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If God Is Love, It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable.

“If God Is Love, It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable,”
A Study of Vulnerability in the Works of Jean Vanier.

James Cross
Spirituality Research Project. (First semester 2014)

CATHOLIC INSTITUTE SYDNEY

Supervisor, Dr. Matthew Del Nevo.

James Cross 2014-C.I.S-Spirituality Essay, Matthew Del Nevo 1/21

If God Is Love, It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable.

PRIMARY SOURCES BY JEAN VANIER. (In order of date of publication.)

Be Not Afraid (Toronto: Paulist Press, 1975)

The Challenge of L’Arche (Ottowa: Novalis Publishing, 1981)

Man and Woman He Made Them (Strathfield: Paulist Press, 1986)

The Broken Body (Strathfield: Paulist Press. 1988)

The Church after the Synod, a Quiet Revolution (The Furrow. Vol. 39, No 7 (July, 1988) 419-428)

Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together (Strathfield: Paulist Press, 1989)

From Brokenness to Community (Harold M. Wit Lectures) (Strathfield: Paulist Press, 1992)

Jesus, The Gift Of Love (New York: The Crossroad Company 1994)

A Door of Hope, the Transformation of Pain (London: Holder & Stoughton. 1996)

Our Journey Home (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. 1997)

Becoming Human (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999)

Drawn Into the Mystery of Jesus Through The Gospel of John (Strathfield: Paulist Press, 2004.

Encountering the Other (Adelaide: John Garrett Publishing, 2005)

Made for Happiness: Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle (London: Darton, Longman &
Todd Ltd, 2005.

Our Life Together, A Memoir in Letters (London: Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, 2008)

James Cross 2014-C.I.S-Spirituality Essay, Matthew Del Nevo 2/21

Jean. 24/12/2009 2 James Cross Pilgrimage to Life (Darwin: FreeThinking Media. I offer these reflections in the midst of an ongoing struggle to love. Neither do I seek to "use" my experience merely as a theological example. It was just hanging there as all this liquid came out of my mouth onto the sheets.” 2 The above is an extract from my experience of a bone marrow transplant. IT MEANS THAT GOD IS TERRIBLY VULNERABLE”. but He came here to sit in the mess with me. Then I noticed that in the violent coughing a tube had come out of my arm and there was blood leaking out. I felt weak and my head slumped forward. I do not intend to moralize on the basis of my own experience. then I started to cough and gag. and Becoming Human. L'Arche. I have no idea where that phrase came from. In this essay I will focus on vulnerability as a key aspect of Vanier’s work. Theology cannot help but be personal and localized. Before she could get back to me I heard an alarm on a monitor go off in another room. I was so weak I couldn’t call out. In writing about Jean Vanier there is a tenuous line between the "personal" and the "academic”. I will examine first the language and paradox of vulnerability for spirituality in a broad context. The doctor said she would like to put a tube down my throat so that my stomach keeps getting nutrients. It’s important. not only makes sense but offers constructive possibilities for fruitful living and humanizing relationships. 2008) 108 James Cross 2014-C. She went running to that. Relationships. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. 1 Vanier. If God Is Love. I seek more fundamentally to explore my localized experience in a way that draws upon theological and philosophical resources and begins— albeit tentatively—to formulate a vision that. like a mother’s soothing sounds to a distressed baby. “IF GOD IS LOVE. hoping that readers may find in them something of value. It became uncontrollable and I started to vomit. I had also lost control of my bowels and they had emptied too. but an intense. I felt Jesus speak: I will cover up your nakedness as if it were My own! Those words were just repeated again and again. Then I will show the valuable contribution Vanier’s writing makes to this subject using the following themes: Human nature. Today I woke up in immense pain! It wasn’t an ache. He didn’t take me away yet. for me. I know He is with me. Our internal vulnerability and Community as the space for vulnerability. I called to the nurse who was by herself.I. I was shaking and soaked with sweat. finitude.1 A Study of Vulnerability in the Works of Jean Vanier’ “I can’t eat now because I have all these cuts and sores in my mouth. as if it was trying to escape from itself. but I hadn’t eaten.S-Spirituality Essay. but it is also public in a way that speaks to a community of human beings sharing common concerns and struggles. crazy feeling all over my body. Lessons from the most vulnerable. Then the tube that was in my nose came up out of my stomach and out of my mouth. She came in to check on me and said she’d get me some medication because the doctor had already signed that I could have something strong if needed. Matthew Del Nevo 3/21 . She asked me what I thought. My head was still spinning. I said I don’t think any more! I just have to trust. so that it doesn’t start to build up bacteria. Then as clearly as if it were a voice. ‘On Being’ The Wisdom of Tenderness: Lived Compassion. NPR Radio. I couldn’t do anything but sit and wait until I was found.

“Vulnerable Church in a Vulnerable World? Towards an Ecclesiology of Vulnerability”. is to be vulnerable. 1993). 1980). mode. O'Donnell. contingent nature of existence in general. Vulnerability means the openness to being changed and taken outside of what is comfortable in our perception of our “self”. For Jean Vanier there is no way to consider relationship without vulnerability. Jurgen Moltmann. and to the interdependence of the three persons within the Trinity. Nico. it refers to his compassion with the suffering world. the predisposition to pain and suffering of so many humans and other creatures. to nature. J. 24/12/2009. The desire for others. capable of being wounded. What’s more. for belonging. and humbleness. pp. see J. and Becoming Human. 3 Koopman. It creates possibilities for great joy but also for great suffering. This basic realization is essential to spirituality. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. GA: Mercer University Press. the fragility and interdependence of humans and of other creatures in all their relationships. The Passion of God: Divine Suffering in Contemporary Protestant Theology (Macon. but the basic precondition of a good and meaningful life – of joy. and. Wilson and John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Trinity and Temporality (Oxford: OUP. accepted virtually as axiomatic in Christian theology from the early Greek Fathers until the nineteenth century.). 5 Vanier. The concept of ‘vulnerability’ as used in this essay refers to the tragic. 3 To be human to is to be vulnerable. I have been influenced by Jürgen Moltmann. the various forms of suffering of humans and the rest of creation. empathy. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. Spiceland (eds. For many people today. The main point of the spirituality of vulnerability is that vulnerability is not merely a weakness to be overcome or eliminated. in the wake of the terrible persecutions of our time. Journal of Reformed Theology 2 (2008) 240-254 4 The doctrine that God cannot suffer. One God in Trinity (London: Bagster. the idea of that God is "impassible" comes across as if God does not care about human life. particularly the Holocaust. has in this century been progressively abandoned. softness." On Moltmann's view of divine suffering. trans. Love requires total disarmament and vulnerability. A.I. reveals our fundamental need and makes one vulnerable. ‘On Being’ The Wisdom of Tenderness: Lived Compassion. aporetic. D. L'Arche. For a concise discussion of other theologians representing this trend. proximity and community. 4. Matthew Del Nevo 4/21 . R.” 5 Vulnerability should be considered as the central context for human relationships. so of course he see that God is also vulnerable. 121-4. Vulnerability. who lived through the destruction of European Jewry and who had some personal experience of that catastrophe. and to God. Toon and J. to fellow human beings. For many theologians. James Cross 2014-C. If God Is Love.S-Spirituality Essay. to feel passion. maybe because I'm becoming myself more vulnerable. by R. and attitude of brokenness. see Warren McWilliams. NPR Radio. in P. the style. Vulnerability is what makes us human. 1983). the impassibility of God is frequently blamed for the church's failure to make an adequate response. To desire another. finitude. the only adequate way to continue the task is to begin with a "God after Auschwitz. Bauckham. ch. sensibility and the possibilities both of being caressed and hurt – is not a lamentable fact. THE EXISTENTIAL VULNERABILITY Before examining Jean Vanier’s contribution in detail I will outline the meaning of vulnerability in the broad context of spirituality. but rather an indelible feature of human existence. 1985). They implicate openness to the surroundings. regarding God. 4 “I'd say that what touches me the deepest. is the discovery of the vulnerability of God. Jean.

