Henri Nouwen & 8230;COMPASSION Means Going Thesis

Length: 8 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Mythology - Religion Type: Thesis Paper: #47037189 Related Topics: Theological Reflection, Heart Of Darkness, Sermon, Personal Reflection
Excerpt from Thesis :

Richards, Reverend, former member of the senior staff of the Episcopal Bishop, also expressed concerns regarding Nouwen. Richards questioned whether Nouwen as the "wounded healer" encouraged "a kind of displayed vulnerability and a disincentive to growth that does not serve the priest or the church well."

In the final years of his life, Nouwen, admitted publically that he was a homosexual and "ministered" to others, not out of his strengths, but out of his own wounds.


In the essay, he co-authored with Donald P. McNeill and Douglas a. Morrison, Compassion: A Reflection on Christian Life, Nouwen wrote that compassionate people go directly to those who are suffering most and lives with them there. Compassion, Nouwen stressed, does not comprise a "bending toward the under privileged from a privileged position; & #8230;not a reaching out from on high to those… less fortunate below; & #8230; not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull."

Compassion builds a home, as noted in the quote introducing this paper, to serve where it can best help those who are hurting.

In his book the Return of the Prodigal Son, a Story of Homecoming, Nouwen recorded his personal reflections on the Rembrandt painting of: "The Return of: The Prodigal Son," and his personal life. Nouwen's reflections on the painting include "the characters, the painter and the scriptures. Nouwen observed that Rembrandt's painting strays from what we have all imagined the scene to be from the scripture reading."

Nouwen proposed that those who read the biblical account of the prodigal son likely picture a large estate or farm; with the father running down the road to meet his returning prodigal son as he approaches home.

Later, according the understanding most have of the account of the prodigal son, the father also greets the older son outside the home, as he came in from working in the fields. Rembrandt painted each person depicted in this story inside the father's house. He portrays the two sons in the same scene simultaneously. Nouwen encouraged his readers to study of the people portrayed in this poignant scene. Faithful to the scriptural account in a spiritual sense: "The father, while not running down the road, is certainly full of a very tender love for his younger son. And the younger son is very much heartbroken at his circumstances and humbles himself kneeling."

Although the older son is not presented outside in Rembrandt's painting, Rembrandt portrayed this son scarcely entering into the circle of light. Although present, the older son remains aloof; choosing not to participate in welcoming his once wayward, now repentant brother home.

Nouwen wrote that the prodigal son began his journey leading to his downfall by rejecting his father's values. Eventually, this younger son experiences rejection by those around him after he spent all his money. The prodigal son experienced total rejection when "employed" to feed hogs and no one even offered him any of the food the pigs had to eat. Those all around the prodigal son did not acknowledge that he, like them, had a real human need for sustenance. They failed to recognize him as being, like them, a real person. When the son became so hungry that he saw the pig's food as desirable, he came to the realization that he, like the people who did not recognize his needs as a human, was not a pig, but a human. He remembered that he was a son; that he had a father who loved him. When the son decided he would return home, he did not expect his father to totally forgive him. He had, like others who may not recognize they, as the prodigal son, have also thrown away their Heavenly Father's values; insulting Him; choosing to go astray. In his book about the prodigal son, Nouwen translated Matthew 18:3: "Unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Nouwen reminds readers that: "The younger son turned toward home only hoping to participate outside his father's home as a laborer, but found himself restored to complete sonship, a picture of being "re-born" into the Kingdom."

Nouwen encourages readers to study Rembrandt's painting; to meditate on it and then imagine themselves as the one returning to the Father.

The younger son made a change and the older son was asked to do so. Nouwen wrote: "People who have come to know God do not deny the darkness,...


They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself…." They move into the light of the Father.

The painting questioned…[Nouwen]. Who are you? Which of the figures do you identify with? His first thoughts were that he did not know what it was like to be the prodigal son, to be held and loved, to rest his head on the Father. He was one of the onlookers. Nouwen wrote, "For years I had instructed students on the different aspects of the spiritual life.…but had I, myself, really ever dared to step into the center, kneel down, and let myself be held by a forgiving God?"

The Return of the Prodigal Son, a Story of Homecoming, as well as numerous other of Nouwen's books, reportedly inspire others with Nouwen's inclusions of his personal confessions. His self-questioning lead others to question themselves.

Wounded Healer

Nouwen projected himself as a model of the priest as a person, who although "wounded" ministered to other hurting individuals out of his personal wounds. In the book, the wounded healer: Ministry in contemporary society, Nouwen wrote about Peter, a man who entered into his life who, by his outward appearance and behavior as well as his words, dramatically intimated the condition of modern man. Although Peter approached him for help, Nouwen wrote, at the same time Peter offered him a fresh understanding of his own world.

Peter, at twenty-six years old, with a frail, fragile body, lived a life with a fast-shifting value system. At one time, he had been a strict and obedient seminarian who attended daily Mass and participated in hours of community prayers. Peter had been active in the church, Neouwen wrote. He was enthusiastic theological matters. After he decided to leave the seminary, however, and started to study at a secular university, he quickly forsook the values and practices of his former way of life. Instead of attending church services, Peter spent many nights drinking with other student. He moved in with a girl friend and started to study subjects foreign to his former theological interests. Peter appeared to have forgotten his faith as he seldom spoke about God or religion.

Whether or not tomorrow will be different for Peter, Nouwen wrote, would depend on the people he would meet; what he might experience; the desires and ideas which would make sense to him at that particular time. "Nuclear man, like Peter, is not live with an ideology."

