Genius Born of Anguish – Henri Nouwen

Talk by official biographer

Renowned spiritual writer Henri Nouwen was the subject of an evening hosted by The Irish Catholic.

Prof. Michael W. Higgins, who has written extensively on Nouwen delivered a talk ‘Genius Born of Anguish: Henri Nouwen, the man and the legacy’.

It took place at the Avila Carmelite Centre in Donnybrook, Dublin 4 on Thursday, January 17.

Prof. Higgins is the official biographer of Henri Nouwen and the author of Genius Born of Anguish: Life & Legacy Henri Nouwen, an intimate look at this important spiritual writer’s life, enriched with the personal accounts of some of the people closest to him: friends, family, and colleagues.

About Henri Nouwen

source – Henri Nouwen Society

The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen (pronounced Henry Now-win) wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. He corresponded regularly in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish with hundreds of friends and reached out to thousands through his Eucharistic celebrations, lectures and retreats. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages.

Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21st, 1996, in Holland and is buried in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.” His spirit lives on in the work of the Henri Nouwen Society, Henri Nouwen Stichting, the Henri Nouwen Trust, the Henri J. M. Nouwen Archives and Research Collection, and in all who live the spiritual values of communion, community and ministry, to which he dedicated his life.


About the Author
Founded in 1888, The Irish Catholic is Ireland’s biggest and best-selling religious newspaper. Published weekly, it provides a lively mix of news, analysis and informed commentary about the Church and social issues as they affect Ireland and the wider-world.

1 comment on “Genius Born of Anguish – Henri Nouwen

  1. Anita says:

    Dear Prof. Higgins a.o.,

    Thank you so much for posting this talk on the website.

    I was deeply drawn into the lecture, not only because of the lively enthusiasm of Prof. Higgins, but also and even more by the content of his words.

    He really shows how Henri Nouwen stands there as a 20th century vulnerable man of God, a searching priest at a time when- up to this day- the organised church has to go through a painful process of re-discovering and re-preaching the heart of the gospel in our daily lives, as members of a family, a community, a society, and as searching souls for God .

    I did miss the name of Adam Arnett in the speech of Prof. Higgins, though.

    Henri Nouwen himself would have mentioned this man by his very name, because it was this man, Adam, who -through his disabled present body and peaceful spirit- showed Henry the small door to enter into the heavenly peace, that goes beyond our understanding and heals our wounded souls.

    The peace of Christ in man.

    That ,of course, is the mystery we have no words for. Henry nevertheless gave his broken words to this mystery of the peace of Christ in his postmortem book, called Adam.

    With sincere regards,

    Anita Hendricx .

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