Jean Vanier invites us to be born and reborn each day, despite all the difficulties and uncertainties of our wounded world
Since the beginnings of L’Arche (August 1964), Jean Vanier has always wanted to communicate what he was living, wishing to create a network of friendship and fraternity, focused on those who are most marginalized in our societies – people living with an intellectual disability. Through circular letters, he also wanted to thank those who generously supported him in the adventure of L’Arche. In his latest such letter, that of December 2012 – that is 48 years after the founding of L’Arche – we find in him the same desire for unity, a sense of gratitude which is continually renewed and a significant network of friends and supporters. Jean Vanier who has lived with the poorest among us, inspires in us an extraordinary sense of the human family
This hope of peace is in the hearts of all men and women on earth. Peace, Peace, Peace. Peace of heart, peace in families, peace in each nation, peace between the nations. This peace will come about when we all see ourselves in the other person and above all see something beautiful, good and true, something of God in all those who are different. Can my non-judgmental look of kindness transform a potential enemy into a friend?
For that to happen, my heart of stone needs to be changed into a heart of flesh. A stony heart is founded on fear. Isn’t fear the great enemy of peace?
L’Arche and Faith and Light desire to be among those places where hearts of stone founded on fear are changed into hearts of flesh. Our communities are true schools where one learns to love and live in tenderness. Of course, people with visible disabilities are transformed by this community life, as well as assistants, friends, and neighbours whose disabilities are less visible. The look of tenderness of Marie-Jo, with her wide eyes and the great effort she makes just to live, transforms those who draw near her and accept to really meet her. (...)
Let us not pay too much attention to the headlines of the newspapers which so frequently proclaim disaster, but let us listen instead to those men and women who sow peace in small ways, with little moments of forgiveness each day. At the time of the Rwandan genocide, there were Hutus who, at risk of their own life, hid Tutsis. Shortly before her death, Etty Hillesum used to say, “I would like to be a balm on the wounds of many.” There are Israelis who keep in touch with Palestinians, and with them look for ways of dialogue and understanding. After his children had been killed in Gaza, Izzeldin Abuelaish declared, “I will not hate.”
There are also young people who, in front of violence in schools, learn how to be artisans of peace. There are more and more men and women taking the path of non-violence as a way of resolving conflict, meeting violence with tenderness.(...)
In these days of Christmas, I love re-reading the Good News announced to the poor. Isn’t peace more likely to come if we put our energy into living relationships with marginalised people, with those pushed out of society, who are locked away in places of sadness, instead of our going flat out to earn more and acquire more? Our rich societies urge us to spend money on presents and luxury food. It is good to celebrate feast days -rejoicing together in a shared desire for unity. But Christmas is all about celebrating hope. And that implies meeting others who are not celebrating.
I love re-reading the old poet, Tagore, a man of peace and a seeker of God: «Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost. My heart can never find its very to where thou keepest company with the companionless among he poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.»(...)