Category Archive: Headlines

  1. We Don’t Need More Data, We Need Mystery

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    by Christian Crook [re-posted in part from Huffington Post]

    Last summer I attended a talk by Esther de Waal, a foremost scholar in the Benedictine and Celtic traditions, where I heard her boldly say: “I don’t want more investigative journalism, what I want is mystery.”

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    We’ve just stumbled out of weeks that have baffled and horrified us. A torrent of factual and “alternative news” has filled our newsfeed while Instagram has continued to churn out perfectly curated photographs, (scheduled in Hootsuite, no doubt, weeks ago.) We are all sifting through a sea of data, advertising and misinformation seeking clarity, searching for answers.

    In a similar time of upheaval, more than 50 years ago, a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:

    ‘Dear Sirs: I am.’

    Mystery.

    Chesterton understood the immense capacity of the human heart: a mysterious well capable of deepest compassion and incomprehensible evil.

    It’s evil we’ve seen in these days.

    In the wake of the U.S. executive order on immigration, we’ve seen the poem from the Statue of Liberty – for decades a symbol of American immigration – shared all over social media: “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The poem was written by a Jewish woman, American poet and essayist Emma Lazarus (1849-1887,) drawing inspiration from her Sephardic Jewish heritage and her work on Ward’s Island helping refugees detained by immigration authorities.

    “Wherever there is humanity, there is the theme for a great poem,” she once said, according to the Jewish Women’s Archives.

    Mystery.

    (To read the article in its entirety, click here.)

  2. Henri Nouwen: The Catholic Priest Who Embraced His Demons

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    “In our woundedness, we can become sources of life for others.”  — Henri Nouwen

    Henri Nouwen was a renowned Catholic priest, author of numerous books, and beloved confidant to many troubled souls. He was a professor at Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, but went on to live in community with people with mental and physical disabilities at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

    “When Nouwen talked, it was like someone talking into your own ear with the language of the heart — simpler, more direct, talking about his weaknesses but not being exhibitionistic,” recalls Ronald Rolheiser, Catholic priest and author.

    Fred Rogers, the creator and host of the hit kids’ series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, said that Nouwen taught him to “grow into a thoughtful person who cares about the essentials of life.”

    (To read the article in its entirety, click here.)

  3. Priest, Writer, Mentor, Misfit: Understanding Henri Nouwen

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    by Michael W. Higgins [re-posted in part from Commonweal Magazine]

    Two decades ago, on September 21, 1996, while on the way to St. Petersburg to shoot a documentary based on his acclaimed spiritual meditation, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen—priest, writer, professor, and pastoral mentor—died of a heart attack in his homeland of the Netherlands. His friends and countless admirers were stunned. Prolific author of more than three dozen books, and a much-called-upon speaker and preacher, Nouwen was a large presence in Catholic circles and a growing influence in Protestant ones as well. His loss was felt not only in his immediate community but around the world.

    I knew Nouwen slightly, having had two memorable personal interactions with him in the 1980s. Asked to establish an adult education and pastoral information structure at my new university (St. Jerome’s in Ontario), I was seeking an inaugural speaker for the opening of the university’s Centre for Catholic Experience when my dean, Peter Naus, suggested his close friend Henri Nouwen, then a professor at Harvard Divinity School. Though my awareness of Nouwen was limited to his early book, Thomas Merton, Contemplative Critic, which I had found superficial, I did not demur; after all, I was untenured, new on campus, and the dean was Nouwen’s friend and a big name to boot, so it seemed a good thing to do.

    And it was. Nouwen’s address—a dramatized homily titled “The Spirituality of Peace-Making”—was informative, skillfully constructed, and masterfully delivered. But what most impressed me was his request, prior to his talk, to spend some time in our chapel. The interval of prayer and solitude set a tone, a disposition, that flowed into Nouwen’s presentation in the packed hall. He asked the gathered multitude to join him for several minutes of Taizé hymns, after which—moving about the dais with awkward strides—he spoke with the passion of a televangelist, eschewing academic jargon, delighting in the anecdotal, and not once referring to a text. It was performance art, and he was very good at it.

    (To read the article in its entirety, click here.)

  4. Henri Nouwen’s Intimate Letters Shed Light on his ‘Theology of the Heart’

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    [Re-posted in part from Religion News Service, October 04 – story by John Murawski]

    (RNS) As one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent Christian spiritual voices, the Catholic priest and missionary Henri Nouwen touched millions of people worldwide with his moving lectures and 39 published books.

    Revered as saintly by Catholics and Protestants alike, Nouwen eschewed dogma and judgment in favor of a personal, confessional style that affirmed a theology of the heart.

    In the two decades since his death from a heart attack at age 64, Nouwen’s popularity and influence have spawned at least five biographies. His reflections on faith, loneliness, vulnerability, love, prayer, social justice and sexuality have won over modern audiences.

    But this beloved priest had an even more intimate side, known only to those who corresponded with him privately.

    During his lifetime, Nouwen penned some 16,000 letters, expressing professional advice, pastoral counsel, reading recommendations and vows of friendship.

    Nouwen’s letters chronicle his lifelong struggles with celibacy, his disaffection with academia and his prolonged recovery from a nervous breakdown — among the many spiritual stations that marked his remarkable journey.

    Now a selection of Nouwen’s letters, 204 of them, has been published in “Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life,” commemorating the 20th anniversary of Nouwen’s death.

