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The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

(The Return of the Prodigal Son #1)

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  20,852 ratings  ·  1,282 reviews
A chance encounter with a reproduction of Rembrandt's painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, catapulted Henri Nouwen into a long spiritual adventure. In his highly-acclaimed book of the same title, he shares the deeply personal meditation that led him to discover the place within which God has chosen to dwell. This Lent course, which has been adapted from the book, help ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Darton, Longman and Todd (first published 1991)
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Debbie Lisman You begin... then continue at your own pace, then apply the teachings to your own life. I have read this book several times and each time It brings de…moreYou begin... then continue at your own pace, then apply the teachings to your own life. I have read this book several times and each time It brings deeper meaning and new insight as I apply what I take from its words.(less)

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Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without question, this book is among the GREATEST TREASURES in my library.

I hold it in Olympian esteem, for it got me thinking seriously, and continuously - after retiring from a frenetic career - about the lengthy trajectory of redemption in my life.

It was a trajectory fraught with the sudden appearance of many threateningly proximate, and quite inimical, foreign objects, and fewer guideposts of refuge and certain guidance, along the way.

That was my spiritual struggle.

When I joined GR three
Roger Brunyate
Coming Home

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1636

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1642

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1668

I was trained as an art historian, so I tend to look at Rembrandt's three versions of the parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son in terms of the artist's stylistic evolution: the baroque energy of the etching made when the artist was 30, the moving simplicity of the pen and wash drawing done six years later, and his final version, painted only a few months before he died, por
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Father Nouwen's book forever changed me and the way I understood this parable of forgiveness, love and our relationship with God, the Father. I first read this book in 2001 and was amazed to discover the richness and depth within the simple story told by Jesus, and also grateful to be introduced in such a profound way to Rembrandt's famous painting which adds layers of meaning to this amazing parable about the vital aspects of Relationship.

Henri J.M. Nouwen—priest, author, teacher, renown publ
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books

"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds" - W. Shakespeare

The return of the prodigal son is a homecoming story that is as old as the hills and familiar to most. It is in essence a story about the breadth, depth, and height of a father's love. This time, the story is touchingly retold in a fresh new way alongside a famous painting of the same parable.

Its author, Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (1932-1996,) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest, a pastoral psychologist, and professor. He tau
Mar 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing
While very short, this is a richly profound look at the spiritual implications of Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son. It clearly came from years of reflection. And it gave me much to chew over. I think it is one I will have to come back to and chew on some more. ...more
Marie "Notcheva")
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Futile, Powerless God of Henri Nouwen

"Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God." – Henri Nouwen

The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 used to be my favorite Bible passage. Until a contemplative mystic priest named Henri Nouwen ruined it for me.

Several years ago, I wrote about my brief en
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lot to chew on with this elegant and short reflection on both Jesus' parable and Rembrandt's painting of the return of the prodigal son. I especially enjoyed Nouwen's confessional writing style, which allows him to preach without being preachy and convict the reader without claiming to do so. The best part is Nouwen's discussion of the elder son, often neglected in treatments of the parable but whose own journey is perhaps most relevant to many Christians, including myself. ...more
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't usually like touchy-feely Christian books, but ought to give this one a try anyway
Shelves: favorites
Using Jesus’ well-known parable and Rembrandt’s painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen performs a thorough and meaningful close-read, expounding on the spiritual roles of Father, Brother, and Son (or, more appropriately, Parent, Sibling, and Child, since Nouwen does not dwell on gender specificity). Divided into three main sections, the book describes each of these figures, drawing further insight from Rembrandt’s painting and corresponding events in the painter’s life. The discussio ...more
Henri Nouwen is a favorite of mine--always pointing the way toward greater growth in love, always recognizing the challenges involved, and sharing openly his own struggles and vulnerability.

In this book, Nouwen describes his encounter with the Rembrandt painting of the parable of the return of the prodigal son. It germinated within him for a year before he began to intellectually--and then emotionally--unpack what the picture meant for him.

