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The Wounded Prophet: A portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen Hardcover – May 18, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Henri Nouwen's devotional writings are effective because their revealing, personal voice invites readers to share an effortless intimacy with him. This literary intimacy, in turn, helps many readers achieve greater closeness with others and with God. Michael Ford's biography of Nouwen, Wounded Prophet, draws on interviews with Nouwen's colleagues and close friends who describe Nouwen, predictably, as the generous and loving man readers have met through Nouwen's books. Yet Ford's biography also contains some striking surprises about the extreme loneliness and anxiety that plagued Nouwen throughout his life. Wounded Prophet is especially insightful regarding the connections between Nouwen's homosexuality, which he grappled with in earnest during the last years of his life, and his theology, which became increasingly grounded in the life of the senses during that same period. Ford has a clear understanding of and deep compassion for his subject, whose vocation he summarizes beautifully near the end of the book: "Like many mystics, Henri Nouwen was in tune with the energy of divine life, passionate about Jesus, and committed to speaking words of hope from his own mysterious anguish. It was a vocation for connecting the spiritual with the earthbound." --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

In this "portrait"Anot a formal biographyABBC journalist Michael Ford explores "the person of Henri Nouwen as a wounded prophet for our time." In his title, Ford plays on one of Nouwen's favorite themes, the "wounded healer." Divided into three sections, "Heart," "Mind" and "Body," the book examines the ways Nouwen offered healing and prophetic utterances to his readers and friends as well as the nature of the personal woundedness out of which Nouwen ministered. His strengths included emotional openness, spiritual insight and courage in seeking new avenues to express his faith, from living among the poor in Bolivia and Peru to turning his back on academe to serve the severely handicapped residents of L'Arche. Nouwen's admirers may be less familiar with his weaknesses, such as an emotional insecurity that led him to constantly seek attention and reassurance, bouts of depression and, according to Ford, anguish over his sexual orientation. Ford's theological training (he's working on a doctoral thesis at Heythrop College at the University of London on Henri Nouwen's spiritual writings) allows him to engage Nouwen's ideas and evaluate intelligently his place in the theological landscape, and he discusses Nouwen's character and struggles with compassion and understanding.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038549372X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385493727
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I was not disappointed--Mr. Ford tells Nouwen's life story with humility and love.
Joy Matteson
The author of that work indicates he set aside his personal knoweldge of Nouwen for the sake of greater objectivity.
Daniel J. Maloney
Ford, like Nouwen himself, forcefully, faithfully, and skillfully helps show us that way.
Joe Roberts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Biographies of the departed by their very nature tend to slouch towards irony. Michael Ford's "Wounded Prophet," chronicling the life and struggles of theologian and world-renown spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, is no different. However, what makes this personal history rise, incredibly, above the genre fray is that the irony of Nouwen's life, as reported by Ford, makes his stamp on this world all the more indelible. In this biography, on the Roman Catholic priest and spiritual journalist, the author goes at length to show the late writer could not live up to his books. Nouwen, who died in 1996 at age 64, wrote beautiful, very personal, volumes on spirituality; many consider his impact on modern-day spirituality to rival that of Thomas Merton. However, it turns out the great author fought many demons, just one of which was his hesitancy to come out of the closet as a gay man. Ford's thesis is that Nouwen's many wounds (his inability to endure solitude; his chronic attention-getting) made him a better writer, a better priest; his wounds allowed him to know how to heal the hurt of others. Nouwen wrote passionately from a place of pain most readers could relate to and find solace. "He discovered that it was from the wounded places in himself that he could reach the wounded places in others," Ford writes. After all the biographer suggests, the best theology comes from one who knows. "Trained in psychology and steeped in the riches of Christian spirituality, Nouwen managed to balance his awareness of the dynamics of the human psyche with his openness to the workings of the Spirit," the biographer reports. "Wounded Prophet" in both structure and content is not a classic biography.Read more ›
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on July 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the most outstanding biography of Henri Nouwen written to date. Ford did a wonderful job in researching Nouwen's life and in being honest about his discoveries.
There was never any question in my own mind of the gifts which Henri Nouwen offered to his readers as a direct result of his own personal human-ness; his own imperfections -- his woundedness. The first biography publised by Nouwen's friend from Holland was extremely poor. It was the perfect little boy grows up to be perfect and prophetic saint story. The author of that work indicates he set aside his personal knoweldge of Nouwen for the sake of greater objectivity. I believe the best thing a friend undertaking a biography can do is tell the story of the person they knew well.
Ford through his interviews truly captures the special nature of Henri Nouwen as a man, a psychologist, a theologian, a priest and writer. He tells the story of the Wounded Henri -- esentially the story Henri told us in his own works -- most especially in From Anguish to Freedom to private journal Nouwen kept while in treatment which he allowed to be published the year he died.
The human Henri, in his own quest for centeredness, in his own flawed manner, wrote of themes which seem somewhat universal to the human condition. Michael Ford captures this Henri and reveals the genesis of much of his gifted writings.
I would recommend this book, Robert Durback's revised "Nou"wen Reader", Nouwen's own "Wounded Healer" and From "Anguish to Freedom" as the four and most amazing portraits of the true Henri.
It's a shame that editors kept him on a tight reign when he wanted to be more honest in his writings later in life.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tony Theil on August 18, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've found much inspiration from Nouwen's spiritual writings and was hesitant to read his biography, because I didn't want to separate the singer from his songs. Michael Ford did just that; he exposed the humanness of a writer that I thought to be exclusively spiritual. Ford paints a sensitive and colorful portrait of Henri Nouwen. He neither condems his frenetic, unsettling character nor canonizes the personality of an intensely gifted spiritual writer.The biography is a well-written account of a life of conflict that evokes admiration, humour, sympathy, annoyance, and irritation. Ford performs a wonderful balancing act offsetting the faults and flecks with abundant virtues.
Nouwen's personal conflicts are revealed with such spiritual intensity that would have gained approval from The Wounded Prophet. Ford describes his dependence on others for love, recognition, even praise; his restlessness and inability to remain focused, except when writing; his tumultuous anxieties, which eventually led to severe depression; and the perpetual questioning of his sexuality. Ford has introduced me to someone whose company I would not enjoy; loud and animated, always distracted, unable to make a pot of coffee or launder his own shirts. But I also met a man whose life of unbounded love and compassion exceeded anything he wote.
Michael Ford has written a truly spiritual book about a truly spiritual person.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read and admired Henri Nouwen's writings for many years, I was reluctant at first to take a dip into Ford's biography. Might the reality of Nouwen's personal struggles diminish the power his writings have for me? Ultimately, however, I find that knowing Nouwen better has only made me all the more appreciative of what he was able to accomplish in his life and and his words.
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