Henri Nouwen was an internationally renowned priest, author and professor who spent the last 11 years of his life in the L'Arche communities of Trosly, France and Daybreak, Canada.
“Having known Henri over a number of years, the first thing I want to say is that he was a man of great energy, vision and insight, but also a man of great pain. Anguish often fuelled many of his activities, his movement. In many ways he was a man of movement. I was always moved when I sensed the depth of his pain. But Henri had discovered something, for even though in some ways he was running away from pain, at the same time he chose to walk through pain; he accepted anguish; he did not build up barriers to protect himself. In a mysterious way he was a wounded healer, the name of one of his first books.” (Eulogy of Jean Vanier at Henri Nouwen’s funeral)
Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on 24 January 1932, Nouwen 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 130 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 21 September 1996 in Holland and is buried in King City, Ontario.
Henri J. M. Nouwen is the author of a variety of books on the spiritual life. Some, such as Adam, God's Beloved, were inspired by his life with people with an intellectual disability in L’Arche.