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Henri Nouwen fonds Item
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Drawing closer to God and man

This item is a 7 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Drawing Closer to God and Man’ published in Sign, May 1976, Vol. 55, No. 8, pp. 10 – 16. This is part two of a two part article (see Sign, April 1976). It is an excerpt from, Nouwen, Henri: The Genesee Diary, Report from a Trappist Monastery. In this article Nouwen continues to reflect on his 7 month stay at the Abbey of the Genesee in New York State. Nouwen reflects on a number of aspects of his experience under some of the following headings: 1) Boring Work. Nouwen finds the boredom of the manual labor he is given each day makes him feel angry and frustrated. Under the guidance of the Abbot, he begins to discover that ‘manual work, indeed, unmasks my illusions, it shows how I am constantly looking for interesting, exciting, distracting activities to keep my mind away from the confrontation with my nakedness, powerlessness, mortality’. 2) Silence. In this section Nouwen describes his growing awareness of the ambiguous feelings that arise in him when he talks too much and does not seek silence. 3) Scheduled Prayer. In seeking a deep prayer life for his return to his busy work, Nouwen is advised by the Abbot to have a scheduled time of prayer daily that can never be broken without permission of his spiritual advisor. 4) Monastic Capitalism. Nouwen discusses in this section his experience of the marketing wisdom of the monks in the selling of their bread. 5) Center of the world. Abbot Eudes describes the monastery as ‘the center of the world’. Nouwen reflects that ‘Insofar as the monastery is the place where the presence of God in the world is most explicitly manifest and brought to consciousness, it is indeed the center of the world’. 6) Total Commitment. Nouwen asks the Abbot about total commitment because ‘I have had a glimpse of the reality of being unconditionally committed to Christ in a total surrender to him. In that glimpse, I also saw how divided I still am, how hesitantly I commit myself, with what reluctance I surrender’. 7) Thanksgiving. Nouwen has been asked to speak to the community about his experience with them. He speaks in terms of The Lord, the world, the brethren, and the saints and what he has learned of each. 8) Epilogue. Nouwen writes the epilogue more than 6 months after he has left the Abbey and reflects on how little he feels the experience has changed him. However, he sees it as having given him strength to support him in ‘the Garden of Gethsemane and the long, dark night of life’.

Draft of Sexuality of Handicapped

Item consists of a draft typescript of a book by Jean Vanier, "Sexuality of Handicapped." File includes a cover letter from Vanier asking his friends to read the text and send him their thoughts.

Dolby stereo

Item consists of one stereo system. This was Henri Nouwen's Dolby System 4 speaker system and manual recording system. Sue Mosteller says that this is the player that Nouwen used to play all of his cassettes.

Does the news destroy compassion?

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Does the News Destroy Compassion?, published in The Sign, September, 1976, pp.25 -27. Nouwen begins this article by making reference to the monk, Thomas Merton who read no newspapers, nor watched television, nor listened to the radio but who had a strong sense of solidarity with humanity. Nouwen quotes Merton ‘ My first duty is to start to live as a member of a human race that is no more and no less ridiculous than I am myself’. This, Nouwen suggests, lead Merton to compassion. ‘It was because of this compassionate solidarity that Merton was able to speak out and to offer criticism…to distinguish illusions from reality’. Nouwen then speaks about our modern exposure daily to images and descriptions of deep human suffering that we can do nothing about. He says, ‘ I am wondering, more and more, if day-to-day confrontation with human suffering with which identification is impossible does not, in fact, create more anger than love and more disgust than compassion’. He then asks, ‘How can I become a compassionate person?. Nouwen indicates that most of Merton’s information came from personal sources, letters, from individuals rather than collectivities. “In these letters Merton saw the world with its pains and joys; these letters brought him in contact with a living community of people who had real faces, real tears, and real smiles’. Nouwen concludes the article ‘A compassionate person has an eye for small things and is able to trust in the simple response. The great temptation is to make things so complex that any response seems inadequate and meaningless’.

Doctoral examinations in Psychology certificate

Item consists of a certificate from the University of Nijmegen faculty of Literature and Philosophy, dated February 3, 1964. This certificate declares that Nouwen has completed his examinations, cum laude, for a doctoral degree in Psychology. The back of the certificate is in Dutch and Latin, and certifies that the doctorandus was completed in psychology, with the primary subject being the Psychology of Religion and Culture, and secondary subjects being Sociology and Social Geography.

Doctoral candidacy certificate

Item consists of a certificate from the University of Nijmegen faculty of Literature and Philosophy, dated December 14, 1959. This certificate declares Nouwen to be a candidate for a Psychology doctoral degree. It is signed by Professor J. Prick and Professor Th. Rutten.

Do not worry all things will be given: spiritual life

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘ Do Not Worry, All Things will be Given’, published in the Catholic Agitator September, 1980, Vol. 10 No. 7, pp. 1 – 3. Nouwen begins the article by stating ‘Worrying is such a part and parcel of our daily life that not worrying seems not only impossible but even undesirable’. Nouwen then outlines his intentions for the article, ‘In the first section I will discuss how worrying affects our daily life. In the second part I hope to show how Jesus responds to our paralyzing worries by offering us a new life, a life in the Spirit. Finally, in the last section I want to offer some specific disciplines which can cause our worries to slowly lose their power over us and allow us to experience unceasingly the freedom of God’s Spirit’. In Part I Nouwen speaks of our lives as being filled with busyness and yet also being unfulfilled. In Part II, Nouwen points to Jesus’ busy and yet focused life and suggests that Jesus in his Spirit wants that for us too. ‘Poverty, pain, struggle, anguish, agony and even inner darkness may continue to be part of our experience. They might even be God’s way of purifying us. But life is no longer boring, lonely, resentful or depressing because we have come to know that everything that happens is part of our way to the house of the Father’. In Part III Nouwen speaks of the need each of us has for both solitude and community as the way to this fulfilment.

