Press Toolkit

Selected Publications

The Second Calling

Darton, Longman and Todd, 2016

On the edge of a village near Seville, southern Spain, at the end of a dusty road running through fields of sunflowers and olive trees, is a house which is home to a community of people. The residents of the House of Bethany work together, eat together, laugh together and cry together, celebrating the life that God has given them. Every member of the community is unique, yet each has come to the house for a reason … even if they do not yet know what that reason is.
The House of Bethany is a place in which people discover their second calling: a purpose so surprising, so far beyond expectation, that it can only be learned from each other.
The Second Calling is a novel inspired by the life and work of Jean Vanier (recipient of the Templeton Prize in 2015) and the ministry of L’Arche, a worldwide network of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities live together. It was written by Hans S. Reinders (Professor of Ethics at the Free University of Amsterdam, and President of the European Society for the Study of Theology and Disability) after Jean invited him to write a book to introduce the work of L’Arche to a wider audience.


The Gospel of John The Gospel of Relationship

Franciscan Media, 2015

“Vanier thoughtfully explores the topics of love and purpose while expanding on God’s greatest mysteries.” - Fr. Dan Kroger, OFM

Vanier examines the two great commandments: the love of God and love of others. Vanier eloquently demonstrates how the two commandments are, in fact, the same as individuals express their love for God through compassionate care for one another and encounter the love of God tangibly through closeness. In this chapter-by-chapter exploration of the Gospel of John, Vanier explains how Jesus taught this lesson throughout his ministry. The book includes personal stories from his work with L'Arche that express the great privilege we have of developing our relationships with one another and with God.

 


Mental Health: The Inclusive Church Resource

Darton, Longman & Todd, 2014

This book aims to educate, to reflect theologically and to provide practical advice and guidance, with first-hand personal experiences of people from the marginalized people, theological reflections by Jean Vanier and John Swinton, and a resource section containing addresses, websites and practical advice on improving a church's inclusivity.


Tears of Silence

Anansi Press, 2014

This inspiring book of meditations includes a new introduction by Vanier, a foreword by author and education activist Parker Palmer, and new photos by Montreal photographer Jonathan Boulet-Groulx. The tears are those of Vanier's own heart, faced with the pain and humiliation of so many people with intellectual disabilities, abandoned in terrible institutions or on the streets. Through his tears rises a cry of anger at the indifference of the world to this abandonment. Vanier asks where do we find the courage to let ourselves be challenged and transformed so that we might rise up as messengers of peace and unity?


Signs of the Times: Seven Paths of Hope for a Troubled World

Darton Longman & Todd, 2013

The Second Vatican Council released its vision of a Church which would put society’s weakest and most marginalized members at its heart.  At the same time, Jean Vanier founded L’Arche, a new sort of Christian community in which people with intellectual disabilities could be welcomed to a life of freedom and dignity. What has become of the radical hope for a renewed Church and those who should be its central concern?  Vanier identifies the seven paths of transformation at the heart of L’Arche, the same paths that should be heeded by the Church:  From humiliation to humility; from normalization to the awakening conscience; from exclusion to encounter; from power to authority; from isolation to community; from strength to vulnerability; from secret to mystery.


An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L'Arche

Novalis, 2012

An Ark for the Poor, originally published in 1995, is a history of L'Arche. Jean Vanier himself revised this updated edition as he looks back on 48 years of L'Arche communities.
In this book, L’Arche’s founder Jean Vanier, tells the story of L'Arche: its foundation and growth, its joys and sorrows. Rather than list dates and places, Vanier chronicles the transformation that occurs when the poorest and the weakest among us find a haven of love and safety to carry them through the storms of life. Vanier writes, “It is the story, especially of the beauty and fragility of people with mental handicaps. In and through the simple, humble gestures of daily living, it continues to be written, day after day. Our people help us rediscover the importance of these little gestures.”

Through this seminal work, the story of L’Arche is about an education that leads to a life of becoming human. Although this is not a political book, in its own narrative style there are social and political implications. The task of any society is to make room for the largest number of people to live well, and this story of L’Arche clearly shows how l’Arche is a place of justice where all may grow well in the various aspects of life.


