Jean Vanier

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Jean Vanier in 2012

Jean Vanier, CC GOQ (September 10, 1928 – May 7, 2019) was a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian and humanitarian. He founded L'Arche in 1964, an international federation of communities, spread over 35 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. Subsequently in 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light, with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, which also works for people with developmental disabilities, and their family and friends, in over 80 countries.

Quotes[edit]

From interviews and talks[edit]

  • Somewhere, the deepest desire for us all is to be appreciated, to be loved, to be seen as somebody of value. But not just seen — and Aristotle makes a difference between being admired and being loved. When you admire people, you put them on pedestals. When you love people, you want to be together. So really, the first meeting I had with people with disabilities, what touched me was their cry for relationship.
  • ..we will continue to despise people until we have recognized, loved, and accepted what is despicable in ourselves. So that, then we go down, what is it that is despicable in ourselves? And there are some elements despicable in ourselves, which we don't want to look at, but which are part of our natures, that we are mortal.
  • We are very fragile in front of the future. Accidents and sicknesses is the reality. We are born in extreme weakness and our life will end in extreme weakness. So this, people don't want to hold on to that. They want to prove something. They want security. They want to have big bank accounts and all that sort of stuff. But then also, hold lots of fears within us.
  • The strong need the weak in order to become more human, more compassionate.
  • Before being Christians or Jews or Muslims, before being Americans or Russians or Africans, before being generals or priests, rabbis or imams, before having visible or invisible disabilities, we are all human beings with hearts capable of loving,
  • What people with disabilities want is to relate. This is something unique. It makes people who are closed up in the head become human. The wonderful thing about people with disabilities is that when someone important comes, they don’t care. They care about the relationship. So they have a healing power, a healing power of love.
  • There is that little compass within each one of us where we know what is right, what is just, what is good, what is true.
  • The great thing about people with intellectual disabilities is that they’re not people who discuss philosophy... What they want is fun and laughter, to do things together and fool around, and laughter is at the heart of community.
  • Try and find somebody who is lonely. And when you go to see them, they will see you as the messiah. Go and visit a little old lady who has no friends or family. Bring her flowers. People say ‘but that’s nothing.’ It is nothing—but it’s also everything. It always begins with small little things. It all began in Bethlehem. That was pretty small.
  • Love is to recognize that the other person is a person, is precious, is important and has value..Each one has a gift to bring to others. Each one has his or her mission in the larger family of humanity. Each one reveals the secret face of God.
  • Peace can only come as people begin to meet each other. Those that do have the courage to cross the road, however, to look kindly at people and to listen to them with tenderness, will find people much like themselves, people seeking to be loved for who they are. And that it is OK for each one of us to admit, "I don't have all the truth. ... I am vulnerable, I am broken. I need help." Then comes the realization, "I need your help. I need your friendship." In the end, what you will find, and what you will help the world to discover, Vanier said, is what it means to be human.

From books[edit]

  • “To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.”
    • Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, 2001
  • Those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. When we do include them, they add richly to our lives and add immensely to our world.
    • Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, 2001
  • Community means caring: caring for people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: "He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community." A community is not an abstract ideal. We are not striving for perfect community. Community is not an ideal; it is people. It is you and I. In community we are called to love people just as they are with their wounds and their gifts, not as we would want them to be. Community means giving them space, helping them to grow. It means also receiving from them so that we too can grow. It is giving each other freedom; it is giving each other trust; it is confirming but also challenging each other. We give dignity to each other by the way we listen to each other, in a spirit of trust and of dying to oneself so that the other may live, grow and give.
    • Jean Vanier, From Brokenness to Community, 1992, pp 35-36
  • Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don't talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.
    • Jean Vanier, Community And Growth, 1979
  • To look forward, to want life, means we have to be willing to look backwards and become more conscious of all those who have hurt us, all that is broken in us and that has brought us inner deaths, hurts that we may have hidden and stifled. It means that we acknowledge the story of our origins, of our own lives, see and accept our brokenness and the times we also have hurt others. When we have accepted who we are and what we need in order to grow in compassion and peacemaking, we can move forward to give life. To forgive is a gift of God that permits us to let go of our past hurts.
    • Jean Vanier, Finding Peace, pp 47-48
  • I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.
    • Jean Vanier, Community And Growth, 1979

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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