Dispuut “De Toorts”

Item consists of a certificate with the title Dispuut “De Toorts” that is dated March 7, 1956, and given by Corpori Studiosorum Noviomagensium [University of Nijmegen] from a group called Caroli Magni, and the Roland Society. It is likely that this is a certificate from a student society at the University of Nijmegen that is granting Nouwen membership.

Discipleship and failure

Item consists of a copy of an article called "Discipleship and failure" by Ched Myers. The article is about failure and discipleship seen through the Gospel of Mark.


Item consists of a book in which Nouwen has written the foreword, stating in part: "It is a prophetic book in a time in which few people dare to speak unpopular but truly healing words. What makes Arnold's words so healing is that they are not based on an idea, an ideology or a theory, but on an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ."

Disappearing from the world

This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Disappearing from the World’, published in The Sign, November, 1976. Nouwen opens with a quote from Thomas Merton describing his monastery as ‘a place in which I disappear from the world as an object of interest in order to be everywhere in it by hiddenness and compassion. To exist everywhere, I have to be nowhere’. Nouwen suggests the word ‘displacement’ for his movement towards compassion. He states that compassion is a gift but that it requires discipline. He states, ‘The discipline of displacement is a discipline by which we unmask the illusion of “having it put together in a special way” and get in touch with our reality, which is that we are pilgrims on the way, broken people in search of healing, unfulfilled people looking for the One who can fulfill us, sinners asking for grace’. Nouwen concludes by suggesting the necessity of two things: community that leads to prayer and prayer that leads to community.

Dictionary of pastoral care and counselling

Item consists of a photocopy of the title page and a definition Nouwen co-wrote with J. Imbach for "God's Will, Acceptance of." He included a section titled: "1. A Life According to God's Will" and "2. Pastoral Implications."

Desert wisdom: sayings from the desert fathers

Item consists of a photocopy of an introduction which Nouwen wrote while in Peru and in which he stated in part: ". . .this book is a work of love, the fruit of a deep friendship and a way of whispering into your ears what Abba Bessarion whispered into the ears of Abba Doulas: 'God is here, and God is everywhere.'"

Descend with the mind into the heart: the call to unceasing prayer

This item is a five page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Descend with the Mind into the Heart; the call to unceasing prayer’, published in Sojourners, August 20, 1980, pp: 20 – 24. This is the third part of a series which included articles on solitude and silence. Nouwen begins by stating ‘solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer’. He also, once again uses stories from the desert fathers beginning with Arsenius to point to the importance of prayer. Nouwen, in his first part of this article headed, Prayer of the Mind, suggests that most ministers would say that prayer is of the utmost importance but that in fact, they don’t do it. ‘The contrast between the great support for the idea of prayer and the lack of support for the practice of it is so blatantly visible that it becomes quite easy to believe in the ruses of the evil one which Amma Theodora describes with such vivid detail. These ruses are identified as: 1) to make us think of prayer as an activity of the mind 2) a viewpoint that restricts the meaning of prayer to thinking about God. Nouwen states that ‘both these views of prayer are the products of a culture in which high value is place on mastering the world through the intellect’. Nouwen then goes on to discuss what he identifies as the prayer of the heart ‘which leads to that rest where the soul can dwell with God’. Nouwen identifies in his concluding section entitled ‘Prayer and Ministry’ three disciplines of prayer: 1) Nurtured by short prayers 2) unceasing and 3) all-inclusive. Nouwen concludes this third article by stating: ‘When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gesture, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it’.

Death and Christ

Item consists of a typescript for "Death and Christ", a sermon given by Nouwen in which he suggests that death, which we do not want to confront, is also a way to life. Nouwen looks at how we avoid death in our culture and how we need to be willing to face our own death, which can become a sign of glory.

Deacon certificate

Item consists of a certificate from Archbishop Bernardus Johannes Alfrink, dated November 18, 1956, which certifies that Nouwen has been ordained deacon. Received while Nouwen was studying at the seminary to be ordained.

De vraag naar God in schraletijden

Item consists of an article titled De vraag naar God in schraletijden [The question of God in lean times] by Jurjen Beumer. The article is a discussion of a new form of Christian spirituality, and talks about Nouwen and his spirituality. There are two copies of the article. One is a newspaper clipping, and the other is a print-out on computer paper that has been photocopied.

De magneet van Ars

Item consists of an article which discusses Nouwen's visit to Ars [according to a brief translation].

Daniel and Ezekiel prints

Item consists of a matching set of framed prints by Rita Corbin of the faces of Daniel (E108) and Ezekiel (E109) above biblical verses. The "Daniel" print features the verse Daniel 3:90. The "Ezekiel" print features the verse Ezekiel 2:6.

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