the worst ill is disdain of another person. Matthew Del Nevo 5/21 . The more of our vulnerabilities we can own. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. God Made Them. every person. I would highlight three key points as a summery of his core principles.I. people will always be vulnerable. our relationships will be interrupted with conflict. When we find another person in life that we love and want to share ourselves with. 180 James Cross 2014-C. a drain of our ability to create a good standard of living or to have a reliable life. Secondly: being vulnerable is part and parcel of human life. it is also important to see that vulnerability is a condition for acting humanely. the more we can speak openly of our wounds and limitations. The paradox of strength and vulnerability is what makes us truly and beautifully human. It is inherent that relationships contains risk. And the more strength we have. Vulnerability implies an openness to one’s surroundings. It is that paradox that allows our spirituality to stay genuine and our culture to become one of compassionate solidarity. In other words. Vulnerability can be seen as a curse. that in order to progress towards the fullness of life that is inscribed in his or her being. First every human being. Often we find that with this embrace comes pain. 8 6 Man and Woman. consequently the only appropriate relationship is one where vulnerability can take place. If God Is Love. which can lead to oppression and the suppression of human life. at some time or other. God Made Them. it is a condition for humankind’s ethical capacity and responsibility.S-Spirituality Essay. to specific others. Not only does this mean that vulnerability is inescapable at some level. Second. Firstly: a human being is a vulnerable creature. Unless we respect the core center of holiness. to share our anxieties. to one’s fellow human beings. as we discover that the other is not able to receive all we have to unload. HUMAN NATURE. At times we need eliminate unnecessary vulnerability. 7 The acceptance of our own vulnerability as human beings is a difficult task. It is my position that a healthy spirituality is not about trying to deny the place of vulnerability in human life. 6 The statement has two aspects. we seek to open ourselves. culture. Finally. void we never fill up. or religion. the pure space that must remain empty in our lives. the more of our strength we can access. silent. vulnerability that is caused by negative desires and behavior. needs others. is important and valuable and should be respected. which enables people to recognize the pain of others as their own and accept responsibility for alleviating the distress of others. regardless of his or her limitations. FINITUDE AND VULNERABILITY Vanier’s contribution of vulnerability to modern spirituality is founded on the irreducible dignity of every human being. to reveal our emotion. the private. We have a need for and right to protection against threats to our life and liberty. it is about trying to cultivate responsible or ‘appropriate vulnerability’. We quickly draw close and soon seek to embrace. 127 8 Made for Happiness. 67 7 Man and Woman.

but every person has value because they are capable of giving and receiving love. Loneliness for Vanier has two types. And so they come to us. So loneliness opens up mystics to a desire to love each and every human being as God loves them.S-Spirituality Essay. Every person has the potential to awaken to relationship. belonging. If God Is Love. belonging. vulnerable. 12 In response to this negative form of loneliness. when they have a sense 9 Becoming Human. It was through living in L’Arche that Vanier “discovered a lot about loneliness. What Vanier reminds the world is that only when our lives embrace this and accept our limits will we be happy. 132 James Cross 2014-C. this can not be diminished by the suppression of others or even by their own negative choices. but its integrity remains intact. springs from rejection and is a source of depression. This first type urges you out of yourself towards the other.” In this form. and the inner pain that springs from a sense of rejection. The second form of loneliness. seen as useless. Vanier believes that we can never discount a person’s value. 6. But L'Arche is based on body and on the broken suffering bodies. While we are all aware of this part of the fallen human experience it is more often seen as something to be overcome. For Vanier a person is not defined by there capacity to reason but by their capacity for relationship. loneliness is a source for creative energy. for it is then that we can embrace Jesus. manifested as apathy and depression that Vanier sees in those with disabilities and in the elderly. Only a person can enter into deepest mystery of reality. Matthew Del Nevo 6/21 .” Sydeny retreat. Vanier believes that need community people in order to “experience that deep inner healing that comes about mainly when people feel loved.”9 In Vanier’s experience these components of vulnerability are the starting point of his spirituality. body or character. and so we welcome those who apparently are useless. You'll find lot of communities which are based on the word. It pushes them towards the absolute. the energy that drives us. rejection. “Loneliness can become a source of creative energy. while the second type of loneliness inhibits you from encountering another. that is to say they speak of an ideal together and we are committed to an ideal or to a vision. Frequently it is the lonely man or woman who revolts against injustice and seeks new ways. This is not limited by any defect of mind. The first type of loneliness is inherent in our human nature because “there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human 11 heart. isolation and death. In the end only human beings are capable of loving relationships.10 Let us look briefly at these three principles on which Vanier’s theological anthropology is based: loneliness. 10 “L'Arche is not based first on the word. The insight of the vulnerability of humanity is not unique to Vanier. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. It is this later form of loneliness. however.I. Loneliness is the fundamental force that urges mystics to a deeper union with God. 12 Becoming Human. a fire fuelled by loneliness. it has always been a central tenet of the Christian faith. motivating both poets and mystics to seek the absolute. 11 Becoming Human. love. It is true that this core can be obscured. It is as if a fire is burning within them. At their core every individual has a sacredness that must be respected. A person does not have value because of their relationship to us. 8.

