Books by Henri Nouwen, any good?

Has anyone read any books by Henri Nouwen? If so, would you recommend?

I just finished The Genesee Diary and enjoyed his writing in that book very much. I found the book essential to my spiritual discernment and I am looking forward to reading his The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

He is a very honest writer. I think he speaks to the human side quite well, especially our anxieties and doubts.

I have a review of one of his books on my BLOG: Heart Speaks to Heart: Three Prayers to Jesus

Hi upbeatjonm,
Thank you for posting this. I purchased a book by Henri Nouwen called ‘Jesus: A Gospel’ but have not fully read it yet. I will do so now thanks to you and the other posters.
God Bless,

He’s my favorite catholic author. Whenever I read his books, I always feel as if he’s writing just for me.

I own most of his books and my favorites are Seeds of Hope - compilation of his writings, Inner voice of love, and Sabbatical Journey. I am now reading Befriending life, where I found out that he never break his vow of celibacy (It’s been a question of my mind for a long time since I found out that he sometimes had emotional dependency to some people and the relationship became vague).

I shall be honest here that sometimes I don’t agree with him, especially about him allowing non-Catholics to receive communion when he celebrated Eucharist. But it’s very minor.

In Out Of Solitude, Henri J. M. Nouwen writes ”Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives.” The Japanese had a term in their aesthetics called “aware,” pronounced ah-wah-rey, which seemed to express this very same feeling. It seems that there is no such thing as clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. I always appreciated the curious coincidence of the pun on the English “aware” or “awareness.”

“In every satisfaction,” Nouwen continues, ”there is an awareness of its limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness…”

Jesus made us look at our pains, but also beyond them. “You are sad now, but I shall see you again and your hearts will be full of joy.” A man or woman without hope in the future cannot live creatively in the present. The paradox of expectation indeed is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today, that those who expect joy to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the center of the old, that those who look forward to the returning Lord can discover him already in their midst.

Our experience of life is profoundly paradoxical. At times we can find much in ourselves or in others which makes it easy to stand high and feel that we are indeed “little less than the gods,” as Psalm 8:2-8 puts it:

“You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”

At other times we find much that cuts us down at the knees and makes it difficult to believe in anything. And at the end, death stands waiting to cut us down. Nonetheless, the long history of human hope, love, labor and struggle continues. It is testimony to our conviction that our lives do make sense, that we and our world are truly becoming something, that there is a real future. Here are the reflections of some writers who have found Jesus in their midst and the sense it has brought to their lives:


I have read at least a dozen.
some are spirituality-lite, some are genuinely reflective of his own difficult spiritual journey and may be helpful to someone else who struggles, anything on L’arche community where he lived and ministered for several years I found very inspirational. The best, and the only one I have kept in getting rid of 90% of my library, is a slim paperback on praying with icons, since there are good color reproductions of the 4 traditional icons featured, and it helped me for the first time understand icons and how they aid worship and prayer.

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