Henri Nouwen




nouwen1.jpg"Henri Nouwen was a Dutchman, a Catholic priest and a university professor. He was born in 1932, and ordained to the priesthood in 1957. After his ordination, he pursued advanced studies in the field of psychology. From 1964 through 1981, Nouwen enjoyed an impressive academic career with positions at the Menninger Clinic, Notre Dame University, the University of Nijmegen, and Yale University. As he approached his fiftieth year, Nouwen turned his life toward the pursuit of what he called "the descending way of Christ". He spent 6 months in Bolivia and Peru as a missionary to the poor. After a short return to the states, he spent time in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Troubled by the horrors of the war there, he returned again to the states to lecture on his experiences. Nouwen was then called to serve in the l'Arche communities, a world wide organization of communities providing care to mentally retarded adults. Henri Nouwen died in September 1996." -- Sacred Journey

Quotations about Henri Nouwen


  • "Nouwen began his career as one extensively trained in the field of psychology. He studied with some of the great pastoral psychologists on both sides of the Atlantic. Early on he left his Dutch homeland and established himself in North America. He discovered that much ministry training of clergy and lay persons alike followed professional models developed in the social sciences. He grew convinced that a major gift the Church could offer the world were "wounded healers" spiritually reformed by the truths of their faith and the life of Jesus. Therapy could evolve into a healing ministry open to all in Christ's family. -- Pneuma - Henri Nouwen's Contribution to Spirituality

  • "Henri's desire for community and passionate conviction that those rejected by society have essential and prophetic gifts to offer took shape during the 1960's through his involvement with the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Trained in psychology, his career took him to a variety of teaching positions at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, and ongoing involvement in American peace and social justice movements. In all of these, Henri looked for ways to help people deepen their spiritual foundations and cultivate community. He is one of the most popular and prolific spiritual writers of the later twentieth century." -- Henri Nouwen - L'Arche Canada

  • "Physical touch, affection, and the messiness of caring for an uncoordinated person did not come easily. But [Nouwen] had learned to love Adam, truly to love him. In the process he had learned what it must be like for God to love us -- spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed working with Adam had taught him the humility and 'emptiness' achieved by desert monks only after much discipline." -- Philip "The Holy Inefficiency of Henri Nouwen" - by Philip Yancey

Quotations from Henri Nouwen

  • "To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us. It means to take away the many barriers which prevent us from entering into communion with the other. When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts. When we dare to care, we have to confess that when others kill, I could have killed too. When others torture, I could have done the same. . . .
         By the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness we can participate in the care of God who came, not to the powerful but powerless, not to be different but the same, not to take our pain away but to share it. Through this participation we can open our hearts to each other and form a new community." --Excerpt from Out of Solitude

  • "Lord, that my life might become simple enough for me to be able to say "yes" when Jesus looks at me." --

  •      "It may well be that many pastors are insecure people, but that can be an asset as well as a liability. Insecure people need social contact. Many people with that kind of personality might choose the ministry because that is a way of dealing with their need. I don't think that's bad.

         One of the most beautiful ways for spiritual formation to take place is to let your insecurity lead you closer to the Lord. Natural hypersensitivity can become an asset; it makes you aware of your need to be with people and it allows you to be more willing to look at their needs. In a sense, you let your psychological trembling become trembling for the Lord; and you use the insecurity of human relationships to develop a firm relationship with God." -- Deepening Our Conversation with God - A Leadership Magazine Interview

  • "In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone.... In solitude we discover that life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared." -- from Out of Solitude

    More Quotes

    (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.)

    "We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love." -Bread For the Journey, 1996

    "Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people." -Bread For the Journey, 1996

    "Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his milieu to the point of being executed as a rebel. In this sense he also remains for nuclear man the way to liberation and freedom." -The Wounded Healer, 1972

    "I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self." -In the Name of Jesus, 1989

    "What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life." -In the Name of Jesus, 1989

    "When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." - Out of Solitude

    "Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, or repressed. But you have to keep searching for your body's deeper need, the need for genuine love. Every time you are able to go beyond the body's superficial desires for love, you are bringing your body home and moving toward integration and unity." - The Inner Voice of Love

    Resources on Henri Nouwen

    The links on Henri Nouwen given above as well as several others can be found on one of the pages of my Web site. Click here to see this page.