making it possible to inhabit a safe. to be welcomed. We receive our existence from others.” 15 We desire to be recognised and accepted. 31 18 Becoming Human. Vanier argues that the roots of this rejection are almost always found in one’s childhood. “To reveal someone’s beauty is to reveal their value by giving them time. and thus the “buffer” to the experience of rejection. That human beings are not ready- made for getting along in this world is a liability rendering us vulnerable and dependent creatures. To love is not just to do something for them but to reveal to them their own uniqueness. We feel at home in the world by dwelling with others. 17 By belonging to a home in this sense we inhabit creation. The primary place of belonging.” 15 The Challenge of L’Arche. Vanier cites the primacy in society given to the individual to the exclusion of the family and community. communities are manifestation of our need to belong. Vanier argues that modern man suppresses his yearning for belonging behind hyper-activity out of fear of being hurt while the handicapped person cannot hide this yearning to belong. and this is at the heat of belonging. The second formative principle of Vanier’s theological anthropology is the desire to belong. care and compassion. especially the rejection experienced by children who are either all together abandoned by their parents or whose parents are too busy to fully welcome and affirm them. it is the belief that each persons humanity is inextricably bound up in one another‘s humanity and suggests generosity. No Future Without Forgiveness (New York: Doubleday.16 This is why. 36 17 Archbishop Desmond Tutu in “No Future Without Forgiveness” describes Ubuntu (in Nguni languages or botho in Sotho languages) as the central feature of his anthropology. attention. predictable. as Jean Vanier concludes. of belonging. 273 16 Becoming Human. open heart. RELATIONSHIPS OF LOVE REQUIRE VULNERABILITY. the handicapped “are only heart: a wounded.” This affirmation springing from belonging is the method through which someone’s true beauty is revealed. for the rejection that is almost universally felt nowadays. to tell them that they are special and worthy of attention. 22.. and tenderness to be given and freely received. We need others to nurture and sustain us. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. hospitality. 13 Becoming Human. 1999). Desmond Tutu. attention and tenderness. If God Is Love. Vanier says that in a way. and meaningful world.I. to be told that “it is good that you exist. 44 James Cross 2014-C. The experience of rejection erects barriers around our hearts and we become distrustful of others.14 It is necessary that this revelation takes place within a committed relationship in order for the gifts of time. At the root of this intrinsic human desire to belong is the need to be affirmed. 11 14 Becoming Human.18 The final experience at the heart of Vanier’s spiritual anthropology is that of rejection. woven together with others.S-Spirituality Essay. Matthew Del Nevo 7/21 . this yearning for relationship. should be family.”13 I will examine in more detail below the community as a place where people can love as well as be loved.

which will change your life. a "metanoia". then the spirit can rise up. as the body can become comfortable. 19 Relationships are only authentic and stable when they are founded on the acceptance of weakness. NPR Radio. We have seen how loneliness in its two forms. To listen to someone means to become open and vulnerable to the other and to allow them to disturb us. Vanier puts it this way “You are not just being generous. Jean. the key aspect. If nobody reveals to children their innate beauty and value. what is important is to see that the body is well. When they are listened to and loved they begin to discover what it means to be human. helping people dress. Vanier’s insists that relationships have an intrinsic bodily dimension.20 Relationships of love have a transforming power. 22 “The first aspect of love. To love is not just to do something for them but to reveal to them their own uniqueness. attention and tenderness. depression.” “To reveal someone’s beauty is to reveal their value by giving them time. You have become vulnerable. in order to bring about a movement from anguish to peace within people. this requires vulnerability. to listen. they belong. is relationships of love. requires a real conversion. Matthew Del Nevo 8/21 . when somebody comes to our community and is quite severely handicapped. There's a recognition. fundamental beauty and value. 37 20 Community and Growth.I. a transformation. they will never know the importance and the meaning of their life. you are entering into a relationship. with an open and free heart. They will hide behind sulking. He says that “it's a suffering body which brings us together. first and foremost as a revelation of a person's essential. They realize they do not have to defend or prove themselves or always be at the centre of the stage. And it's attention to the body. on forgiveness and on the hope of growth. If God Is Love. is revelation. Little by little they become more trusting and want to live more fully. 19 Encountering the Other. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. and the experience of rejection make up the core of Vanier’s anthropology. 28 21 Becoming Human. You are no longer in control. is at times difficult and sometimes tedious.S-Spirituality Essay. they have a place. to change our habits and our ways of thinking and seeing things. Just as a mother and father reveal to their children that they have value and beauty. 21 As a result of his experience of living with those most vulnerable. aggressive attitudes or will try to prove their brilliance. in Jean’s experience. You see. 22 There's a relationship. 24/12/2009 James Cross 2014-C. L'Arche. What is needed. And then.” Healing loving relationship require us to be present with our mind body and soul. to tell them that they are special and worthy of attention. Bathing. violence. to eat. the desire to belong. There's a contact. It's to communicate to them through the body.” 22 Vanier. and Becoming Human. ‘On Being’ The Wisdom of Tenderness: Lived Compassion. whose most developed sense of communication was through the body. To simply be with a person. you have come to love that person”. Being present. to sit.

power. When I visited the l’Arche community I immediately sensed that there was a direct contrast. 319 24 Encountering the Other. the values of the greater society. Not being able to engage in conversation about politics. Vanier also speaks of presence in the sense that it is a being present to reality. There is an implicit question: If someone cannot live according to the values of knowledge and power. of fear. He says the greatest gift of those he lives with at L’Arche is that they have the ability to live in the present. Our society is geared to growth. after a week of meetings with accountants and lawyers. power. when I attended a retreat run by L’Arche. Vanier is speaking about a “total presence” and saying that our immediate human reaction when called upon to be fully present is to flee the situation. it was still difficult for me to be comfortable with those who don’t live by this same set of values as me. and social status. full of violence. and social esteem. Not being able to throw out a prepared social role as my identity. I saw how this world I was in is constructed around values of knowledge. We are not clear about what it means to be human. of misery that demands our total presence. it was confronting to have to simply be me. above all when it is a matter of suffering. If God Is Love.24 “We are always putting things onto someone else. “The social stigmas around people with intellectual disabilities are strong. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. We reduce being human to acquiring knowledge. 23 In speaking of the society at large Vanier comments about how society is structured so that we never have to be fully present to anyone.S-Spirituality Essay. While in principle I embraced this ideal. to create a world of excuses to avoid being inconvenienced”. You have to ask why is it that we are threatened by such by such simple beautiful people. economics or philosophy I found myself struggling. I recall a personal experience some time ago. we ask ourselves. 17 25 Be Not Afraid. of abuse. 15 26 Becoming Human. can that person be fully human?” 26 Our society is continually confronted by a world in crisis.I. We disregard the heart and see it only as a symbol of weakness. Our immediate reaction to all sad and impossible 25 situations is to shut out hearts. The reason for this fear of vulnerability is man’s experience of rejection as we have seen in Vanier’s spiritual anthropology. The people I needed to advise me were trained to work on principles of distrust so as to protect the interests of their client. Jean Vanier is well aware of these questions. 77 James Cross 2014-C. None of those things were important here. Society has structured itself in such a way as to facilitate man’s fear of presence. Matthew Del Nevo 9/21 . They have a well developed capacity to celebrate and live in the moment. 23 Community and Growth.

