When I first opened Love, Henri, it annoyed the heck out of me. I don’t know what I was thinking when I requested this book. I’m not a big fan of this genre (collected letters). All I knew was that one of my professors at Aquinas Institute was obsessed with this man. She frequently assigned passages of his writing and I dutifully read the assignments even if I didn’t personally get much out of them. She was, and undoubtedly still is, a sweet, loving woman and her obsession with Henri Nouwen was seen as just one of her quirks.
Reading books like this is a little like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but in this case, it is a good and fulfilling half. It helps that most of the letters are to the same handful of close friends so the letters lend context to one another. The topics covered in the letters are easy to relate to. While the first few pages were hard for me to get through, the book did eventually grow on me and I did reach a point where I couldn’t put it down.
Henri Nouwen wrote to people of all walks of life: gay, straight, young, old, single, married, people in the religious life, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, atheist… He had a wide variety of friends. He loved to write letters and he took his friendships very, very, very seriously.
This book would be excellent for anyone doing research into Henri Nouwen as it gives tons of background information and context for many of his life’s events. It certainly added to my reading list as I was intrigued by what he had to say about several of his books, particularly Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.
I came away from this book with one intriguing question that could take a whole book to cover: Why isn’t there a open cause of canonization for Henri Nouwen and could he ever be canonized? I am very interested in what you have to say about that. On one side, his responses to questions in the letters were mostly quite orthodox. It is generally accepted by scholars that he did deal with same-sex attraction. He referred to it much like St. Paul refers to his own thorn in his side (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). He was a faithful priest who used his own suffering to effectively minister to others. He was very into ecumenism. On that front, he didn’t always follow Church teaching to the letter. What do you think? Should he be canonized? Could he be canonized?
This review originally appeared at True Dignity of Women.