He instead is confronted with a myriad of complicated, challenging two years and concerns. In his book that recounts the story of Peter, Nouwen, wrote that when nuclear man does not feel he can relate to the Christian message, he, like Peter, may be prone to be skeptical about the message of Christianity for his life.

The following list depicts the titles of the top ten books Nouwen wrote.

1. The Return of the Prodigal Son

2. Here and Now

3. In the Name of Jesus

4. The Wounded Healer

5. Life of the Beloved

6. The Inner Voice of Love

7. With Burning Hearts

8. Reaching Out

9. Can You Drink the Cup?

10. Bread for the Journey.

Time will determine whether the name of Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen will remain synonymous with the title of the Wounded Healer, or perhaps another title of one of the books he wrote, or as a universalist who espoused the path of mysticism.

Whatever the determination, perhaps those who remember him will also remember that now as then, whether one agrees with Nouwen or not, what is needed even more today in the world, as Nouwen noted are people who do love God and others; people not afraid to build a home amidst acute suffering; people with compassion.

Morse, Kathryn. "Henri J.M. Nouwen and the Return of the Prodigal Son." Newsletter of the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved. Volume 17, No. 4, 2008. Available at, ?


LaNoue, Deirdre. The spiritual legacy of Henri Nouwen. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2000. p. 5.

Cloud, David. "Henri Nouwen," Available at, http://www.wayoflife.org/files/54e57520d9bdb070befbdd992cbae139-313.html. Internet. Accessed 27 February 2009. ¶ 29.

LaNoue, p. 14.

LaNoue, p. 14.

LaNoue, p. 14.

LaNoue, p. 14.

LaNoue, p. 14.

Morse, p. 1.

O'Laughlin, Michael. Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision. Maryknoll, New York: Obris Books. 2005.

O'Laughlin, p. 64.

O'Laughlin, p. 65.

O'Laughlin, p. 66.

../../Donna/Documents/Feb/Leroux, Georges. "On…

Sources Used in Documents:


"About Henri Nouwen." HenriNouwen.org. Available at, ?


Cloud, David. "Henri Nouwen," Available at, http://www.wayoflife.org/files/54e57520d9bdb070befbdd992cbae139-313.html. Internet. Accessed 27 February 2010.

LaNoue, Deirdre. The spiritual legacy of Henri Nouwen. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2000.
http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5031276604?Leroux" target="_blank" REL="NOFOLLOW">http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5031276604?Leroux, Georges. "On the Trail of the Prodigal Son." Queen's Quarterly, Spring 2009, 38+. Database online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5031276604. Internet. Accessed 18 February 2010.
http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5035176648?Richards" target="_blank" REL="NOFOLLOW">http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5035176648?Richards, Anne F. "Sexual Misconduct by Clergy in the Episcopal Church." Studies in Gender and Sexuality 5, no. 2 (2004): 139+. Database online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5035176648. Internet. Accessed 18 February 2010.

Cite this Document:

"Henri Nouwen & 8230 COMPASSION Means Going" (2010, February 28) Retrieved May 25, 2022, from

"Henri Nouwen & 8230 COMPASSION Means Going" 28 February 2010. Web.25 May. 2022. <

"Henri Nouwen & 8230 COMPASSION Means Going", 28 February 2010, Accessed.25 May. 2022,

Related Documents
Vincent Van Gogh
Words: 3143 Length: 11 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 53317076

Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands to a preacher and his early life had inauspicious surroundings. He was well into maturity when he realized his true vocation was painting, and though he developed his talent in isolation at first, his later experiences in Paris had a profound affect on his painting. Van Gogh is extremely famous for his insanity and mental difficulties, but these conditions also provided the basis

Van Gogh Vincent Van Gogh's Work Is
Words: 660 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 20358671

Van Gogh Vincent van Gogh's work is nearly always identifiable instantly, due to the artist's characteristic use of vivid color and his intense, long brushstrokes. However, earlier van Gogh paintings are more subdued than his later canon. Paintings like "The Potato Eaters," for example, rely on darker palettes. After his inspiring encounter with Japanese woodblocks, van Gogh started to incorporate a richer color palette and his brushstrokes become lengthened almost like

Vincent Van Gogh
Words: 871 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 7745145

Vincent Van Gogh's Artwork Became Famous After His Death Vincent van Gogh is one of the most well-known artists of all time. His works sell for extraordinary sums of money. Many artists like van Gogh became popular only after their death. Vincent contributed much to Western society. His artistic vision laid the groundwork for modern impressionism, abstraction and even expressionism. His technique is still admired today by artists and students

Vincent Van Gogh Sol Lewitt. References Book
Words: 519 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 53587258

Vincent Van Gogh Sol LeWitt. References book "a world art" 7th ed. central Texas college edition. Written sere, henry m. chapters 4-6 250 words Compare and contrast the use of line in the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Sol LeWitt. Both the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Sol LeWitt are characterized by frequent deployment of bright, contrasting colors to create a particular aesthetic effect. But Van Gogh's use of

Vincent Van Gogh Netherlands Holland
Words: 1066 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 2721782

There is a woman sitting in a chair, bent forward and resting her face in her right hand. She is looking toward the ground and seems to be very unhappy. The chair is very tall which makes it so that we can see her long dress. She is resting her feet on some type of box, but her feet cannot be seen. This drawing does not appear to have

Life of Famed Painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Words: 3129 Length: 11 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 72263393

life of famed painter Vincent Van Gogh. The writer explores his life and the things that contributed to the path of his career. In addition the writer examines the works and changes of Van Gogh's style throughout a one decade period of work. There were five sources used to complete this paper. If a picture paints a thousand words famed painter Vincent Van Gogh has contributed volumes to the world