The Wounded Healer


The Wounded Healer – Ministry in Contemporary Society
By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Darton, Longman & Todd – £10.99

For a Christian, Jesus is the man in whom it has indeed become manifest that revolution and conversion cannot be separated in a man’s search for experiential transcendence. His appearance in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross.

For a refreshingly new and perhaps radical interpretation of the modern ministry, this altogether inviting book by Dutch priest and author, Henri J. M. Nouwen, certainly tells and re-calls it as it truly ought to be told and re-called.

Indeed, The Wounded Healer – Ministry in Contemporary Society will undoubtedly make one think, if not reflect upon one’s beliefs and (and sometimes questionable) approach to everyday living. That said, what’s written within these 104 pages, absolutely isn’t as stoic and draped within a language riddled with the utmost of spirituality as one might initially think: ”[…] when man’s historical consciousness is broken, the whole Christian message seems like a lecture about the great pioneers to a boy on an acid trip.”

Such nuanced thinking and words may well partially account for Nouwen’s rather substantial back catalogue (his best selling books include The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Inner Voice of Love and Bread for the Journey), which, for all intents and overtly readable purposes, can only be a good thing.

Prime reason being, more people may be drawn, if not feel compelled to read more such books of a similar persuasion. For where else – with the exception of some of Bob Dylan’s more spiritual writing(s) – would one stumble upon such robust one liners as:

There is no reason to live if there is nobody to live for.

Love not only lasts forever, it needs only a second to come about.

In brief, Henri Nouwen always believed that ministers are essentially called upon, or at least, need to be called upon, in order to identify suffering in their own hearts.

The recent Broken drama/television series on BBC1, touched upon as much; wherein said suffering was all the more realistically brought to bear by the actor Sean Bean. The quintessential difference being, the author of The Wounded Healer got there first (this book was after all, originally published in 1994).

David Marx


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