The Heart of L’Arche: A Spirituality for Every Day

Novalis, 2012

This updated edition was revised by Vanier himself, as he looks back on 48 years of the spirituality of L'Arche, at the age of 84.
Readers will discover the spirit that keeps Vaniers dream alive and thriving in a world where people with disabilities are often ignored or seen as a burden on society. With simplicity and conviction, Jean Vanier shows how a life shared with people who have disabilities calls us to selflessness and risk. In response to a call from God, he moved to a tiny French village, bought a small stone house, and invited two men with disabilities to live with him. Living with these two men, he discovered his own "disabilities of the heart." He discovered that love and forgiveness did not come easily for him, and that anger did. The vulnerability that is so much part of their lives reveals our own limits and forces us to ask questions that can lead us to profound liberation.


Befriending the Stranger

Paulist Press, 2010

Rather than challenging us to “do good” to the stranger, and have compassion for the needy, Vanier encourages us to enter into friendship.
Through his friends at L’Arche, Vanier discovered that to love people is not first of all to do things for them but to reveal something to them. It is to reveal that they have a value, that they are beautiful and precious. We can only do this by recognizing the weakness, helplessness and need for forgiveness within ourselves. In order to come before our compassionate God, we need to learn how to be weak, and it is the poor who can minister to us and help us to accept our poverty. Thus Vanier says that we must necessarily move beyond the effort to “do good.” Rather we must move to a place of humility where we can allow the poor to do good to us. In this way, Vanier invites us to walk with the needy as friends, as companions because we need them, and to live in our need of them is to know deep communion with God and the world.


Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness

IVP Books, 2008

How are Christians to live in a violent and wounded world? Rather than contending for privilege by wielding power and authority, we can witness prophetically from a position of weakness. The church has much to learn from an often overlooked community--those with disabilities. In this fascinating book, theologian Stanley Hauerwas collaborates with Jean Vanier, founder of the worldwide L'Arche communities. For many years, Hauerwas has reflected on the lives of people with disability, the political significance of community, and how the experience of disability addresses the weaknesses and failures of liberal society. And L'Arche provides a unique model of inclusive community that is underpinned by a deep spirituality and theology. Together, Vanier and Hauerwas carefully explore the contours of a countercultural community that embodies a different way of being and witnesses to a new order--one marked by radical forms of gentleness, peacemaking and faithfulness. The authors' explorations shed light on what it means to be human and how we are to live. The robust voice of Hauerwas and the gentle words of Vanier offer a synergy of ideas that, if listened to carefully, will lead the church to a fresh practicing of peace, love and friendship. This invigorating conversation is for everyday Christians who desire to live faithfully in a world that is violent and broken.


Becoming Human

House of Anansi Press, 2008

This book is about the liberation of the human heart. In this provocative work, Jean Vanier shares his profoundly human vision for transformation – for creating a common good that radically changes our communities, our relationships, and ourselves. “Becoming Human” invites us into freedom from the tentacles of chaos and loneliness, and from those fears that provoke us to exclude and reject others. It is a freedom that opens us up and leads us to the discovery of our common humanity amid difference.
Vanier writes that this book is not essentially about the formation and organization of society. Neither is it political in scope. But he does articulate the different between open societies and closed societies: if we commit ourselves to the making of a society in which we are concerned only with our own rights, then that society must become more and more closed in on itself. We do not feel any responsibility toward others, there is no reason for us to work harmoniously toward the common good. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to open up to others, and become concerned with their conditions, then the society in which we live changes and becomes more open.
In this pivotal work, Vanier clearly shows how we can live in peace despite our many differences. This book has inspired many people to rethink their perceptions and become more involved in their communities, and in their attitudes toward people who have disabilities. It has been central to discussions, retreats, workshops, research and teaching. Vanier shows how, through genuine encounters, we can resolve conflict and see difference as fruitful. Through his work at L’Arche, Vanier is a powerful advocate for the weaker, more vulnerable members of society. They have been his teachers, he writes, and it is his hope that he can reveal a bit about what he has learned, and is still learning about helping others to discover our common humanity.


Our Life Together. A Memoir in Letters

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2007

Our Life Together gathers significant letters from four decades of Vanier's correspondence, beginning in 1964, the year he founded the first L'Arche community. In a meditative style, Vanier reflects on world events, his travels, his own journey through his faith and his deep desire for interfaith dialogue and peace. These letters reveal a man of tremendous insight and compassion, a leader whose example can inspire us all to do great things.
Life within a L’Arche community offers a valuable alternative to the world outside, because it has a way of enriching, strengthening and giving direction to the lives of community members. Whether in L’Arche for a short or long time, those witnessing community life first hand feel that their lives have taken a different direction – perhaps a deeper understanding of what it is to be human and experience belonging. In this book, the journey of L’Arche answers an important question about what gives L’Arche its particular quality. The very identity of L’Arche is based on relationship and how people with different gifts live together. The first element in relationship, writes Vanier, is that relationship at L’Arche centers on the body – eating meals together, dressing, bathing, touching – just physically caring for people and being attentive to the body, to medical care, revealing to one another in concrete ways that there is love, home and family. Personally and collectively a ‘communion of heart’ is lived out, where the body is offered, broken, blest and shared.


