Progressive Christian Reflections by Chris Glaser: An Unfinished Mystic


Henri Nouwen puzzles more than a query.

Presbyterian Basic Assembly, Indianapolis, 1985 (crg)

have lastly study Michael Ford’s most current “portrait” of Henri J. M. Nouwen.
I didn’t jump into it when I received it final summer time partly since I necessary a
sort of sabbatical from Henri for a couple of of the similar factors I kept my distance
in true life. Paulist Press, at the behest of Mike no doubt, sent it as thanks
for such as some of my thoughts on regardless of whether Henri was a mystic.
Lonely Mystic: A New Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen is the most intimate glimpse of Henri however, if
that is even doable, provided his intimate self-portrayals in practically each a single of
his personal books. It may possibly make these who want to see Henri canonized squirm a
small, even though not since of any illicit affairs or theological heresies or tasteless
behavior. He was the consummate “best small boy in the world” that each gay
boy and man desires to be, but his calling to a celibate vocation kept him lonely
and needy and at times, broken.
I study with distinct interest the chapter on Frank Hamilton’s close friendship with Henri.
Begun as Frank eagerly sought out Henri for spiritual guidance, more than lots of years
it transformed to a friendship that I would describe as “soul pals.” I had
heard some of the stories recounted in the chapter from Frank himself more than a
private dinner when he attended my initially Columbia Seminary spiritual formation
course on Henri. A couple of other stories are discovered in Henri’s personal books. 
I’ve been asked to teach the course once again September 17-20, 2020, and I’m
pondering I will use this new book as a single of the texts, prompting intriguing modifications
in the content material.
I resisted the tug of Henri’s emotional wants as properly as the spotlight of
getting a renowned pal, I envied Frank a small for the spiritual
intimacy he and Henri shared. However I had my personal life to reside as a gay activist
and, I hoped, a spiritual guide inside the LGBT neighborhood, and my notoriety as
such even prompted Henri to decline a need to dedicate a single of my books to him,
at least, whilst he was alive. Following his death, I committed Coming Out as Sacrament to him, an ironic twist in that Henri by no means
came out, even though Mike points out that lots of a gay reader recognized their personal
practical experience by means of his books in his passionate reaching out to other people and to
asked me to reflect on the query, was Henri Nouwen a mystic? Applying Evelyn
Underhill’s stages of a mystic, I saw that Henri had seasoned all 5,
even though as “dimensions” of mysticism, cyclical rather than sequential. The final
stage, union, is debatable. In that context, I recommended Henri could be
deemed an “unfinished mystic,” by no means getting lastly “arrived.” Like the
chapters about a variety of events in Lillian Helman’s memoir Unfinished Lady or Rembrandt’s lots of self-portraits more than the years,
every single of Henri’s books may possibly represent a self-portrait of Henri at that point in
time, amid unique situations, contexts, and communities.
written prior to that, in the spiritual life, there is no finish line. And that the
greatest spiritual danger is to think a single has “arrived.” There are no
“finishing schools” for saints, which accounts for their generally eccentric,
countercultural, and prophetic approaches. For Mike’s goal, I utilized as examples Henri’s
unfinished books on Adam, his charge at Daybreak (completed by Sue Mosteller,
his literary executrix), and the Flying Rodleighs, trapeze artists,
who came to represent total union with God. They
had taught him the essential (life-providing) significance of “trusting the
catcher,” in life and in death. That he by no means completed this book is emblematic
of Henri’s personal inability to let go. Rather of trusting, he was constantly attempting
to “catch the catcher” (take hold of God).
Mystic, 150]
Henri explained in Our Greatest Present: A
Meditation on Dying and Caring
, the flyer is deemed by the audience the
hero in the trapeze act, as he or she lets go of the bar and does double or triple flips midair prior to getting caught by the catcher. But the true hero is
the catcher, whose timing is precise adequate to attain for the flyer at just the
suitable time. If the flyer tries to catch the catcher, the latter’s wrists could
be broken, so trust in the catcher is essential. Henri compared this to trusting God,
the Divine Catcher, in life and in death. [Our
Greatest Gift
, 66-67]
Age poets saw worth and beauty in an unfinished operate. Henri was a fantastic
romantic, and an “unfinished” mystic. That is what draws us to his writing—his vulnerability,
his incompleteness, his wounds. Like the Jesus he followed, he was in each way
like we are.
couple of months ago, I deemed bringing this weblog to an finish. Faced with the
impenetrability of God in Christian mysticism, challenged by Buddhist mysticism
and the idea of “no issue,” and only as well properly conscious of my personal limitations, I
felt it was time to preserve quiet, to preserve silence. But angels preserve troubling my
waters, and I really feel named to respond. And lots of of these angels are you, the
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Copyright © 2019 by Chris
R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and
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