from Nouwen’s book, ‘Gracias: A Latin American Journal’. This article consists of five diary entries Nouwen made in his time spent in Peru and Bolivia. In his entries Nouwen struggles with the contrast of his usual life and the life of the very poor in which he is trying to be immersed. He describes visits with colleagues to a place where handicapped children are helped; visits with children whose need for physical comfort is great; the children who are without parents and in need of food; and a visit to a new library where the children and others can come and read. He comments on the great thirst these young people have for learning.

L'Arche in North America: home, healing and hope

This item is a 5-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘L’Arche in North America: Home, Healing and Hope’, published in ‘Letters of L’Arche’, No. 76, 1992, pp. 2 – 6. Nouwen is writing this at the time of the funeral of Pere Thomas Philippe, one of the founders of L’Arche. Nouwen senses that Pere Thomas’ legacy of the vision of L’Arche will continue to live, ‘he can bring a rich harvest’. Nouwen goes on to ask ‘how to be l’Arche in North America’? Nouwen sees three core words that will bear much fruit: Home, Healing and Hope. I. Home: Nouwen sees L’Arche as being home especially for the core members many of whom have experienced living in institutional places that were not ‘home’. Nouwen goes on to describe the sense of homelessness that many in North America experience: actual homelessness, but also places where people live without a welcome, places where people live in loneliness, places where people live alone together. Nouwen notes that the Assistants who come to L’Arche have and do experience this homelessness as well. Nouwen sees that home at L’Arche provides a place to be home but also to be a place of mission and a recognition that we are still journeying home. II. Healing: ‘The great paradox of L’Arche is that, while no one is cured, everyone is healed’. Nouwen speaks of the great suffering that has been experienced by the core members but also by the Assistants. All seek healing. ‘It is clear that we are all handicapped that we all need to offer each other healing by the way we live together’. III. Hope: ‘L’Arche invites people, barely respected or acknowledged by our society, to become witnesses of hope’. ‘Joy, peace, acceptance, truthfulness, the ability to welcome, to forgive and to celebrate; these are only some of the gifts handicapped people have to offer…This knowledge of the ‘gift of the poor’ has been a great inspiration in L’Arche over the years, and has made L’Arche into a true sign of hope’.

L'Arche and the world

This item is a 5 page article from a talk given by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘l’Arche in the World’ published in The Letters of l’Arche, September/December, 1987, Nos. 53 & 54, pp. 29 – 33. This publication was a special issue devoted to the l’Arche Federation Meeting, Rome, May, 1987. Nouwen begins his article by stating how irritating he first found a common l’Arche expression: ‘l’Arche is given to the world’. Nouwen believed that such a phrase ‘had an insane ring to it’. The remainder of the article goes on to deal with the following statement: ‘ How is our small daily, routine life at l’Arche connected with our immense world, groaning in labour pains, eagerly waiting to be set free? I propose to look for a response to this question in the resurrection stories as we find them in the four gospels’. Nouwen then divides his comments in three sections: The Stranger, The Intimate Friend and The Teacher. In The Stranger Nouwen speaks of the hiddenness of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, how he comes to his disciples after his death as at first, a stranger and the disciples both knew and didn’t know him. Nouwen tells the story of Adam Arnett who lives in his house and then speaks of the hidden quality of all suffering: ‘Only by acknowledging this hidden suffering that bonds our heart with the heart of all human beings can we become truly compassionate people… In The Intimate Friend Nouwen states, ‘The stranger reveals himself to us as the most intimate friend’. Nouwen goes on to suggest that our lives are built on deep personal relationships and not, for instance, issues. Nouwen then relates the story of the growth of his relationship with Bill in his community and concludes by saying, ‘l’Arche is there to remind us that the intimate personal relationships developed over months and years of faithfulness allow us to be in the world without being destroyed by its countless urgencies and emergencies’. In the section entitled The Teacher Nouwen states,’ Jesus teaches his disciples that suffering and death are no longer connected with sin and punishment, but with the glory of God…It is hard to grasp the revolutionary character of this teaching. Nouwen notes that ‘l’Arche teaches the possibility of a suffering that leads to glory. Finally, Nouwen concludes ‘As people of l’Arche , people of the resurrection, our small daily lives must be connected to the great struggles of our contemporary world’.

Journal: be my witnesses

Item consists of a book in which, on p. 61 "Going Forth", Nouwen has contributed a poem from With Open Hands regarding hope.

