Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite writers.
An internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor, Henri Nouwen wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life.
Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard.
For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21st, 1996, in Holland and is buried in King City, Ontario.
Every time I read something written by Nouwen I learn, grow and am nourished by God. Here are some of my favorite quotes by Henri. May they nourish you today:
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.”
“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”
“Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the centre of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”
“If you really want to know God, go to his people. Go to your barber and talk about God. Tell the carpenter about what you’re experiencing. Take time to read the lives of the saints . They always knock you off your feet because they tell you the preoccupations you have aren’t the ones you should have. Get in touch with those women and men who did crazy things like falling in love with God.”
“You are confronted again and again with the choice of letting God speak or letting your wounded self cry out. Although there has to be a place where you can allow your wounded part to get the attention it needs, your vocation is to speak from the place in you where God dwells.”
“We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.”
“To pray is to walk in the full light of God, and to say simply, without holding back, “I am a human being and you are God.” At that moment, conversion occurs, the restoration of the true relationship.”
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
I love the one about fulfilling our God-given tasks. It bumps right up against this one:”…your vocation is to speak from the place in you where God dwells.”
I think I speak from my mom-heart. Maybe that’s because I see Him as my ultimate parent.
Thanks for this, Jeanie.
I absolutely adore Henri Nouwen — so much of what he writes speaks so clearly to me. And I think he struggled, too, with faith and belief and finding serenity and his true calling at times, which I can also relate to.
These quotes are all fabulous — I need to think on each of them a good long while.
Wow. I need to read some of his works!
This is a lovely and inspiring column on Nouwen. I have loved his writing for a long time. You are so right, that his writing is “nourishing.” I felt nourished by reading your post on Nouwen today.
This quote about prayer is especially beautiful: “To pray is to listen to the One who calls you `my beloved daughter,’ `my beloved son,’ `my beloved child.’
That is a wonderful image…of a loving God calling each of us, as a well-loved child. Wise and comforting!
Jean Wise says
Thanks for the nice comments and for stopping by to read my blog. Nouwen always speaks to my heart!!
Wonderful food for thought! Thank you for sharing, and I wish you blessings on this Fingerprint Friday.
Thanks Jeanie. “Compassion is hard.” It requires so much energy, and yet that’s what the world needs to see. Good inspirational words.
Marti Pieper says
Nouwen is one of my favorites, too. Thanks for sharing these quotes. Each one deserves much quiet reflection.