Harvard Divinity School, 1983 - 1985
With Harvard students (Henri's assistant, Peter Weiskel on right). Courtesy of Nouwen Archives. Used with permission.
In 1983 Nouwen accepted a position at Harvard Divinity School that required him to teach only one semester per year. This arrangement allowed him to continue to travel to Latin America and to lecture in North America, offering a ‘reverse mission’ by which those in the developed North could learn from those in the developing South.
Despite Nouwen’s popularity at Harvard, he was not happy there. He found it a very ambitious, competitive environment and yearned for community. He wrote:
“After twenty-five years of priesthood, I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues . . . I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term ‘burnout’ was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death.”
Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989), 10-11.
So in 1985 Nouwen resigned from Harvard and went to stay at the L’Arche community in Trosly, France.