Isolate self at times

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Isolate Self at Times’ , published in The National Catholic Reporter, July 5, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen continues the theme of fruitful solitude which he began in previous columns of this paper. Nouwen states at the beginning, ‘It is probably difficult if not impossible to move from loneliness to solitude without any form of withdrawal from a distracting world’. He speaks of monks and hermits who go into the wilderness seeking solitude but goes on to say, ‘ But the solitude which really counts is the solitude of the heart, an inner quality or attitude which does not depend on physical isolation’. Nouwen speaks of the difference in being present to another in loneliness or in solitude. In solitude, he suggests, we hear the other and respond. He also suggests that we all move back and forth between these poles even from hour to hour. Nouwen states ‘ Sometimes I wonder if the fact that so many people ask support, advice and counsel from so many other people is not, for a large part, a result of their having lost contact with their innermost self’. Nouwen concludes the article with a lengthy quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

Is God deaf?: a meditation on prayer

Item consists of a book in which a quote from Nouwen appears on the cover: "By a man who has guided many men and women in their spiritual journeys, and has acquired keen insights into the fears, hesitations, and inhibitions that prevent us from tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord."

Intimacy: pastoral psychological essays

Item consists of a book which Nouwen wrote about intimacy. The book has been divided into the following: Introduction; The context, Chapter 1--From magic to faith; Intimacy and sexuality, Chapter 2--The challenge to love, Chapter 3--Homosexuality: Prejudice or mental illness?; Intimacy and prayer, Chapter 4--Student prayers: Between confusion and hope, Chapter 5--Pentecostalism on campus; Intimacy and community, Chapter 6--Depression in the seminary; Intimacy and the ministry, Chapter 7--The priest and his mental health, Chapter 8--Training for the campus ministry; Conclusion.
As is stated on the back cover: "Intimacy is the theme which binds the divergent subjects of this book together. Intimacy in the relationship between man and woman, between man and man, and between man and God; intimacy also in the life of the man who wants to live in a religious community, intimacy finally for the minister or priest who wants to give a home to others but risks losing his own."

Intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy

This item is a 7 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Intimacy, Fecundity and Ecstasy’ published in Radix, May/June 1984, N 8 – 23, pp. 8 – 12, 22-23. Nouwen begins with a quotation from John’s Gospel, Chapter 15, and introduces a connection with this gospel passage and the work of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche. ‘Out of that experience of living with severely handicapped people, Jean Vanier came to a conclusion, a kind of vision, that all human beings have three rights, or three privileges. They are the right and privilege of intimacy, the right and privilege of fecundity, and the right and privilege of ecstasy’. Nouwen then goes on to discuss each of these three ‘rights’. He begins by noting how difficult intimacy is for modern people; that people are unhappy and often at the mercy of their needs and the wounds of generations. Nouwen then asks, ‘Is there another way of living?’ and suggests that when Jesus says ‘make your home in me’, the answer is to be found there. With regard to fecundity, Nouwen begins by distinguishing between fruitfulness and productivity. He goes on to describe our society’s need to measure and control and duplicate, which he sees as productivity. Fruitfulness, Nouwen describes as a gift of vulnerability. ‘Probably the most important quality of fruit is that we have to leave it alone in order for it to grow’. In the final section on ecstasy Nouwen speaks of joy, the joy given by Jesus. Nouwen suggests that so many people live at a level of busyness, boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. He suggests that to be ecstatic is to move out of a state of being static; being willing to change and grow; to choose life. Nouwen concludes by saying,’ Wherever we live, we can live celebrating ecstatically, always having a party. There’s something new, a smile, because God is with us and we want to live’.

Intimacy and solidarity

This item is a 4 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Intimacy and Solidarity’, published in The Round Table, by The Catholic Worker movement, St. Louis, MO, Autumn, 1984, pp. 3 – 6. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘The words we most need to hear during these turbulent days are: “Do not be afraid”’. Nouwen then goes on to describe the power of fear current in society. He suggests however that fear omnipresent as it is need not be considered acceptable; that it is still possible to live in ‘the house of love’. Nouwen identifies Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche movement as the one who helped him to see that ‘intimacy, fecundity and ecstasy are the three qualities of a life together in the house of love’. Nouwen goes on to talk about ‘home’,’ homelessness’ and suggests that intimacy is the first and most obvious quality of home. Nouwen writes of the connection between intimacy and what people might think is counter-intuitive, solidarity with others. The solidarity in intimacy is Nouwen’s sense of the meeting of all human beings, in the heart of Jesus. ‘Living in the intimacy of God’s home we can come to see that the God who loves us with a perfect love includes all human beings in that love without in any way diminishing the unique quality of this love for each individual person’. Nouwen concludes the article by again referencing Jean Vanier and his work with mentally handicapped people especially as it is a reminder of solidarity with the weak, the poor, the ‘inefficient’.

