“Although many good things have been written about contemplation and contemplative prayer, many people still have the impression that contemplative prayer is something very special, very “high,” or very difficult, and really not for ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary problems. This is unfortunate because the discipline of contemplative prayer is particularly valuable for those who have so much on their minds that they suffer from fragmentation. If it is true that all Christians are called to bring their thoughts into an ongoing conversation with their Lord, then contemplative prayer can be a discipline that is especially important for those who are deeply involved in the many affairs of the world.”
Henri Nouwen is a world treasure of Christian contemplative wisdom, and I, a big fan. In one of his best- known books “The Return of the Prodigal son” Henri shares his discovery of deeper faith and personal understanding by observing a famous painting by Rembrandt.
A well-educated priest, Henri taught at Harvard for many years until he was called to a new life in ministry to L’Arche, a home for mentally handicapped persons. In this home Henri came face to face with his frail humanity and found deeper meaning and purpose in his life.
Henri has a warm style of writing that feels as if he is sitting next to you sharing a cup of coffee and telling his stories. His humility shines through his writings as he shares his human struggles in the context of who he is and who God calls him to be.
Henri does not present himself as a thinker and a man of great knowledge, which he is, but as a man searching for the heart of himself through the heart of God.
For all who have known loneliness, dejection, jealousy, or anger, Nouwen reveals and shares insight into these feelings through the three key figures in the painting; The prodigal son, the older brother, and the father.
The challenge Nouwen presents to his readers, is the challenge of loving others like the father, and feeling loved, like the son; this universal theme of humanity, touches the core of who we are and who we long to be. Henri, in all his writings, like God, calls us to transformation through a contemplative life in Christ. I highly recommend his books and teachings.
written by Cathy Gregory