Over the course of his life, priest, professor, and spiritual teacher Henri Nouwen wrote thousands of letters to friends, acquaintances, parishioners, students, and readers of his work all around the world. He held a deep conviction about the value of reaching out to others through letters, believing that a thoughtful letter written in love could truly change someone’s life. As a result, many people looked to Nouwen as a long-distance spiritual advisor. This collection of previously unpublished letters stretches from the earliest years of Henri’s career through to his last ten years at L’Arche Daybreak. Rich in spiritual insights as well as touching details of Henri’s daily life, the letters are organized around themes that emerge not just in his correspondence but in his bestselling books: vocation and calling, solitude and prayer, suffering and perseverance, belovedness and community. All of these letters demonstrate Nouwen’s belief in the rich value of human relationships. As relevant today as they were when originally written, and full of insight and encouragement, these letters offer a deeply personal look into the mind of a spiritual giant, and are an ideal introduction to his life and thought.
Henri Nouwen was born in Holland in 1932 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1957. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. He experienced the monastic life with Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee, lived among the poor in Latin America with the Maryknoll missioners, and was interested and active in numerous causes related to social justice. After a lifetime of seeking, Henri Nouwen finally found his home in Canada, as pastor of L’Arche Daybreak, where people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers live together in community. He wrote forty books on spirituality and the spiritual life that have sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages. His vision of spirituality was broad and inclusive, and his compassion embraced all of humankind. He died in 1996.