Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


I’m Proud of You by Tim Madigan








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Tim Madigan’s book, I’m Proud of You, allows readers to eavesdrop on the friendship that developed between the author and the late Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame. During the many troubles that Tim faced, he found a warmth and friendship from Fred that affirmed, sustained, encouraged and supported him. This is an unusual book, and I found myself teary and uncomfortable when I read parts of it. I’m Proud of You is full of hope and displays the goodness of friends. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 5, pp. 59-63:


In late summer of 1996, Fred wrote to say that he and I would soon have a chance to take up our deepening friendship in person.

“Tim, we’re going to Chicago Oct. 12 to be with Henri (Nouwen) as he receives the Ronald McDonald Charities Award1 and, we’ve decided to fly from there to Fort Worth the next day,” Fred wrote on August 18. On the trip south, he and Joanne planned to visit one of their longtime friends, the fa­mous classical pianist and Fort Worth resident, Van Cliburn. “Of course I want to see you and meet Catherine and have you both get to know Joanne. I have no idea what Van will cook up, but Joanne has already made a [hotel] reservation so the ball is beginning to roll. I so look forward to being with you again.”

It was fitting that Nouwen should somehow figure in our reunion. He and Fred were good friends who had corre­sponded regularly for years. (In one of his later books, Sabbat­ical Journey, Nouwen wrote of calling to console Fred after the death of Jim Stumbaugh. “At 6:00 P.M. I called Fred in Pitts­burgh to tell him about our prayers for Jim. Fred told me that he had just played on his piano all the songs he and Jim used to sing together,” Nouwen wrote. “It was his way of mourning. He was truly grateful for my call. On a day like this I marvel over the gift of friendship.”)

From my first trip to Pittsburgh, the Dutch priest’s books had also been a regular part of my daily spiritual reading, and frequently and appreciatively mentioned in my own early cor­respondence with Fred. I was deeply moved by how Nouwen wrote about the relationship between spirituality and human brokenness, including his own. He was a man who had taught at Harvard and Yale, and was among the world’s most widely read spiritual writers, but one who wrote transparently about his own insecurity and loneliness, and who felt most at home in the slums of Peru, or in the community of mentally handi­capped people near Toronto, where he had lived since the mid 1980s.

“The authentic spiritual life finds its basis in the human condition, which all people—whether they are Christian or not—have in common,” Nouwen wrote once. In another of his books, The Wounded Healer, Nouwen wrote that a minister’s service “will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks . . . The great illusion of leadership is to think that oth­ers can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

Nouwen, clearly, had been there, which was one of the reasons Fred and I admired his work so much. In fact, it was Fred who, in 1996, mailed me a copy of The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, calling it one of the priest’s finest books because it was his “most personal, which is often the most universal.”

“This book is my secret journal,” Nouwen wrote in the In­troduction. “It was written during the most difficult period of my life, from December 1987 to June 1988. That was a time of extreme anguish, during which I wondered whether I would be able to hold onto my life. Everything came crashing down— my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God. . . everything. Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness.”

Which quite nearly described my own emotional and spir­itual state in the summer of 1996, Fred knew, and my friend from Pittsburgh surely appreciated how Nouwen’s experience would be a source of hope and healing for me. Nouwen, I would also learn, had worked through a painful and compli­cated relationship with his own father. Because we had so much in common, Fred said, he hoped to introduce the two of us some day.

“I hope for this because I know Henri will be nourished by you just as you feel he has enhanced your life,” Fred said.

But Nouwen and I would never meet, nor would Fred ever visit Fort Worth. In mid-September, 1 heard Fred on my voice mail at work and received a short letter from him a few days later.





Dear Tim,


Tried calling both your office and home today. Maybe you’re out of town. I may have sounded distraught. Anyway, Henri [Nouwen] had a heart attack in Holland. He was just about to leave for Russia to make a film about [one of his recent books] and got ill. He’s going to have to have complete rest for quite a while so our trip to Chicago—Fort Worth has been postponed indefinitely. Disappointed, but grateful that something can be done about Henri’s health. MDs are trying medication first to dissolve blood clot in lower quadrant.

We had looked forward to being with you, meeting Catherine and [the children]—but we will another time.

I know Henri would appreciate your prayers, Tim.



I.P.O.Y. (I’m Proud of You) F


A day later, Fred sent me an autographed copy of Nou­wen’s newest book, Can You Drink the Cup? His accompany­ing note sounded uncharacteristically melancholy.

We want you to have one of these signed copies. (I had hoped to get you something personally inscribed when we got together with Henri in Chicago, but of course his heart cancelled that trip for all of us.)

[Nouwen’s assistant] Sister Sue Mosteller called this morn­ing to say that Henri had been moved from ICU to [the] Cardiac Care Unit, so that’s a good sign. The MD says ‘slight heart attack with some heart damage.”

We had a visit with John Costa (our musical director on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) last evening. His liver is giving him a lot of trouble. He hopes to be able to make the October-November studio schedule. His MD told me that he doubts it very much….


We pray and continue to do our work, counting on God’s grace to give each of us enough light to take the next steps of the journey.

Joanne and I send our love to you, Catherine, Patrick and Melanie.




The letters in I’m Proud of You are an added gift to readers, and a way that Madigan has in displaying the goodness of Fred Rogers to the rest of us.


Steve Hopkins, February 23, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the March 2007 issue of Executive Times


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