What I Learned from a Pastor’s Letters

John Starke | December 9, 2016


Henri Nouwen is a complicated figure. He was a Roman Catholic priest whose influence extended far beyond Roman Catholicism. His ecumenical appeal made more angular Catholics nervous, and his Protestant readers gave “qualified” appreciation. While Nouwen wasn’t a liberal, his life and work is a product of a Vatican II age. It came out after his death that he was gay, though he remained celibate and trusted the church’s teaching. Despite his chaste life, his presence in the gay community and his work with AIDS advocacy in the 1980s often made more religious conservatives nervous.

Nouwen was, admittedly, not a theologian but a pastor, spiritual director, and an activist. For more suspicious readers, he always seemed theologically elusive. For the weak and wounded, he always seemed inviting. A new collection of his letters, Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life, gives evidence of the latter. Henri, above all, was a pastor with a gift for soul care.

If you’re familiar with Nouwen’s works, you know they tend to be autobiographical. In The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey and Beyond the Mirror: Reflections on Life and Death, Nouwen wrestles with his struggles and experiences. Other books like The Wounded Healer


To read the rest of this article, visit https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-review-love-henri.