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Embracing Weakness: Henri Nouwen and the Spirituality of Imperfection

Embracing Weakness: Henri Nouwen and the Spirituality of Imperfection

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Published by Elizabeth Llanes

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Published by: Elizabeth Llanes on May 04, 2011
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10/29/2012

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EMBRACING WEAKNESS: HENRI NOUWEN AND THE SPIRITUALITY OFIMPERFECTIONA thesis submitted toLoyola Marymount UniversityThe University Honors Programin partial fulfillment of the requirementsfor Graduation with Honorsby
Elizabeth Llanes
May 2011
 
TABLE OF CONTENTSI. INTRODUCTION 3 II. THE LIFE OF HENRI NOUWEN14
III. NOUWEN’S RESTLESSNESS: A JOURNEY FROM LONELINESS TO SELFACCEPTANCE21
IV. NOUWENS HOMECOMING: THE LARCHE COMMUNITY34V. THE WOUNDED HEALER: A MINSTRY OF IMPERFECTION41VI. CONCLUSION47
2
 
Introduction
 Rabbi Zusya said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ Theywill ask me: ‘Why where you not Zusya?’”
1
Our journey to wholeness begins with coming to know who we are. As we explore our identity, we uncover layer after layer and the process of self-discovery never really ends. Butwhen we start to be more in touch with the deeper layers of our self, we must then learn to acceptthe person we are, the person we were created to be. Instead of holding ourselves to thestandards of others, we learn to be comfortable with our own limitations and failings as well aswith our gifts and successes. As theologian Johannes Metz states, “Man’s self-acceptance is the basis of the Christian creed. Assent to God starts in man’s sincere assent to himself, just a sinfulflight from God starts in man’s flight from himself.”
2
 Thus, the journey of self-acceptance is atthe core of Christian spirituality.
What is Spirituality?
The term
 spirituality
is used somewhat casually in our day-to-day conversation. Weoften hear friends say, “I am spiritual, but not religious,” but the meaning of this phrase differsfrom person to person. “Religion” seems to have more of a concrete definition since it involves a participation in the rituals and practices of a certain group of people. But what does being“spiritual” entail?Rabbi Rami Shapiro describes religion as “belonging, community, shared values, sharedrituals, and mutual support,” and spirituality as “living life without a net, forever surrendered toreality and meeting each moment with curiosity, wonder, gratitude, justice, humility, and love.”
3
1
Martin Buber,
Tales of Hasidim: The Early Masters
(New York: Schocken Books, 1947) p. 251.
2
Johannes Baptist Metz,
 Poverty of Spirit 
(New York: Paulist Press, 1968) p. 7
3
Rabbi Rami Shaprio, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,”
Spirituality and Health
, July/August(2009): p. 16.3

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