Mons' Musings Vol. 3: The Works of Jean Vanier
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
In my first article, I gave you a brief introduction to a man whom I admire very much – Jean VANIER. Hopefully through these brief reflections you too will come to appreciate him and learn a little about the impact he is having around the world. In a little volume which he calls “Signs of the Times” Jean speaks about what he calls “SEVEN PATHS OF HOPE FOR A TROUBLED WORLD”.
Jean has been responsible for establishing more than 140 communities in 84 countries around the world. The spirit behind these communities is something wonderful – viz that when we enter into real RELATIONSHIPS with people who have some handicap, we find (in Jean’s own words) that WE are transformed. These people may be considered some of humanity’s least significant members, but they can show us the way to humanity’s heights.
You may find that a bit puzzling. However when the Word of God descended into human flesh, it became small and weak. It divested itself of Divine glory to become one of us and lead us to His Father and our Father. We will never exhaust the richness of that Mystery. Even to just glimpse something of its significance can be life changing. It certainly was for Jean. These small communities have been named “L’Arche Communities” – reminding us of Noah’s Ark. After living for 50 years in these small symbolic communities, Jean says he has been transformed. He says these people with disabilities who are so apparently weak have led him to the heart of the Christian Mystery.
My hope is that as we explore this further in the weeks to come, we too will know that each of us is a unique and lovable person. To the extent that we are, with the help of others, on that journey we will come to appreciate that ‘warts and all’ we are on the way to genuine freedom. Putting it in another way, this deeper discovery will enable us to be true to ourselves. This will be an inner JOY.
When we think about it, this is so crucial not only for ourselves but also for our Western society. I say that because, as Jean says “ the values extolled by our wealthy modern societies often damage inner freedom and personal conscience”. It is so easy to be caught up in the mentality that stresses that success and power are the aim. This can easily prevent us from becoming truly ourselves – uniquely loved by God. May this realization strengthen us in our love for one another!
I would love to hear any comments you would like to make.
'Til next time...
Mons. Peter Jeffrey