N is for Henri Nouwen

Sections of this topic

    It has been the interruptions of everyday life which have most revealed the divine mystery of which I am a part, all these interruptions presented themselves as opportunities to go beyond the normal patterns of daily life and find deeper connections than the previous safety of my physical, emotional and spiritual well being.

    – Henri Nouwen

    Isn’t it true that in the ordinary day we have the opportunity to look deeper into our experiences or interruptions to look beyond what is ordinary and discover the extraordinary, spiritual connection. This is what happened for me with learning about the author of the quote. At the beginning of the week, I asked God to reveal to me who I should feature for N. I was reading the book The Power of Pause and the above quote caught my attention. Not only because of its meaningfulness, but because the author’s last name began with an N.

    At that moment, I took that interruption to seek more about Henri Nouwen. I know that I’ve read other spiritual quotes from him, but I didn’t know much about who is and what he believes. Now I do and I realize how learning more from his writings will help me grow deeper into my quest of spiritual wellness in all areas of my life.

    Who is he?

    Nouwen ranks as one of the most significant spiritual leaders of our time. Nouwen was a priest, academic, psychologist, teacher, author, gifted public speaker, spiritual member, faithful correspondent and friend, wounded healer and a passionate seeker. With an uncanny ease he moved in and out of these different roles, never allowing himself to be fully contained or categorized. In so doing he showed, and continues to show, a generation of seekers how one’s gifts are to be placed at the service of those whom God places in our path.

    There is society dedicated to sharing his teachings: The purpose of the Henri Nouwen Society is to foster the spirituality of solitude, community and compassion that was embodied in the life and teaching of Henri Nouwen. (What I’m sharing about him comes from their website.)

    Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesist and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart.” Henri had an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust God more fully.

    What did he believe?

    Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.” The model he gives us is for building the kinds of relationships and communities that will allow each person to find his or her personal mission. He dedicated his life to the spiritual values of communion, community and ministry.

    What is his impact?

    The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages. He is often referred to as “the spiritual writer who most influenced our generation.”

    What interruptions in your life have led you to deeper spiritual growth? We would love to hear from you by sharing your comments below.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.