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In a previous
, I once suggested that the end of poverty will require the beginning of poverty for those of us who actually are not poor. To really see an end to hunger, oppression, violence and brokenness in relationships, it will cost us something.
But is this realistic? It’s hard enough for most of us to celebrate a spirituality of simplicity or submission, let alone a spirituality that invites the possibility of voluntary suffering. So, how do we celebrate vulnerabilities? How do we receive limitations as gifts?
These sorts of conversations may have a conceptual acceptance in our worshipping communities, but how much we actually accept weakness is revealed by whom we surround ourselves. Talking about the poor and having concern for justice may be hip, but do we really know anyone who's poor? I mean, really have
Sadly, the only poor folks many North American Christians know are people they've gone to "minister to" or people they've met on short-term missions experiences.
Cultivating ‘friendships across difference’ is tough and often we need examples, humble prophets who embody these values to help guide us. Jean Vanier is one such man.
, has given themselves to relationships among people with profound needs to create safe spaces of discovery where seeds of hope can bear fruit. With insightful creativity, adults with developmental disabilities are L’Arche’s “Core Members” while the volunteers and staff are called “Assistants.” This reorienting of community has been a provocative recovery of the true center of L’Arche. The homes themselves are authentic places of peace, and safe places for women and men to explore vocation, community and spirituality.
Following a decorated military career and a celebrated academic stint as a professor of philosophy and ethics in Toronto, Jean Vanier bought a small home outside Paris, France and invited 3 friends with developmental disabilities to share it with him. It was 1964. Vanier was just 38 years old when that small community planted the seeds for what would become a global movement of prophetic hospitality. Today there are nearly 150 homes in the global L’Arche collective.
Considered one of the late Henri Nouwen’s most significant mentors, Jean Vanier has continued to be the humble visionary for the movement. Among his many books include already-classics like,
Community and Growth
Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness
From Brokenness to Community
In July, my wife Phileena and I joined Travis Reed from
The Work of the People
, a film maker from Texas, and Steve Frost of Vancouver on a small pilgrimage to Trosly-Breuil, France. Over the course of a few days we were invited into Jean Vanier’s personal study for a series of intimate conversations that were recorded and are soon to be released as video curriculum.
Here is a Q exclusive video clip from those conversations. May the life and legacy of Jean Vanier inspire us all to live faithful lives in the ordinary and undramatic vocations of love.
“My vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race.” – Jean Vanier
What is your response to this extraordinary and humble example of love?
What needs to change in your life in order for you to cross the boundaries of brokenness and truly love other people in ordinary ways?
This article and video are posted here with exclusive permission from
The Work of the People
I can testify as one who has been a Hospice Chaplain for 11 years that every word Jean V. says in this clip is true. God is the foundation of all human life and to have the most abundant life that is possible for us individually,we must have a relationship with God and follow the directions for life in God's message to mankind, His Word the Bible.
Here is a man who has given his life to tend and shepherd those he cares for to a place of wholeness in spite of their fragility and weakness.
Placing others first is what stands out to me in Jean Vanier's example of humility and love in action. He knows and exudes the love of God because he has met and knows HIm!
No sound on this video for me. Using Firefox on a Mac.
I love Jean and Fr. Henri, and how they have shared the Gospel in light of living a life in community at L'Arche. I wanted to remind everyone that there are countless other men and women who live in L'Arche communities all over the world, both core members and "assistants." I know we need exemplars in our lives for models, but we also need to be reminded that there are other unnamed and unknown lives who are living out the Gospel in the same light as Jean. From stories of friends who have met Jean, I think he himself would be humble and point out this fact, and would be reluctant be the lone heroic archetype or exemplar of "friendship across difference."
Jean and other members of L'Arche always give an invitation to others to come and sit and eat with us. I hope you and others will be able to join us, and there's always room at the table.
Peace in Christ,
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