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

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

October 5

[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.

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