One of the endowed lectures series at Drew University is the Henri Nouwen Lecture in Classical Christian Spirituality, which provides means to invite to campus note-worthy practitioners of contemplative spirituality and active ministry as embodied in the life and works of Henri Nouwen.

This year’s distinguished lecturer is Fr. John Dear–an internationally known activist for peace and nonviolence, and friend of Henri Nouwen.   And someone whom I’ve known for many years and deeply respect. His lecture on the spirituality of peace-making is on Monday, Sept. 27, at 7:30pm in Craig Chapel of Drew Theological School.

Fr. John Dear is a Jesuit priest, pastor to the poor, peacemaker, organizer, lecturer, and author/editor of 25 books, including The God of Peace: Toward a Theology of Nonviolence, and his autobiography, “A Persistent Peace.”  

John is former executive director of Fellowship for Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States.  He served as pastor of several parishes in northeastern New Mexico, co-founded Pax Christi New Mexico, and continues to work on a nonviolent campaign to disarm Los Alamos.  He has graduate degrees in theology from the GTU in Berkeley, CA, and has taught theology at Fordham University in New York.  Today, he lectures to tens of thousands of people each year in churches and schools across the country and the world. He also writes a weekly column for the “National Catholic Reporter.”

After the death of Henri Nouwen in 1996, John put together Henri’s published and unpublished writings on peace in one edited volume. The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice by Henri Nouwen, edited by Fr. John Dear, SJ. is one of the text books I use in my courses and seminars on the spirituality of Henri Nouwen.

What I like most about this book is how John knitted together the various strands of Henri Nouwen’s experiences and reflections on social justice and peacemaking, including:

  • marching with Martin Luther King Jr, from Selma to Montgomery in 1965
  • speaking at a moratorium rally against the Vietnam War in 1972;
  • his Good Friday Peace Action –a prayer vigil at Groton, CT, in protest to the christening of the navy’s new Trident nuclear submarine called the ‘Corpus Christi’ (when I attended Yale in 1980);
  • his participation in public protests at Nevada Test Sites calling for nuclear disarmament and nonviolent direct action against militarism;
  • his ministry of solidarity with the poor in Peru and Guatemala (1981-82);
  • his participation with Witnesses for Peace on the border of Honduras and Nicaragua (1983);
  • his six-week national Peacemaking tour in north America seeking to raise public support to change US policies in Latin America under the Regan Administration (1983);
  • living and working among the poor and broken in Latin American and at L’Arche community in Canada from 1986-1996).
  • his prophetic call for inclusion and embrace of people with HIV/AIDS as beloved children of God in the 1980’s and 1990’s. 

Nominated by ArchBishop Desmond Tutu in 2008 for the Noble Peace Prize, Fr. John Dear–peacemaker and beloved child of God–will be a Drew tonight.