Henri Nouwen spent the last ten years of his life as a member of the worldwide Federation of L'Arche, so it is no surprise that the Nouwen Society works closely with L'Arche wherever it can. The spiritual vision that undergirds L'Arche is one that attracted Henri and one to which he made important contributions. Several members of L'Arche are currently collaborating with the Nouwen Society in its national retreat initiative.
What is the connection between Henri Nouwen and L’Arche?
In 1986 Henri Nouwen left Harvard University to join one of the Christian communities of ‘L’Arche’ founded by the internationally known lay Roman Catholic theologian Jean Vanier. Henri lived in the L’Arche community until his death in 1996. This became Henri’s home and the mission and spirituality of L’Arche became an integral part of Henri’s own spiritual vision.
Why did Henri Nouwen go to L’Arche?
A chance meeting with Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, inspired Henri Nouwen to spend a year writing in the original L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France. He felt at home there and in 1986 accepted an invitation to become pastor for the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, Canada.
Daybreak was his homecoming. He lived in one of the homes and was asked to help Adam Arnett, a man with a severe disability, with his morning routine. Nouwen’s book Adam, God’s Beloved describes how Adam became his friend, his teacher and his guide.
After recovering from a severe depression, Nouwen began to experience perhaps his deepest fulfillment as a priest, friend, author, lecturer and mentor. He gave countless talks and retreats, welcomed hundreds of people for counsel and still found time to write. Whenever he traveled or lectured, he invited a core member (person with a disability) to accompany him as a co-facilitator. His contribution to the spirituality of L’Arche was as profound as the transformation he experienced at Daybreak.
Click here for more information about L'Arche Daybreak.