Mystics and revolutionaries

Henri J.-M. Nouwen, Dutch priest, spiritual writer, chaplain at L’Arche Daybreak, Canada, died on September 21, 1996.

His writings have been an inspiration for many. Yet many who appreciate his “spiritual” writings may not realize his profound commitment to peace and to the poor and marginalized. As he wrote in an early work, The Wounded Healer:

“It is my growing conviction that in Jesus the mystical and the revolutionary ways are not opposites, but two sides of the same human mode of experiential transcendence. I am increasingly convinced that conversion is the individual equivalent of revolution. Therefore, every real revolutionary is challenged to be a mystic at heart, and one who walks the mystical way is called to unmask the illusory quality of human society, Mysticism and revolution are two aspects of the same attempt to bring about radical change. No mystics can prevent themselves from becoming social critics, since in self-reflection they will discover the roots of a sick society. Similarly, no revolutionaries can avoid facing their own human condition, since in the midst of their struggle for a new world they will find that they are also fighting their own reactionary fears and false ambitions.”

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