Our Second Birth Our Second Birth
Christian Reflections on Death and New Life

Henri Nouwen
ISBN 9780824523657 (0824523652)
Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006 (222pp)

Category: Spirituality

As I come to the end of this book this morning — October 5th 2007 — the UK, it seems, is once again obsessed with death. Not a recent death, however: the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, more than ten years ago. The headline in today's Metro — in huge, bold letters alongside a grainy photograph of the Princess and her lover — reads dramatically: "A kiss before dying".

Metro 5th October 2007

Bizarrely, that headline describes this book that I hold in my hand: A kiss before dying. What we have here is a distillation, selected excerpts, from the longer Sabbatical Journey, Nouwen's journal written up as daily notes during his year out from Daybreak, the community in which he spent his final decade.

Like Princess Diana offering her final kiss to her lover, as Nouwen wrote his journal he did not know that he was about to die: this kiss before dying is an intimate moment, both private and public, which this book invites us to share.

For Nouwen, spirituality was always deeply rooted in reality — down to earth, connected to everyday life. I think, I dare to hope, that he would appreciate this connection that I have drawn between him and a lost princess. I find myself wondering if they ever met; and if so, what their conversation would have been like. I would love to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. I wonder if, even now, as I write, they are looking down, chuckling at my wild imaginings?

We may not be privy to that conversation, but in Our Second Birth we are privy to others as Nouwen records and reflects on his encounters with friends and loved ones during this sabbatical year. If you've read Nouwen before, you'll have some idea of what may be in store for you here. If you haven't, I commend this book to you as a gateway to his thought and spirituality. Either way, this is a book to read slowly — perhaps even over the period of a year — as you share Nouwen's final journey.

Phil Groom, October 2007

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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