There are three major figures in the painting (as in the
Feb 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent, mature, thought-provoking reflection on the famous Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son. In sharing his very personal prayer with this story and its depiction by Rembrandt, Fr. Nouwen has written a universally insightful and challenging book. I need to buy
M.G. Bianco
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, non-fiction
I received this book as a gift from a dear friend. And it may be one of the more important books I've read year to date. There are some books that a person reads, and it is just the book that person needs to read at that moment. This was one of those books for me. It may not be the book someone else needs to read today, but it will probably be a book you will need to read someday.

Nouwen's book is simultaneously autobiographical and devotional. But, it is more than just a devotional book on the B
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So much of the time it feels like Nouwen is writing about my life as much as his own. So far, this is yet another example.

Beautiful book that for me needed to be soaked up slowly. 3-4 months for me to read 140 pages. After finishing, and claiming no expertise in the matter, I'm going to say all pastors should read this book.

Why? Because of this conclusion: "Our community is full of wayward and angry children, and being surrounded by peers gives a sense of solidarity. Yet the longer I am part of
Caroline Larsen
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In short, Nouwen gets it. This book is chalk full of wisdom and truth about the Christian life. 10/10 would recommend.
“Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “how am I to love God?” but “Ho
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed rereading this classic. Nouwen was a beautiful soul and a gift to the whole church.
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My Reflection on Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son.

"I was dead tired, anxious, lonely, restless and very needy." How could this be, a priest and theologian, half a world away, 30 years ago, felt just like me? Aren't I the only one who feels this way? Isn't this how working moms of teenagers feel?

Again and again Henri Nouwen echoed, predicted and faced the emotions I am facing and his Return of the Prodigal Son.

Meeting with the small group (Small Christian Community - SCC) in the week
Andrew Gillsmith
May 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This may be my all-time favorite source of spiritual encouragement. Certainly, Henri Nouwen is my go-to for consolation in the face of suffering.

In this book, Nouwen interprets both Rembrandt's paining and the Biblical parable from three perspectives: that of the son, that of the father, and that of the brother. We have all been one of them at some point in our lives. Many of us have been all of them.

Nouwen's prose somehow manages to be both crystalline and soft. I don't know how he did it, unl
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the familiar story of the Prodigal Son seen through the visual of the 17th painting of the subject by Rembrandt and analyzed from the perspective of the younger son, the elder son and the father. The author sees parts of himself and really of us all in all three characters. Ultimately he sees the great love of the father who never forces that love on others, but is always there filled with love, equal for both, when the others are ready and willing to receive it.
Ali McNeely
May 25, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Five stars may be generous, but I’m going with it. While the Prodigal Son is ubiquitous, the meaning is fresh each time. This time some of my thoughts included:
Of course I’ve been (and am when I choose sin instead of the Savior) the younger son. And I am thankful for the character of the Father in those (many) instances.
This is the first time I’ve seen someone put on a page the word “burden” in the way I’ve described it for years. I’ve been the older son when my salvation was a burden of
Sophie Stoddard
Mar 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-reads
I wish I could articulate how deeply meaningful this book became to me. Nouwen speaks with such brutal honesty that you can’t help but see yourself, perhaps see all of us, in his story. If you wrestle with the love of God, battle shame, resentment, or selfishness, this book would deeply bless you. Incredibly written, one I know already I’ll come back to year after year.
This book changed me, plain and simple. From the way I view art, to the way I view myself, my relationships, and how I am to live my vocation. This is one I am going to have to plan to re-read regularly. So good.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
On a handful of occasions, a work of art has riveted my attention. As a college student, a painting in the Butler Museum of Art titled "In Flanders Fields Where Soldiers Sleep and Poppies Grow" by Robert Vonnoh had that effect as I pondered young girls picking scarlet red poppies in what had once been a killing field. For Nouwen, it was a portion of Rembrandt's painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son that had this same effect. Eventually he spent several days meditating upon the original and ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jesus
Oh this book. I had no idea what a treasure I was in for.

