Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 19, 2001
Essays trace Nouwen's longing
Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit, Henri J. M. Nouwen. Crossroad: New York. 157 pages. Hardcover.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
"As I hurried past," writes former colleague Sue Mosteller, "Henri invariably stopped when a homeless person accosted us on the street. Not only did he find some money to share, but he generally took time to speak to the person, ask some questions and listen to the story."
The sight of a brother's difficulty didn't cause fear or provoke a snub. Intriguingly, he was touched by such experiences. In the following days he would remember the individual by name during his celebration of the Eucharist.
"I, like most in society, no longer 'saw' the homeless individual", says Mosteller who worked with Nouwen at L'Arche, Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Ont., and now serves as his literary executrix. "Henri felt akin to the homeless because he was deeply conscious of his own longing for 'home.'"
Finding My Way Home allows Henri Nouwen to speak about our collective sense of homelessness and common yearning to be truly at home.
Three of these essays appeared previously in booklet form. The fourth is new and edited rather liberally from his notes by Mosteller.
The Path of Power deals with destructive and redemptive forces operative in the world and in our own hearts. The Path of Peace focuses on Adam, a profoundly disabled man with whom Nouwen lived at Daybreak. The Path of Waiting, this reviewer's favourite, speaks of both the waiting for God and the waiting of God.
The Path of Living and Dying represents a personal transformation after a serious accident. Nouwen survived the mishap but was deeply affected. During recovery, he became aware of life's "unfinished business." A revelation from God indicated: "I am going to bring you home."
Seven years later when he died Nouwen had begun to lose much of his fear and to see death as a fruitful experience.
Many of Nouwen's prolific writings have appeared in more than 40 books. While the danger of becoming a cult figure always looms, the appearance of Finding My Way Home is an indication of this modern spiritual master's continuing relevance and substance.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is an instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)