In the name of Jesus: reflections on Christian leadership

Item consists of a book Nouwen wrote concerning a speech he gave about Christian leadership at the 15th anniversary of the Center for Human Development in Washington, D.C., by invitation of Murray McDonnell, chairman of the board of the Center for Human Development. The book has been divided into the following: Prologue; Introduction; 1 From Relevance to Prayer, The Temptation: To Be Relevant; The Question: "Do You Love Me?", The Discipline: Contemplative Prayer; II From Popularity to Ministry, The Temptation: To Be Spectacular, The Task: "Feed My Sheep", The Discipline: Confession and Forgiveness; III From Leading to Being Led, The Temptation: To be Powerful, The Challenge: "Somebody Else Will Take You", The Discipline: Theological Reflection; Conclusion; Epilogue.
As is stated on the front flap: ". . .By looking back at his own life and transition from the academic setting of Harvard to working with the mentally handicapped at the L'Arche communities in Toronto, Henri Nouwen reflects upon the challenges and the solutions to the problems within today's Christian leadership."

In memoriam

Item consists of a book which Nouwen wrote about his mother's death.
As is stated on the front flap: . . . ."in life she belonged to a few, in death she is for all."

Hostility to hospitality

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Hostility to hospitality’ in the National Catholic Reporter, September 13, 1974, P. 11. In this article Nouwen begins by speaking of a human desire to ‘stand out, be different, exceptional’ and that we ‘are slowly seduced into the illusion that our value is seated in those few qualities that make us different from all other people’. Nouwen goes on to say that maturity however, is to accept the reality of our human condition and our union and likeness to other human beings. Nouwen points to Jesus as the one who came ‘like us’ and then states ‘And so it is God who reveals to us the movement of our life. It is not the movement from weakness to power, but the movement in which we can become less and less fearful and defensive and more and more open to the other…’. Nouwen points out the difficulty of this movement but suggests that the hostility and fear that we experience prevent us from becoming truly human. Nouwen concludes by suggesting that ‘when we have become sensitive to the painful contours of our hostility, we might start identifying the lines of its opposite toward which we are called to move: hospitality’.

Hospitality frees guests

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Hospitality Frees Guests’ published in the National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen begins the article by stating, ‘If the first characteristic of the spiritual life is the continuing movement from loneliness to solitude, its second characteristic is the movement by which hostility can be converted in hospitality’. Nouwen suggests that if we meet others out of needy loneliness that will not create an open space of hospitality to help the other be who they should be. Nouwen states that he believes the biblical concept of hospitality ‘might offer a new dimension to our understanding of a healing relationship and the formation of a recreating community’. Hospitality creates ‘not a fearful emptiness , but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free…’.


This item is a 28 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘ Hospitality’ published in Monastic Studies, Number 10, by Mount Savior Monastery, Pine City, New York, Easter 1974. Nouwen has divided his article into 3 major divisions 1. From Hostility to Hospitality 2) Forms of Hospitality and 3) The Dynamics of Hospitality. Nouwen begins 1. By saying ‘it is God who reveals to us the movement of our lives. It is not a movement from weakness to power, but a movement in which we can become less and less fearful and defensive, and more and more open to the other and his world. This movement allowing us to receive instead of to conquer is the movement from hostility to hospitality’. Nouwen follows with some examples of difficulties arising from the presence of hostility which prevents hospitality. He then describes hospitality as meaning ‘primarily the creation of a space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. It is not an attempt to change people, but to offer the free space where change can take place.’ Nouwen discusses the difficulties in our society of creating this hospitable space and ends the section by saying ‘To convert hostility into hospitality, to change the stranger from hostis to hospes, from enemy to friend, asks for a persistent attempt to create the free space where such a conversion can take place. In section 2. Nouwen indicates his intention as ‘to show how different forms of service can be seen as hospitality. He identifies the forms of service as: teaching, preaching, counseling, organizing and liturgical celebration. In his conclusion to this section Nouwen says, ‘ …they are all forms of ministry by which we create space for the stranger, space where he can enter into deeper contact with himself, his fellowman and his God’. In a short third section 3.The Dynamics of Hospitality, Nouwen speaks of ‘receiving and confronting’ by which he means by the latter, setting boundaries. The second heading is entitled ‘participation in a certain plenitude’. Here, Nouwen states, ‘ The people who have had the most influence on me in my life…are men and women who never tried to convert me, change me, or make me do or not do certain things. …They were people who were so much in touch with themselves, were so self-possessed and eradiated so much inner freedom, that they became a point of orientation for my own search’.