your good feelings don't come from the fact that you have helped some needy person.I. the clever. Vanier challenges us to remain aware that we always have something to learn. If we fail to see that the real value of our relationship is that we are all weak and in radical need of God’s sustenance. progress. and having been in contact with so many other people who are weak and fragile. a Quiet Revolution “After having lived twenty-three years in a community with people who have a mental handicap. 32 The Church after the Synod. people with disabilities. If God Is Love. This is an important challenge to all Christians. in our compassion. Our Journey Home. Life for most of us is a race to be won. 45 28 Becoming Human. of a love that can reorient us from our self-centeredness. slow. sick or disabled all have something to reveal to the world. 186 31 The Church after the Synod. and the winners necessarily belittles the weak. revealing to us and to others the basic beauty of humanity. He warns against seeing them “simply as objects of our charity”. In this essay I will use the phrase “the most vulnerable” to refer in a general sense to those abandoned and pushed to the edges of our consumer society. empowering us to grow. a Quiet Revolution 33 The Church after the Synod. poor and hungry. When talking specifically about people with disabilities I will use the same language as Vanier. 27 A society that honors only the powerful. You may have helped them. They are not there just to receive from the strong and the powerful. refugees. I realize more and more the danger of excluding such people from the life of the Church or seeing them simply as objects of our charity. “The poor evangelize us and call us to love. abandoned children and lonely old people. Jean Vanier declares that.” 31 Vanier is aware of the danger of excluding the most vulnerable from the life of the Church.” 33 27 Becoming Human. XVII 30 Made For Happiness. In the poor there is a mystery we are all called to live. While all of us are vulnerable this term makes a necessary distinction. They come from the insight you gain about your own humanity.28 LESSONS FROM THE MOST VULNERABLE29 One of the constant themes of Vanier’s writing is that all human relationships of love are between equals. the weak. It is as if to say: to be human is to be powerful. development. a love that shows itself in humility and in trust. to see ourselves as saviors who will liberate the weak. in Vanier’s own writing he uses the term “the poor” for these groups that the gospel calls us to be in solidarity. Vanier's crucial insight is to turn the ordinary notion of 'charity' on its head: when you do some kind act. 78 29 USE OF LANGUAGE. those who are sick. Vanier teaches the value of a love that empowers. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable.S-Spirituality Essay. that helps others to stand up. It is an easy temptation. a Quiet Revolution. 32 The most vulnerable people in our community are rarely seen as being at the heart off Church. through your relationship with the poor and the rejected. “capable of giving life and awakening love. Matthew Del Nevo 10/21 . 30 While at times it may appear that one is in a greater position. something to gain from the other. The most vulnerable. migrants ad prisoners. People who are poor and fragile are rarely seen as being at the heart off James Cross 2014-C. Vanier warns us against building our identity around this. unemployed. but they have evangelised you.

(1988). not because of our achievements. John Paul has said that. but we can only receive it when we surrender and admit our powerlessness. If we insist on this active participation in the Church. His presence is so clear and simple in and through the poor. to earn our righteousness." in Critical Reflections on Stanley Hauerwas' Theology of Disability. And Jesus identifies himself with the poor. The strong don’t want charity.I. then we tend to suppress its specific mystery. It is out of vulnerability that the grace of the Holy Spirit can touch those around us. the most indecent. that we are helpless before God. We must ask what do we base our identity on. James Cross 2014-C. The most vulnerable force us to evaluate our life and values. co-responsibility. Vanier sees the final message of that synod as a prophetic word for the most vulnerable. are necessary. you who are sick. it is always abundantly free. those who are poor or weak or fragile most often cannot assume responsibility or participate in decisions. St Paul tells us clearly that the birch is a Body. “They can teach everyone Church. participation. ed. In a sense it is out of our cracks and our brokenness that the light of Christ can shine. whilst it is often dimmed or clouded in those who are more rich and cultured. 53 35 Jean Vanier. we say that the Church shares your suffering. how do we measure success? Do these values really make us happy? Are we at peace when we live by rules of distrust and competition? Are we able to receive love. “You who are the abandoned and pushed to the edges of our consumer society.” 34 Christifideles Laici. As I am so sensitive in this area. It is true that the most vulnerable are in a privileged position to witnesses to humanity that the greatest gift we can have is to know that we are loved unconditionally. Why is this? While the mystery of Jesus is present in every person. etc. I find it quite difficult when people speak of the place of lay people only in terms of collaboration. abandoned children and lonely old people. unemployed. If God Is Love. migrants ad prisoners. 2004). poor and hungry. and that in this Body the members who are the weakest. capable of giving life and awakening love. people with disabilities. These terms are quite popular on the political scene and in big business and major industries where people have learned that greater participation gives greater efficiency and less conflict. refugees. John Swinton (New York: The Haworth Pastoral Press. She takes it to the Lord who in turn associates you with his redeeming passion. 12). but simply undeserved gracious love?35 This is a challenge because I believe that all of us would like to be loved for our achievements. co-operation. Matthew Del Nevo 11/21 . and should be honored (1Cor. "The Need of Strangers. We need you to teach the whole world what love is. When we sin we want to earn forgiveness. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. You are brought to life in the light of his resurrection.S-Spirituality Essay. However. In 1980 Jean Vanier was invited by Pope John Paul 11 to participate in the Synod as a laymen and part of the Apostolic Delegate from Canada. The gospel message is that we can never win more of God’s love. We will do everything we can so that you may find your rightful place in the church and in society.” 34 Many people have discovered that as they enter into relationships of friendship and mutuality with the vulnerable that they are transformed.