    Nouwen’s correspondents were friends, colleagues, public figures and total strangers who wrote to him in periods of anguish and despair. He responded to virtually all of them.

    This volume contains Nouwen’s letters to then-Sen. Mark Hatfield, the Oregon Republican investigated on ethics violations; Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”; and Joan Kroc, the philanthropist and third wife of the founder of the McDonald’s hamburger empire.

    (To read the full article, please click here.)

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  5. Henri Nouwen’s Gift to Anne Lamott

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    [Re-posted in part from the Anglican Journal, May 18, 2016 – story by Tali Folkins]

    When Anne Lamott found herself, at age 31, a self-loathing drug and alcohol addict, it was the idea of “radical self-love,” as expressed by Henri Nouwen and writers like him, that allowed her to turn a corner on her life, the 62-year-old American writer told a Toronto audience last week.

    “Little by little by little, I started being a resurrection story, and…it was self-love,” Lamott said. “I found out who I was, the Beloved…It loved me back to life.”

    Lamott, author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction including the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually) and Plan B, was speaking at a talk, “Henri & Me,” presented by the Henri Nouwen Society Friday, May 13.

    Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest, was born in the Netherlands but lived much of his adult life in the U.S. and Canada. A professor and author of 39 books, he often wrote openly of his loneliness and other inner struggles. He was also, like his friend Jean Vanier, involved in L’Arche, a network of communities for disabled people.

    In her talk, Lamott, whose non-fiction often deals with her own life struggles and spiritual life in a frank, humourous way, delivered, in somewhat stream-of-consciousness fashion, a loose spiritual and psychological autobiography of her earlier years, with a liberal mixture of often-dark wit that drew frequent laughter and, ultimately, a standing ovation from her audience.

    (To continue reading, please click here.)

  6. ‘Way of the Heart’ conference celebrates Henri Nouwen’s ministry

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    by Jennifer Vosters [reposted in part from the National Catholic Reporter]

    This summer, the Henri Nouwen Society is hosting an international conference to celebrate one of the 20th century’s most significant spiritual leaders.

    Way of the Heart: Exploring the Inner Journey Through the Lens of Henri Nouwen” will take place June 9-11 at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. It will be a “feast” of fellowship and reflection for longtime Nouwen readers and newcomers alike, featuring speeches and seminars by prominent spiritual voices including Oblate Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Shane Claiborne, St. Joseph Sr. Sue Mosteller, David Haas, and others.

    The conference marks the 20th anniversary of Nouwen’s death in 1996.

    “We want it to be a transformative experience for people,” said Karen Pascal, Henri Nouwen Society executive director, “all in a beautiful, natural setting.” Attendees are expected from all over the world including Canada, the U.S., England, and the Netherlands.

    As a priest, writer, and theologian, Henri Nouwen began to set himself apart in the 1960s when he came to the United States from the Netherlands to study psychology, hoping to understand the connections between theology, spirituality, and the human psyche. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, Harvard University, and Yale University, where he and Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley became the first Catholic faculty members at the Divinity School. But he was unhappy in the competitive university environment, which often ran counter to his deep conviction of God’s gentle, unconditional love.

    (To read the article in full, please click here.)

  7. 20 years beyond the grave, Nouwen still teaching

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    [Re-posted in part from The Catholic Register, April 23 – story by Michael Swan]

    TORONTO – Fr. Henri Nouwen is still trying to help us understand. He’s been dead 20 years, but he’s still there talking to us about our gifts and our failures, our hopes and our doubts, God and love and sin and community and loneliness.

    Henri_CRThirty-eight of Nouwen’s 39 books are still in print, some available in half a dozen or more languages. The books are studied in Catholic and Protestant seminaries, assigned as spiritual reading by retreat masters and passed from friend to friend. More than seven million copies have been sold. U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has named his most popular book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, one of the most influential books in her life.

    A new Nouwen book is scheduled to hit the presses this fall, consisting of excerpts from 16,000 letters he wrote over more than 20 years to readers who sought his advice.

    This extraordinary legacy from a single spiritual writer only partly explains Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s enthusiasm for a three-day conference on Nouwen scheduled June 9 to 11 on the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. As a popular writer, a priest and psychologist, Rolheiser has found himself following a path laid by Nouwen for almost 40 years.

    “This is not my most unfavourite topic. I love Nouwen,” said Rolheiser. “He’s influenced me in both the academic world and the non-academic world.”

    As a popular writer whose weekly column has been featured in The Catholic Register for close to 30 years, Rolheiser has aspired to achieve Nouwen’s combination of simplicity and insight.

    “You go back further, when I was young and I was in the academic world, I tried to be colourful and use bigger words. Through the years, I have adopted Nouwen’s formula. How simple and clear can I make it?” said Rolheiser. “The deepest things are the simplest things. It’s easy to write complexity. It’s not easy to write simple.”

    Despite Nouwen’s success, or perhaps because of it, his books have never had an enthusiastic embrace among academic theologians.

    Academic snobbery directed at the author of The Wounded Healer, The Way of the Heart and Life of the Beloved does not leave Rolheiser serene.

    “That’s academic bias. You can use the word jealousy if you want,” he said. “He was trying for a language of the heart. His formula was simple, but not simplistic.”

    In his own career as a university professor, Rolheiser has taught Nouwen’s books despite the murmurings in the staff lounge.

    (To read the full article, please click here.)

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