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Posted September 25, 2009
In this latest entry in the "15 Days of Prayer With" series, author Robert Waldron crafts events from the life and work of Henri Nouwen into short, practical meditations on topics such as intimacy, friendship and prayer. Born in 1932, Nouwen spent his adult life as a brilliant and charismatic teacher, gifted preacher, prolific writer, and priest.
Following the series format, the book opens with a chronology and overview of Nouwen's life. Each of the 15 chapters begins with a focus statement and ends with questions for reflection. A guide on how to use the book points out that its purpose is to bring readers to a closer relationship with God.
As one who considered himself "wounded," Nouwen learned to see the hurt in others and to rely on God's mercy. "His spirituality exclaims for all to hear: God accepts and loves you as you are now, with all your imperfections, flaws, and wounds," Waldron writes.
Nouwen's insecurity and self-doubt, led to his exaggerated need for approval, acceptance and affection, which sometimes turned friends away. Through intensive therapy following a nervous breakdown, Nouwen came to see that only God could fill the empty space at the center of his being.
Another source of insight for Nouwen grew out of his fascination with circus clowns and trapeze artists. Waldron tells of the priest's friendship with a European family of "fliers." Nouwen recounted one conversation in which the flier explained, "I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar." That image gave birth to Nouwen's philosophy of life and death, Waldron writes. "Surrender yourself to God, our catcher. He will catch us during life's airy leaps and flights; He will also catch us in our greatest leap, into the darkness of death."
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