Honesty in preaching

This item is a half-page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: ‘Honesty in Preaching’, published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1974, p. 11. Nouwen identifies preaching as a common ministerial task which has, he suggests, come to have many negative connotations. Nouwen describes preaching in many ways in this article: removing rocks so good seed can find root; taking away leaves so the path is visible; ploughing ground so that the rain can soak it. He states, ‘Preaching in this sense means creating the space where the word can be received’. Nouwen describes preaching as’ a very hard and often painful task because it requires that the preacher be able to feel and speak to the “soul” of the community’. And in a pain-avoiding society, it takes courage to feel into experiences which hurt, to articulate emotions which prefer to remain hidden and to give names to behavior which wants to remain unmentioned’. Nouwen concludes the article by saying,’ …we must be aware that Christianity is not an ideology but the revelation of the living Christ, with whom a personal relationship is possible. The vocation of the preacher therefore, is …to set apart a moment and a place where the still voice can be heard..’.

Homosexuality: prejudice or mental illness?

This item consists of a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: Homosexuality: Prejudice or Mental Illness? published in The National Catholic Reporter, 29 November, 1967, p. 8. The author is examining two ways of viewing the reality of male homosexuality in his time without, he says, wishing to decide ‘who is right and who is wrong’. The first section discusses homosexuality as a problem of prejudice with three areas emphasized: A) Homosexuality and projection. Prejudice arises, Nouwen suggests, out of our fear of our own sexual uncertainty and ‘feelings which we don’t wish to acknowledge’. B) Homosexuality and the self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘This theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy suggests, just like the theory of projection, that the major problem is one of prejudice. It is our false definition of what a homosexual is which causes the exact behavior which we despise.’ C) Homosexuality in the bible and medieval Christianity. Nouwen outlines several biblical passages which are often used to ‘try to prove that homosexuality is especially sinful, deserving of punishment or suffering...’ He concludes this section by suggesting that these passages are usually misinterpreted. The second section of this article discusses homosexuality as a mental disorder. Nouwen asks here, ‘to what degree do we have to consider homosexuality as a mental disorder with deeper roots than the feelings or ideas of the surrounding culture?’ He then goes on to discuss two standpoints: 1) The psychoanalytic approach and 2) The phenomenological approach. In 1) he quotes from a letter of Sigmund Freud to a concerned mother to show Freud’s kindness and sympathy and also discusses a study done by I. Bieber in 1962. In his discussion of 2) the phenomenological approach he uses material extensively from a study by Hans Giese in 1958 about the homosexual man. Two sub-sections here are: 1.How does the homosexual experience his own body? And 2) How does the homosexual experience himself in the world? This material is followed by a section entitled: Homosexuality and Pastoral Care in which he states: ‘We believe that in our pastoral relationship with our fellow man we can try to understand the deep suffering of the homosexual in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and make him free for unconditional hope’. The final section of this article is entitled Practical Considerations. These are, Nouwen suggests, his own rather than scientific conclusions. He states here that, ‘Our general attitude toward homosexuality should be free from anxiety and fear, not to speak of disgust and rejection. By a relaxed and understanding relationship to our homosexual fellow man, we might help him more than by an overly-moralistic concern which requires change as a condition for friendship’.

Holy week meditations

This item is a 5 page series of Holy Week meditations by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘ Holy Week Meditations’, published in ‘Praying’ a journal of the National Catholic Reporter, March-April, 1988, No. 23, pp. 4 – 9. Some of these excerpts have appeared in Nouwen’s Road to Daybreak, published in 1988 and are written during his time at l’Arche Trosley Breuil in France. The mediations begin with Palm Sunday and Nouwen is pondering Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem and writing of the words spoken by Pere Thomas during the service. Monday is written in the form of a prayer. Tuesday begins with Jesus in John’s gospel ‘one of you will betray me’. Nouwen writes of Jesus being ‘handed over’ and moving from activity to passivity. Wednesday Nouwen writes of the positions of Peter and of Judas and the choices one makes to trust in God’s mercy and the other to despair in the face of his betrayal rather than trust. Thursday Nouwen describes his participation in the Holy Thursday service at the l’Arche community in Paris and speaks of being touched deeply by the washing of the feet. ’I saw a glimpse of the new kingdom Jesus came to bring. Everybody in the room knew how far they were from being a perfect expression of God’s love. But everybody was also willing to make a step in the direction to which Jesus pointed’. Good Friday which Nouwen describes as both a day of suffering and a day of hope. Nouwen writes of seeing Christ’s body lying across the whole world and the immense suffering of humanity. Holy Saturday Nouwen writes of the Easter Vigil, and sees ‘the celebration of the resurrection of the body is also the celebration of the daily care given to the bodies of these handicapped men and women. Nouwen ends the mediations with Easter Sunday. A quiet Eucharist at Mdme Vanier’s house and the discussion after the Mass. ‘The five of us sitting in a circle around the table with a little bread and a little wine…knew deep in our hearts that for us too all had changed, while all had remained the same’.

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