My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Henri Nouwen has a different way of thinking. His decision to leave his career as a university professor in favor of working with the mentally handicapped is, perhaps, the best illustration to paint a picture of this intriguing man.
He was, it seems, a man who sought after God, and for that alone it is worth giving his words an opportunity to help inform us on our own journey. He saw life through a lens of beauty that I have an easier time admiring than emulating, but it is for this very reason that reading his work has been important to me. Anytime I can find an author that connects with my soul and at the same time offers perspective and qualities that I do not yet possess I am compelled to give them room to teach me.
This book is a small collection of letters that Nouwen wrote to his nephew, Marc. They are easy to read, easy to understand, and it seems that they actually chronicle his journey from his professorship to choosing to work full time with Jean Vanier’s L’Arche community (which is worth looking up itself).
The content, as the title would suggest, is all about Jesus. He leans heavily on his travels and experiences to flavor the letters, and also he makes numerous pleas for the place of the Eucharist as an inextricable part of the life of a vibrant follower of Christ. It’s not that he says you cannot pursue Christ apart from regularly partaking of the Lord’s Supper, he merely offers the opinion that if you deeply desire Christ you will be drawn to the elements and process of Communion.
I would highly recommend this book for someone who is unfamiliar with Nouwen’s work. Though it isn’t my favorite in his collection, it is very accessible and gives some direct insight into his heart.
“It is so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really to live.”
“What I personally find so fascinating is that this spiritual freedom is something quite different from a spiritualized freedom. The freedom Jesus gives doesn’t imply that oppressors can go on oppressing, that the poor can stay poor, and the hungry stay hungry, since we are now, in a spiritual respect, free. A true spiritual freedom that touches the heart of our being in all its humanity must take effect in every sphere: physical, emotional, social, and global. It is meant to be everywhere visible; but the core of this spiritual freedom doesn’t depend on the manner in which it is made visible.”
– Henri Nouwen