23/07/2009

Life of the Beloved and Our Greatest Gift (by Henri Nouwen)

I've been reading - and collecting - books by the late Henri Nouwen for a while, now. He was a Catholic priest who spent his later life working in a community in Canada for the mentally disabled. His writing is full of wisdom and gentleness, focusing strongly on the love of God. Nouwen suffered from depression for much of his life, and evidently found some release through his writing.

This volume, which I have just finished after reading a chapter or two per day for about a fortnight, contains two of his works: 'Life of the Beloved', and 'Our Greatest Gift'. In the first of these, Nouwen attempts to explain his amazing knowledge of being God's beloved child. He gives an introduction, describing a close friendship with a young Jewish writer, and addresses the bulk of the book to him.
There wasn't anything really new to me, but I like Nouwen's writing style, and his way of looking at aspects of belief and God's love. Writing to a young man of different faith, yet similar background (in some ways) gave an interesting slant, too.

The second book in this little volume is about caring for the dying, and also about preparing to die. I found it quite thought-provoking, if a little strange in places. The author manages to avoid being morbid, yet I couldn't quite come to terms with his suggestions that in our release from this world we effectively give the greatest gift we can to those who come after us. Nor was I entirely comfortable with his emphasis on the spirits of those we love remaining in or with us after they have passed on.

Still, I'm glad to have read it, and will no doubt continue reading more works by this fairly prolific writer.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, July 2009

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