April 2004.. The Gift Of Love. They have hearts but they do not love the heart of those who weep. 19. 2003. While the limitations of the poor are obvious to the world. they can become heralds of a new world. At times their needs will overwhelm us. “If we go down and meet those who have been impoverished and rejected.and it is paradox. 38 Our Broken World: A Path to Healing and Peace. either asking them to simply be submissive and ‘offer up’ their pain. 61 42 Jesus.” 36 This is an important message. In his last visit to Australia Jean reminded us all that. their inability to listen. ungrateful and selfish. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable.39 that all of us need relationship and community to move away from brokenness. They have eyes but do not hear the cries for help. “I have touched the vulnerability of my heart and the troubled waters of emptiness and anguish.. It is uncomfortable to admit this is inside me. Kurrajong. forces of hate rise up inside us. 10 43 From Brokenness to Community. That's the vision of L’Arche . Vanier is well aware of the reality. no longer dominated by force. about the love that saves us. and to realize that maybe I did not want to know who I really was. every person is limited. and in our capacity to relate’. At particular moments of fatigue or stress. their self satisfaction. they will in some mysterious way transform us. but by love. Jean Vanier 36 International Symposium in Rome. The handicaps of some are more visible. The Gift Of Love. solidarity and acceptance. On The Dignity Of People With Disabilities. ‘there is a powerful world of darkness and anguish in each person’ 41. Merroo. 40 Jean Vanier has discovered and confronted the reality that there are immense forces of darkness and hatred within all of our hearts. their hardness of heart. pxii. still we must be sensitive to never idealize the lives of those who suffer. Retreat with Jean Vanier and Eileen Glass. 39 Jesus. which they have stored up inside themselves.” 37 In reality living with the vulnerable is difficult. While the rich and the powerful may sadly be under the illusion that their lives are complete. ‘some have been victims of so much contempt and violence." 38 OUR INTERNAL VULNERABILITY. or to think will always be gracious when we attempt a relationship. for others they are hidden: their fear. In spite of these difficulties if we are open we can receive much. To some extent the more obvious ones limits are the easier it is to recognize our need for others. Anger and depression remain with certain people the whole of their lives. yet they will remain the poorest of all if they attempt to stay in isolated self-sufficiency. 37 Our Journey Home. their pride. I have protected the vulnerability through my own defence mechanisms and angers”42. that there can be an explosion of violence. James Cross 2014-C.S-Spirituality Essay. violence and aggression. The Gift Of Love. Vanier even noticed “the capacity to hurt someone who was weak and was provoking me!” 43 This discovery will often cause much pain: to discover who I really am. They can be rude.I. their egoism. If God Is Love. Vanier reminds us that all of us that ‘we are all so broken in love.” Be Not Afraid. 13 41 Jesus. Matthew Del Nevo 12/21 . 67 40 “Isn’t each man handicapped? It is false to distinguish between ‘normal’ and abnormal’.

is to bring people to freedom. either to ourselves or certainly not to others. of 44 Community and Growth. It is as if to say: to be human is to be powerful. to prove your superiority to yourself and to others. someone or something to turn into the object of fear. are his “beloved children.” 48 It is to accept that God loves us without conditions or limits. intense loneliness. 44 Anxiety over vulnerability. progress. teaches that the important thing is to become conscious of those forces in us and to work at being liberated from them and to discover that the worst enemy is inside our own hearts not outside. elitism. in a culture like this that honors the winners and belittles the weak. 14 45 Become human. If this is how God loves us in our weaknesses and sins. 47 And who wants to be marginalized? One cost of achieving this standard of success is. fear of loneliness. Life for most of us is a race to be won. like Jesus. 45–46. seeks an object. development. 48 Becoming Human. then surely we must learn to accept ourselves with all our many foibles. There are many good reasons for this. conditions us to just continue to pretend that we are okay.” 47 Becoming Human. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. to throw our self into hyperactivity. as Vanier notes. deny. for to deny our weaknesses is to live an illusion and a lie. Our culture. If God Is Love. Matthew Del Nevo 13/21 . 114 James Cross 2014-C. 45 How much of our time and energy do we spend trying to hide. aggressive competition. and overcome our weaknesses? Typically we do not want to admit our weaknesses. prejudice. Vanier asserts. What is Freedom? “Freedom is freedom from fear. So.compulsion. into consumerism and a spiritual void. the weak are pushed aside. and the winners necessarily belittles the weak. and I will out line below the appropriate place for vulnerability. and the fear of failure. In a state of insecurity we hunt for a scapegoat to symbolize our fear. as well as others with their flaws. and to hear His voice that we too. Community. Our society is 46 built upon a compulsive need to compete and succeed. It is a culture that breeds self-importance. 45 “Our society is geared to growth. Vanier writes “Maturity is precisely the acceptance of yourself with your own flaws. 47 46 Becoming Human.I. A society that honors only the powerful. Freedom means not being controlled by fear of any kind . the clever.S-Spirituality Essay. that defines the ideal human as powerful and beautiful. which fears vulnerability. and subsequently contempt. of course.” COMMUNITY AS THE SPACE FOR VULNERABILITY. We can love ourselves with the realization that it is acceptable to be less than perfect.

this is only a psychological hatred—it isn’t yet a 49 Our Broken World: A Path to Healing and Peace. This teaches me to see the limited expressions of human affection as reflection of God’s unlimited love. 51 In community we will meet those we can never get along with. Matthew Del Nevo 14/21 . Achieving freedom from fear becomes the capacity to love freely”. My experience is that the God of love and the love of God are hidden in those who are weak and vulnerable. failure. But that is very human and natural… we are confronted daily by the impossibility of living out the gospel message day by day without the presence of Jesus and the wisdom God gives us. however. disagreements and even conflicts. misunderstandings. somehow they know that beyond the wounds and needs of others there is an embrace without conditions or restraint. 50 Community and Growth. of feelings of guilt. When we begin to live with others we discover our poverty and our weakness. Vanier says that these people are the “enemies. even if we dare not admit it. our hatred and our wish to destroy. Merroo. Letting go of all expectations and being content with the love of God is necessary if you are to survive a life in community. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. God is hidden in our community”. April 2004. we can be tempted to blame those around us. 501 James Cross 2014-C.I. who are dependent on signs of love and acceptance. without having to be certain my love will be returned. often suppressed but still present. I have learnt from experience. we hate them. Certainly. can be so joyous and radiant. Keeping this insight at the core of my life has provided so much security when dealing with the trials of human relationships. in our own weakness and vulnerability. and our affective or sexual disturbances. it was only that I became aware of them in this new environment. Community is the place where our limitations and our egoism are revealed to us. and. We become slaves of what others think. and end up controlled by social pressures. If God Is Love. People with mental handicaps. I am less controlled by a fear of rejection and I am able to give. Knowing and being embraced by God’s love. that these weaknesses were always in me. our seemingly insatiable desires. Kurrajong. Vanier explains “Here in Trosly there are also ups and downs of life. our emotional blocks.” “They endanger us. of suffering. our frustrations and our jealousies. the disappointments. It is not always so neat of course. Retreat with Jean Vanier and Eileen Glass. 1 51 Letters. 50 At first when confronted by this painful understanding. it may never get ugly but there presence disturbs us.S-Spirituality Essay. We may never confront them. 49 One of the greatest joys for me has been the discovery Vanier lead me to that the absolute love of God allows us to accept the imperfect love of people. which can often be a very confronting place.

