Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant.
Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds."
Henri was a Catholic priest and brilliant scholar who taught at Yale, Harvard, and of course Notre Dame.
After spending 20 years in academia, Nouwen went on to work alongside with Jean Vanier and L'Arche, community with individuals who had different intellectual and physical abilities.
As Robert A. Jonas explains: "Henri had always wondered what a Eucharistically centered community would be like, and now he had found one at L'Arche."
Nouwen wrote 39 books on spirituality (many of which I quote from here) and has sold over 8 million copies and published in 28 different languages. He himself spoke and wrote fluently in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish. On his trust website they had this to say:
Nouwen ranks as one of the most significant spiritual leaders of our time. Nouwen was a priest, academic, psychologist, teacher, author, gifted public speaker, spiritual member, faithful correspondent and friend, wounded healer and a passionate seeker. With an uncanny ease he moved in and out of these different roles, never allowing himself to be fully contained or categorized. In so doing he showed, and continues to show, a generation of ministers, teachers and seekers how one’s gifts are to be placed at the service of those whom God places in our path. Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesis and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart” and to lay this down as a template for both clergy and lay persons.
Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.”
Today I give them to you.