Living in the spirit of
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DR MICHAEL FORD
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Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was one of the world's most popular theologians and spiritual writers. 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. After sabbaticals in a monastery and with the poor of South America, he was still restlessly searching for a spiritual home. He found this eventually - 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. A long-time interest in the circus led to his joining a flying trapeze troupe on their tours across Europe to study the art of flying and catching. This experience resulted in a highly original theology of 'letting go and being caught by God', especially at the time of death. Henri Nouwen died on September 21, 1996.
'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 Michael Ford on BBC Radio 4