It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. a place where we belong. all the fears. Vanier says that for a real community to form the majority must “Consciously decide to break these barriers and come out of their cocoons to stretch out their hand to their enemies” 53 It is my opinion that it is worth the pain to push past these walls we build. because it is only when we become aware of our weakness can we be healed. IV 55 Be Not Afraid. It is these people who do not have an immediate sympathy for that challenge us the most and give us the opportunity to grow. Vanier says this is the very opposite of sloppy complacency. This is why I have called community the space for vulnerability. In community we can overcome this if we turn to Jesus the healer. It gave me a freedom to accept my feeling if someone as holy as Jean Vanier could acknowledge them. all the cowardice and weakness. 45 James Cross 2014-C. “It is only when we are conscious of who we are and who the others are. it is only in the safety of community.I. that this deep vulnerability is appropriate It is in this space that God can take off the amour that we have used to protect our self in the world. and the reality of this provokes fear. It is not a fatalistic and hopeless acceptance. all the anarchy of desire. all the need for human security that incites us to possess. Vanier reminds us. But even so. we are all called to death. While it is comfortable to surround our self with people who flatter us. If God Is Love. with all our 52 Community and Growth.S-Spirituality Essay. I learnt to look beyond my feelings and even in community I was still called to follow Jesus and Love my enemies.” 55 In community we learn to accept our weaknesses and those of others.” 52 I was very happy when I first read these words many years ago. that if we are to grow in community we must attempt enter into relationship with all the people the Holy Spirit has gathered. It is only when we become conscious of our weakness and our fears that we can begin to grow in union with the Spirit. or where others want us to be. 25 53 Community and Growth. 54 “Jesus the healer comes when we are conscious that we need a healer. we just wish these people didn’t exist! If they disappeared or died. when we become conscious of our own egoism. Vanier says that community is where we are reminded that we all are weak. and I have learnt this myself. to take off our defenses so that Jesus the healer may dress our wounds. Matthew Del Nevo 15/21 . if we do this exclusively it will no longer be a community but a collection of people shut in on them self. He says. because it is not deliberate. it would seem like liberation. 26 54 Be Not Afraid. It is essentially a concern for truth so that we do not live in illusion and can grow from where we are and not where we want to be. moral hatred.

64.” observed Alyosha. love is gone. wealth and weakness. that we can build something together. Ivan.” “Father Zossima has talked of that more than once.S-Spirituality Essay.” Ivan began. too.I. You might think exactly the opposite that as their trust in each other grows.” 56 The more a community deepens the weaker and the more sensitive its members become. The force for life should spring from the reality of who we are. I know nothing of it so far. The cement of unity is interdependence. But we are not gods. which was put rid and loathsome from some awful disease. for as soon as he shows his face. though one might love those at a distance. To my thinking. Love means letting others reach us and becoming sensitive enough to reach them. 57 JESUS OUR VULNERABLE LOVER. from the self-laceration of falsity. held him in his arms. I once read some where of John the Merciful. that when a hungry. I know that myself. from loving him.“ I could never understand how one can love one's neighbors. and the in numerable mass of mankind are with me there.” “Well. for the sake of the charity imposed by duty. makes a confession to his brother Alyosha: “I must make you one confession. a saint. because it breaks down the barriers and protective amour we have built around ourselves. It's just one's neighbours. whether that's due to men's bad qualities or whether it's inherent in their nature. “he. He was God. and when we are conscious of the call of God and the life He gives us. 237 James Cross 2014-C. Love makes us weak and vulnerable. frozen beggar came to him. Part way through a lengthy examination of human suffer. and began breathing into his mouth. But yet there's a great deal of love in mankind. The question is. said that the face of a man often hinders many people not practiced in love. 1991). and I am constantly challenged that reality of my life is so far from these ideas of vulnerability and love that I have just written about. 37 59 Fyodor Dostoevsky. that one can't love. and almost Christ-like love. The Brothers Karamazov (New York: Vintage. and can't understand it. Matthew Del Nevo 16/21 . If God Is Love. 38 57 Community and Growth. they in fact grow stronger.” 59 56 Community and Growth. he took him in to his bed. I am convinced that he did that from ‘self laceration’. Christ-like love for men is a miracle impossible on earth. I think that Dostoevsky articulates this human struggle well. he must be hidden. For anyone to love a man. 36 58 Jesus. as a penance aid on him. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. The Gift Of Love. Ivan. to my mind.58 It has been many years now that I have been walking a journey with Jean Vanier. In the novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. Vanier reminds us that this growing strength doesn't dispel the fragility and sensitivity which are at the root of a new grace and which means that people are becoming in some way dependent on each other.

