Henri J.M. Nouwen
Image Books, New York. 109 pages
There is a reason certain books are called classic. They outlive their own time and continue to edify on every reading. We all have particular books we would name as classic. Occasionally in this space I like to highlight certain classics that continue to be helpful to me. When it comes to pastoral ministry, surely Henri Nouwen’s “The Wounded Healer” is one such classic. Although it was written nearly 45 years ago, the central insights of the book remain valuable for pastors seeking to respond to real human beings beset by real problems of meaning and purpose.
Nouwen begins this way: “What does it mean to be a minister in contemporary society? This question has been raised during the last few years by many men and women who want to be of service, but who find the familiar ways crumbling and themselves stripped of their traditional protections.” That sounds familiar. Nouwen was a teacher and spiritual director who took seriously that question as thousands of people came to learn from his honest counsel. It was this book that is perhaps his most famous and certainly most widely read. This new edition has updated the language and made it more universally accessible for people of service – and not only pastors. Nouwen arrived at the insight that remains essential for pastoral ministry: “the wounded healer.” And the accompanying insight: “All ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts, and make that recognition the starting point of their service.” This is truly a classic that deserves repeated readings.