Love, Henri: A Wonderful Collection of Letters from Henri Nouwen

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When I first opened Love, Henri, it annoyed the heck out of me. I don’t know what I was thinking when I requested this book. I’m not a big fan of this genre (collected letters). All I knew was that one of my professors at Aquinas Institute obsessed with this man. She frequently assigned passages of his writing and I dutifully read the assignments even if I didn’t get much personally out of them. She was, and undoubtedly still is, a sweet, loving woman and her obsession with Henri Nouwen was seen as just one of her quirks.

Reading books like this is a little like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but in this case, it is a good and fulfilling half. It helps that most of the letters are to the same handful of close friends so the letters lend context to one another. The topics covered in the letters are easily to relate to. While the first few pages were hard for me to get through, the book did eventually grow on me and I did reach a point where I couldn’t put it down.

Henri Nouwen wrote to people of all walks of life: gay, straight, young, old, single, married, people in the religious life, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, atheist… He had a wide variety of friends. He loved to write letters and he took his friendships very, very, very seriously.

This book would be excellent for anyone doing research into Henri Nouwen as it gives tons of background information and context for many of his life’s events. It certainly added to my reading list as I was intrigued by what he had to say about several of his books, particularly Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.

I came away from this book with one intriguing question that could take a whole book to cover: Why isn’t there a open cause of canonization for Henri Nouwen and could he ever be canonized? I am very interested in what you have to say about that. On one side, his responses to questions in the letters were mostly quite orthodox. It is generally accepted by scholars that he did deal with same-sex attraction. He referred to it much like St. Paul refers to his own thorn in his side (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). He was a faithful priest who used his own suffering to effectively minister to others. He was very into ecumenism. On that front, he didn’t always follow Church teaching to the letter. What do you think? Should he be canonized? Could he be canonized?

I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Blogging for Books. Thank you Convergent Books for the opportunity.

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Henri Nouwen on Today’s World

 

I know a lot of people out there are worried about the state of the world. I’m currently reading a book that is a collection of letters by Catholic scholar and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen. One letter written in 1981 is in response to someone who wrote to him concerned whether humanity would survive to the end of the century. Here is his response:

Dear George,

I really don’t know if our civilization will survive the century. Considering the growing threat of a nuclear holocaust, there certainly is reason to wonder. But important for me is not if our civilization will survive or not but if we can continue to life with hope, and I really think we can because our Lord has given us His promise that He will stay with us at all times. He is the God of the living. He has overcome evil and death and His love is stronger than any form of death and destruction. That is why I feel that we should continually avoid the temptation of despair and deepen our awareness that God is present in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us and that that presence allows us to live joyfully and peacefully in a world so filled with sorrow and conflict.

Please be sure of my prayers for you in these tempting times.

Peace,

Henri Nouwen

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Stay tuned for my review of this book coming soon.