‘Christ-like love for men is a miracle impossible on earth’. This is why Ivan is correct. except while being held in the arms of our Jesus. but rather by his wounds”. in the face of pain. People are not healed by Jesus by supernatural powers. James Cross 2014-C. through the mystery of the Eucharist. God will not intervene to alter the circumstances. the only miracle I think worth speaking of. Without being pious. I have come to recognise that there is a hard truth to Ivan's viewpoint. it is only by sacramentally entering into utter abandonment of the Cross. Ivan's assessment of humanity may seem cynical. Jesus will literally be with us in all the shit of life.S-Spirituality Essay. What can we say in the face of human suffering? Many times I have felt the pain for those we can only stand in mute sorrow with nothing to say to me. recognizing the peculiar ways they call us to respond to and affirm their uniqueness apart from our own agendas or expectations. it is difficult to love.I. For. But it is only at close range that love becomes active and real. when we’re in great pain. the little details get in the way. but when faced with actual experiences of pain. “Liberate yourself by accepting one another”. are we able to exist in a place of suffering without being anxious that love will lead to our own annihilation. to come to us and cover up our nakedness. The only way to experience the miracle of love.60 It is in the cross that God’s ultimate solidarity with human vulnerability is manifest. and when great suffering most often brings exclusion. In Human Disability and the Service of God. 60 Jürgan Moltmann notes Jesus… “heals not by casting aside and getting rid of the sicknesses. 115. our vulnerable lover. but by taking them on himself. This love is only possible if we remember that Jesus was God. but after years of reflection. and hold us in our vulnerability. or those they love. At close range. face-to-face. If God Is Love. and human love is transformed into a divine power. is to allow Jesus. once we encounter other human beings and acknowledge their genuine difference from us. As I recounted at the beginning of this essay. If we can. It is confronting to realize that our love is not big enough to surmount suffering. we flee. this solidarity unleashes healing and grace. Therefore we are desperately compelled to fight off suffering as long as we can. I believe that compassionate regard and self-giving care much easier and more attractive as general ideals. and the abject forsakenness of Jesus on the cross. but Jesus will enter into our suffering with us. we are not gods. There is no other way we can find the strength to love. we can overcome our powerlessness. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. enter into the Passion of Jesus. To experience true love in the face of suffering is a miracle. and vulnerable. we are weak. We know we are ultimately impotent in face of pain. Matthew Del Nevo 17/21 . My experience is that while we are suffering.

The Word became flesh. He came to transform weakness and flesh into sacrament. James Cross 2014-C. opening hearts.I. All his writing contains a mix of philosophy and theology with simple stories and anecdotes. 61 Jesus. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. nourishment for all. 186.S-Spirituality Essay. eternal life. Here we touch the ultimate meaning of the Word made flesh and of all human flesh. became weak. it is the same whether you meeting him or read his books. the place where God resides. Matthew Del Nevo 18/21 . The Gift Of Love. It is important that we know who Jean Vanier is. 61 Appendix: HISTORY AND INFLUENCES OF VANIER’S SPIRITUALITY Jean Vanier’s contribution to spirituality is the witness of his whole life. It is Vanier's presence that brings you in touch with the truth. so that his very weakness. Many of these are repeated in different books so that we become familiar with his friends and are included in his life. If God Is Love. revealing light. awakening and drawing out compassion. Jesus came to transform weakness from something to be shunned into a gift. because what he gives us is the fruit of living experience. It is the very weakness and vulnerability of our flesh that calls forth love. his broken flesh would give love and life. a call for communion.

Among these themes. but when Vanier wrote a short book on his life it was his spirituality that was the focus." He felt a strong attraction to children. It was this personal relationship with Jesus Christ that was the foundation of his faith. Pauline and Georges Vanier introduced Carmelite spirituality to the family. From then on his faith flourished. Matthew Del Nevo 19/21 . So consuming was this relationship that "he felt no need to be clouded with unspiritual considerations or fine points of doctrine or dogma. but its very foundation. he wrote: "I feel that only in weakness can I glorify God." In his inaugural speech as Govern-nor-General on 15 September 1959. He believed that the will of God would be made known in such ordinary events if one simply knew how to wait for it. As a result of a war injury Georges Vanier had his leg amputated. Of course the most fundamental influence in any person’s life is that of their parents. His departure from the navy led him to seek the meaning of life within the Christian faith. Thomas Philippe highlights the role of agony or suffering. and when with children. I offer my weakness. discreet.I. and Therese of Lisieux. Many suggest that l’Arche cannot be understood without knowing contribution. Pere Thomas Philippe. compassionately. In a letter dated 26 August I960. until he was taken by Pauline to hear a sermon by Jesuit Robert Stuarts. It was during the war and he wanted to serve in the armed forces against the grave threat of Nazi power. Vanier left the Royal Canadian navy. Reading books on Teresa of Avila. so did the spiritual life of his family. a Dominican priest became Vanier’s spiritual companion when he left the navy. After questioning if this was really what he want to do with his life. He served as a naval officer in both England and Canada until 1950. Much could be said about Thomas Philippe's teaching and spirituality. he saw his whole life and all of reality in a new light. Georges Vanier early faith was marked by a Jansenism emphasis on fear. Georges Vanier stated publicly: "In exchange for His strength. It is hard to say how much his father’s own physical handicap influenced Vanier future work. Mary watched Jesus growth to maturity thru ordinary tasks of a worker. in this space I can concentrate only on the themes that appear to be most important in the spirituality of Jean Vanier and 1'Arche. Mary who tended humbly to Jesus’ ordinary needs. When Vanier in 1942." Clearly this awareness of the link between human weakness and the strength and mercy of God was one of the foundation stones for Jean Vanier’s spiritual life. Thomas Philippe gives great attention to is the role of Mary. John of the Cross. He was educated in by the Jesuits in Canada. he himself became like a child. To understand Jean Vanier I would like to examine some of the key people who influenced him. Georges Vanier encouraged his family toward “Simplicity and humility. It is only through an acceptance and sharing in the suffering James Cross 2014-C. Suffering was in not an obstacle in his spiritual life. when he was only thirteen. Mary who stood at the cross when everyone else abandoned him. Although less well-known than Vanier. he entered a British naval school. especially toward the end of his life. causing him significant pain and continual discomfort throughout his life. and describing himself as only ‘poor country priest’. but it is certain that Georges helped him to be aware of the reality of God’s presence in midst of suffering was always. Vanier himself claims that in the domain of spirituality no one has influenced him more than Thomas Philippe. one of five children to Pauline and Georges Vanier. She did so quietly. After this experience of recognizing in Jesus Christ the God of love. love and respect for all men flowing from his personal love and experiences of Jesus Christ” All this greatly influenced Vanier’s future relationship with God. silently. within Jesus' message of peace and Jesus’ vision of humanity. the nineteenth Governor-General of Canada. If God Is Love.S-Spirituality Essay. Jean Vanier writes of how his father influenced his appreciation of providence. and unassuming life of Mary. within the community of l’Arche Pere Thomas Philippe is considered their cofounder. Vanier was born in Geneva Switzerland in 1928. He revealed to Vanier how our communion with God necessarily implies suffering and agony. Georges Vanier. He had a deep sense of God's abiding presence in human life in the ordinary events of daily life. was decorated soldier and an eloquent statesman. Influenced by Charles de Foucauld. He highlights the value of the hidden. and he realized the importance of God’s love. and will be themes I will examine in more detail. His frailty only enhanced his faith. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable.

