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Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was one of the world's most popular theologians and spiritual writers. Thomas Merton was his main influence and Nouwen spent long spells at a Trappist monastery to deepen his relationship with God. A clinical psychologist and a priest, he brought to his writings a deep understanding of the mind and the heart. Best-selling author of more than 40 books - seven million copies sold around the world - Nouwen remains one of the most influential figures of his generation: The Wounded Healer, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Reaching Out, The Genesee Diary and The Inner Voice of Love have become classics in their genre and now they are being appreciated by a new generation of readers.
A Dutchman, steeped in the lives of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, Henri Nouwen was ordained a Catholic priest in Holland but later moved to America to study religion and psychiatry. This led to prestigious appointments at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Yale and Harvard. But Nouwen did not feel close to God during these high-profile years and needed to test his vocation. He eventually found it as pastor of a L'Arche community in Canada, working among those with learning disabilities.
But during the early years of this transition, he suffered a breakdown and stepped aside from the community to undergo therapy. After a gradual restoration to stronger mental health. Nouwen returned to L'Arche as a priest but continued to write and to travel. Henri Nouwen died on September 21, 1996.
I have written two biographies of Nouwen, Wounded Prophet and Lonely Mystic, and three anthologies, Eternal Seasons, The Dance of Life and Arrivals and Departures. There are also chapters on him in Spiritual Masters for All Seasons.
'The prayer of the heart is like a murmuring stream that continues underneath the many waves of every day life (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out) .
Henri Nouwen speaking to me on BBC Radio 4