I have read and heard lots of teaching on this passage, probably more than any other in scripture. Part of me thought "why read more?" I've read many Henri Nouwen books and although I liked them, I found them to be a bit too vague for my tastes. Sometimes I felt like he wasn't saying much. So should I read this book?

Well God knew that I would see this 50 cent book at my library and buy it... and I'm so glad I did.

Nouwen focuses not simp
Michelle Rogers
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a really great Lenten read. There were many sections I highlighted and will need to revisit in the future.
This excerpt from the epilogue sums up pretty well the challenge for spiritual growth this book provides:
"Rembrandt portrays the father as the man who has transcended the ways of his children. His own loneliness and anger may have been there, but they have been transformed by suffering and tears. His loneliness has become endless solitude, his anger boundless gratitude. This is who
Peter Blair
This book has some crazily accurate descriptions of what a perverse need for human affirmation feels like, and how reception of God's love is the answer. The call to move from a son who receives love to a father who gives is also really striking. It was really interesting, and helpful, to see a treatment of the story that cast the younger son's severance from the father in terms of looking for affirmation wrongly and so-called 'cold' or 'spiritual' vices instead of lust. ...more
Mary Beth
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
While I don't agree with all of Nouwen's theology, this was a great book. There is a lot of insight here, not just about God as the Father, but about our relationships with other Christians. ...more
Fern Adams
Feb 07, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book has taken me a while to review as it’s given me so much to process and think about. A lecturer I had at university once said a book is good if it makes you think for more time than it takes to read it, something very true I think with this.

‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’ was inspired by Nouwen’s encounter with Rembrandts painting with the same name (based on the parable). Nouwen talks of his own experience with the painting and the artist itself but most essentially writes of the youn
Lavon Herschberger
Dec 15, 2021 rated it liked it
To be honest, I personally didn’t connect much with Nouwen’s style. You might love it, though. He talks about sitting all day in front of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son painting. If you can picture yourself doing that too, you should read this book.

There are some quotable bits and interesting thoughts worth pondering about unconditional love and repentance. And about being both sons, thereby heirs, and working to “become the Father.”

There are other little phrases that I’m not smart enough to deciphe
Cara DeBenedictis
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Personally impacted how a parable in the Bible that is well known and I have read often can be taught again with such weight and poignancy.

Talks quite a bit about the prodigal son painting by Rembrandt so kinda have to like art history for that. Conclusion chapter about the father and our call to be most like him is what pushed it to 5 stars.

Also, epilogue is amazing because the author is a priest who wrote this book while living in a L’arche community and has some incredibly prof
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-but-unread
Just when I thought I had learned all the depth and insights possible in regard to the story of the Prodigal Son, this book showed me how mistaken I was. I was blown away by some of Nouwen’s reflections.
This book falls into the category of life-changing, soul-speaking books that I’ll never forget and never tire of rereading. Nouwen speaks directly to the deepest parts of me.
*Amended to 4 stars: some of his conclusions (that I had skimmed over) should be read with a discerning eye.*
Emilie Jackson
May 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
Lots of great takeaways but loved this quote especially: “But grief is the discipline of the heart that sees the sin of the world, and knows itself to be the sorrowful price of freedom, without which love cannot bloom.”
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Catholic Book...: 3. The Younger Son 21 27 Jan 25, 2020 06:04AM  
The Catholic Book...: 8. Along the way 26 28 Dec 07, 2019 03:35AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. The Elder Son 9 16 Dec 03, 2019 04:05AM  
The Catholic Book...: 5. The Father 2 11 Nov 28, 2019 04:39AM  
about how a son took all his father moeny and spened it all then came back running to daddy 4 39 Nov 28, 2019 04:38AM  
The Catholic Book...: 1. Versions of this book 2 16 Nov 25, 2019 03:31AM  
The Catholic Book...: 7. Favorite quotes 3 16 Nov 18, 2019 07:25PM  

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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s time to check in on the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge, our rigorous annual initiative for book...
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“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“Addiction" might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society. Our addiction make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world's delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in "the distant country," leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father's home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in "a distant country." It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.” 90 likes
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