25th anniversary of Henri Nouwen’s death
In this archived interview, Dr Riaan van der Merwe spoke to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about the life of Henri Nouwen and his spirituality of vulnerability. It marks the 25th anniversary of the death of the renowned Dutch priest and theologian, who died on 21 September 1996.
Dr van der Merwe points out that although Nouwen was an acclaimed professor in prestigious places including the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, his life and theology changed forever when he went on to work with people with developmental disabilities at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.
Dr Riaan also spoke about Nouwen’s own inner struggles which included trying to reconcile his depression and his sexuality with his faith. After his death it became clear that he was gay but had found it very hard to share this openly or come to terms with it as a Catholic priest in the climate of the time.
Dr van der Merwe is a Pastoral Therapist and Spiritual Director based in Cape Town, South Africa. He was interviewed on foot of his talk entitled “A Multimedia Engagement with the Spirituality of Vulnerable Embodiment of Henri Nouwen”, organised by the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE) in Dublin in 2015.
Photo of Nouwen’s signature: from Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection [CC BY-SA 4.0]