” Vanier met these men who in so many ways were weak and powerless. If God Is Love. They are the heart of the gospel message. psychology. a little village near Compiegne. Raphael had had meningitis when he was young. How was I going to communicate with people who could not talk? If they could talk. the evangelical values of poverty. France. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. Another element of Thomas Philippe spiritual influence is the centrality of the Beatitudes. It is the heart that is the dwelling place of God and the place where God is met. became Vanier’s companions and they began to live together in a small house in Trosly-Breuil. and this had left him almost unable to talk. In this search Vanier became familiar the writings of wise men and women who were convinced of the beauty and value of human beings. Other influences in this formation came from and the writings of Thomas Aquinas the philosopher Jacque Maritain. We had our work in the house and garden (and later on James Cross 2014-C. and with the encouragement and support of Thomas Philippe. he began teaching philosophy in St Michael's College at the University of Toronto. different religions. After the death of their parents. It was at this time that circumstances brought him into contact with men and women with intellectual disabilities. One additional keystone in Thomas Philippe's teaching that has certainly influenced 1'Arche is that God reserves for God alone the wisdom of the heart. who had been shut away in an institution. Pere Thomas wanted Jean Vanier to meet some new friends of his. Two men with mental handicaps. Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux. his wisdom and spiritual insight shaped by philosophy and theology strongly influenced Vanier search. There were times of sharing. people with mental handicaps who were living in a home where he was chaplain. Vanier admits now that it was with some naivety he began by buying a small and rather dilapidated house in Trosly and invited Raphael and Philippe to come and live with me. Vanier has said that it was really a group of men who sought answers from philosophers and theology. he began the work of 1'Arche. Ethics help us to clarify what is a truly human act. in order to help us free ourselves of them. Plato and Aristotle. and different individuals. and spirituality. He realized that peace could not prevail without an attempt being made to span the gulf separating different cultures. lowliness. what justice is and what the best activities are — those that render us more human and happiest They help us better understand to what our freedom is calling us. Philippe could talk. That is to say that God can and does communicate directly with the human heart. he sees in a positive light those undeniable and unavoidable realities of anguish and suffering that are part and parcel of the human condition. both men had been placed in this asylum.I. We were happy together. and meekness permeate much of his preaching and writing. he did not feel like a real member of a community. and unable to move freely. Canada. In spite of his initial apprehension. Accidents or sickness had caused them pain and suffering. but says “I was very anxious. He says “Psychology helps to understand human behavior and grasp the fears and blockages that are in us. and agony of the cross that our final destiny is reached. (about one hundred kilometers north of Paris). Their relationship began when Vanier joined a community founded by a Pere Thomas. Spirituality is like a breath of inspiration that strengthens our motivation. Matthew Del Nevo 20/21 . Vanier began to discern how divided and fragmented our societies are. without anyone asking them what they felt about it. among them the works of Socrates. simplicity. but encephalitis had left one of his legs and one of his arms paralyzed. From this vantage point.” After this doctorate. Vanier felt a longing to follow Jesus. While Pere Thomas is not strictly a philosopher or theologian. what would we talk about? I was fearful of not being able to cope with the situation or of not knowing what to do and of being inadequate. calling the rich and powerful to share and calling the powerless to hope and community” In 1963 the journey of 1'Arche began when Pere Thomas invited Vanier to visit Trosly-Breuil.S-Spirituality Essay. who “continues to walk between these two worlds. My friendship with Raphael and Philippe deepened. In 1962 Vanier defended a doctoral thesis at the Catholic Institute in Paris on "Happiness as Principle and End of Aristotelian Ethics” His thesis explored the connections between ethics. Vanier accepted this invitation. real celebrations. but they had been wounded even more deeply by the contempt and rejection they had known. The rhythm of our lives was simple.

gardening. Matthew Del Nevo 21/21 . and that in welcoming the poorest and most vulnerable among us. after Noah's ark. They are anchored in a spiritual discipline focused on the life of prayer. I gradually became aware of how deeply these men had suffered. on the person. 1'Arche was born. We shared times of fun and relaxation and also of prayer. In addition to L'Arche. Vanier has said that is was not his intention to found a community or movement. “If we keep our eyes fixed on them. We were happy together. We did everything together: cooking. His only intention was to create an environment that he could welcome two friends. we will always find our path. Vanier Vanier's has written. have sprung up in twenty-four countries worldwide. It Means That God Is Terribly Vulnerable. both testify mightily to Jean Vanier's understanding that the most precious human gifts are rooted in weakness. L'Arche began to grow. and through their relationship of friendship help them to discover the light and the hidden beauty which lies in their weakness”. Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux. We had our work in the house and garden (and later on in (he workshops). It did me good to be with them. We were able to welcome more people with mental handicaps. My friendship with Raphael and Philippe deepened. and our meals together were often full of joy. and I think it did them good to be with me. We shared times of fun and relaxation and also of prayer. like other people. I began to understand that what they longed for was to have friends and to live. it is never on external results. it is we will be spiritually nourished by them. who can so quickly be drowned in the waters of our competitive society. L'Arche communities seek to create for people with mental disabilities a family-like environment in which they gain a deeper sense of their own worth through the bond of friendship. and through never having been appreciated or seen as having value as human beings.S-Spirituality Essay. There were times of sharing. The communities of L'Arche are grounded on welcome of the poor and on religious faith. particularly of the pain they had endured through having always been regarded by their parents and by everyone around them as a disappointment. Raphael and Philippe were not so much men with mental handicaps as friends. We were able to welcome more people with mental handicaps. which saved humanity from the flood. We are constantly called to draw this love from the heart of God. the focus is never on building an organization. This is important to understanding Vanier’s whole philosophy. and our meals together were often full of joy. As far as I was concerned. devoted to recognizing and nurturing the dignity of the disabled. their families and friends in prayer and celebration. and the Faith and Sharing retreat movement. The rhythm of our lives was simple. real celebrations. Others came to join us. and from God's mysterious presence at the heart of poor people. the Faith and Light associations which regularly bring together people with a handicap. If God Is Love. James Cross 2014-C. Others came to join us. Raphael and Philippe were not so much men with mental handicaps as friends. housework. in (he workshops). and Vanier insists that the focus always remains on relationships.” His simple desire was to live the Gospel and follow Jesus more closely. as far as possible. The community that grew from that household came to be called L’Arche or “The Ark. Since that time over a hundred such communities. L'Arche began to grow. “We lived together. if we are faithful to them. In August 1964. The identity of the L'Arche movement is founded on love for people with mental disabilities. going for walks. and I think it did them good to be with me. It did me good to be with them. "If we choose to come to L'Arche it is in order to enter into a relationship with people who have a mental handicap.I. The community of 1'Arche wants to provide a refuge for people with mental handicaps. As far as I was concerned.