November 1987

Nouwen: I & Thou

I've looked forward to and enjoyed each issue of NOR since I subscribed a year ago, principally because of the featured writers I admire - Robert Coles, Peter Kreeft, Walker Percy, and especially Henri J.M. Nouwen, whose openness, acute sensitivity, and compassion have meant much to me. It was a shock, therefore, to note the uptight line in Mark Lowery's letter (Sept.) regarding his low tolerance of "Fr. Nouwen telling us about himself." This cutting, peremptory dismissal of Nouwen's honest self-appraisal somehow reveals more about Lowery than about Nouwen, whose experience out of years of pastoral counseling that "the more personal, the more universal" surely must have led him to publish his diaries in the NOR.

Before I learned that healing comes from acknowledging my own feelings, I too might have made such a remark about another's candid introspection, but pain, God, and those such as Henri Nouwen have brought me to a fuller understanding of what it is to be human, and Christian. I am no longer dismissive about people who talk about themselves; I usually learn much about myself when I listen to them. Healing comes out of wounds frankly revealed - and in listening to the pain and weaknesses and temptations of others we join the suffering community as Christ asks us to do, and share recovery.

Thank God for people like Henri Nouwen, whose self-revelations free the rest of us to see ourselves more honestly, to seek healing where needed, and to approach God with hope.

Patricia McN. BenzMiller
Brookline, Massachusetts




"A Man After God's Own Heart"

I am sorry Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen's series of articles (Sept. 1986 through July-Aug. 1987) has ended. I write to convey the enormous satisfaction his articles have brought me. The phrase "a man after God's own heart" fits. Humility shines through his writings - in contrast to much that I read these days.

Loring Ellis
Hampton, South Carolina




Freedom?

Regarding Richard John Neuhaus's letter (Sept.): I'm unhappy with his dogmatic assertion that "freedom is the highest political good in the rightly ordered society." That dogma is indeed central to the fides Americana. But I find no hint of it in Scripture, and in Catholic tradition the emphasis has usually been elsewhere.

As for religious freedom, yes, it is a temporal good. Yet, Scripture and tradition are forever warning us against the dangers of "wealth," and I think we ought to see that term as covering every kind of temporal good, not only lots of money. The Cross is central to our Faith; it isn't there as a kind of peripheral embarrassment.

Christopher Derrick
Surrey, England



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