The Return Of The Prodigal Son
By: Henri Nouwen
Reissue edition (March 1, 1994)
The Return Of The Prodigal Son is a memoir of spiritual journey from the late Henri Nouwen. I enjoyed it because personal tales are woven into spiritual commentary, not just focusing on the son, but looking at the world through each character’s eyes. Henri Nouwen was a public intellectual and long time professor of physcology and theology. After seeming Rembrandt’s painting “The Return Of The Prodigal Son,” and reflecting in its implications, Nouwen quit academia and moved outside of Toronto to work with people with intellectual disabilities.
Two of my favorite quotes:
Ever since becoming interested in this great work, I had known that the original had been acquired in 1766 by Catherine the Great for the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg (which after the revolution was given the name of Leningrad, and which has recently reclaimed its original name of Saint Petersburg) and was still there. I never dreamt that I would have a chance to see it so soon. Although I was very eager to get firsthand knowledge of a country that had so strongly influenced my thoughts, emotions, and feelings during most of my life, this became almost trivial when compared with the opportunity to sit before the painting that had revealed to me the deepest yearnings of my heart.
As I reflect on my own journey, I become more and more aware of how long I have played the role of observer. For years I had instructed students on the different aspects of the spiritual life, trying to help them see the importance of living it. But had I, myself, really ever dared to step into the center, kneel down, and let myself be held by a forgiving God? The simple fact of being able to express an opinion, to set up an argument, to defend a position, and to clarify a vision has given me, and gives me still, a sense of control. And, generally, I feel much safer in experiencing a sense of control over an undefinable situation than in taking the risk of letting that situation control me.