Community and Growth

Darton Longman & Todd Ltd, 2006

This Vanier classic is a brilliant series of ‘starting points for reflection’ on the nature and meaning of community. For example, Vanier writes that our communities should be signs of joy and celebration. If we are accepted with our limitations as well as our abilities, our communities gradually become places of liberation, fruitfulness and fecundity.
Writing in a deeply compassionate way, Vanier says that a community grows like a child. “Each of us is on a journey – the journey of life. Each one of us is a pilgrim on the road. The period of human growth from the time we are infants in our mother’s womb to the day of our death, is both very long and very short. And this growth is set between two frailties – the weakness of the tiny child and that of the person who is dying.” Community therefore is founded on frailty. Wisely, Vanier calls us to be in touch with our vulnerabilities as individuals and as a community.
A community is also found on the trust its member have for each other, and for the process of growth. He speaks of the “gift” and the “anti-gift” within community. There are people who come as ‘saviours’. They have the intelligence to understand and sometime exploit the failings of community. They are attractive; they talk well. They tend to want to do their own thing and prove their points. If a person comes into community with this state of mind, it will be a disaster for them and the community: anti-gift.
The right way to come into community is to feel at ease there, ready to serve and be respectful of structure and traditions. A project or a new idea has to grow in collaboration with others and not as a way of proving anyone’s capability. Availability for service is one of the most marvelous gifts that we can find in community. The gift of availability, writes Vanier, can be transmitted from one person to another like a fire of love. It brings a community to life.
Thus, Vanier’s insights are most helpful to all service providers because they provide an orientation as to how a person is to show up and live community - safely, ethically, and respectfully.


Encountering 'the Other'

Paulist Press, 2006

The reflections in this book come from talks that Jean Vanier gave at a conference in June 2004. The conference gathered people from many religious backgrounds and nationalities to encounter difference and to explore and celebrate that difference. A fundamental principle of encountering another in peace is a belief that each person is important. Even if you cannot speak, writes Vanier, even if you cannot walk, even if you’ve been abandoned, you have a gift to give the other. What makes this work particularly meaningful is the communication and mutual trust that Vanier draws attention to: we must discover how to enter into each other’s story so that there is dialogue and mutual trust.


Made for Happiness: Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle

House of Anansi Press, 2005

Vanier starts by pointing out that happiness, whatever else people may say, is the greatest concern of our life. In other words, to be happy, to know happiness is the great desire of every man and woman. In this book, Vanier shows that Aristotle is one of the great witnesses to this quest for happiness.
As a vital activity, happiness touches on important moral question for today: “Is human life merely a matter of being successful, of doing one’s work and performing one’s civic and familial duties well? Is human happiness resting in the awareness that we have lived successfully, have been awarded honour, and are surrounded by our family and friends? Where, in that case do celebrations and possessions belong? Isn’t happiness for some people today more readily associated with exciting activities and moments of exaltation and enthusiasm?”
In answer to these questions, Vanier explains that if he had to devise a moral philosophy for our time that was accessible to everyone he would start with three points: First, every human being, regardless of his or her limitation, culture or religion, is important and valuable and should be respected. Second, the worst ill is disdain of another person, which can lead to oppression and suppression or human life. Third, in order to progress towards the fullness of life that is inscribed in his or her being every person, at some time or the other need others – needs relationship.
Addressing both the value and short coming of Aristotelian ethics, Vanier suggests that a person should not be defined according to his or her capacity for reason, but rather his or her capacity for relationship. Vanier stresses “capacity” for relationship and not relationship itself. In this way, he offers a more complete vision of what it means to be “a person,” and how we can know happiness.


Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John

Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd, 2004

Jean Vanier celebrates the gospel of John in this meditative work. His writing is personal, inspiring, and challenging. It calls all Christians to encounter the fullness of the life lived in close communion with God. Vanier writes: “These insights that I share in this book come from the life of Jesus in me…They also flow from my life with people who are weak and who have taught me to welcome Jesus from the place of poverty in me.” This book educated, guides and invites us into a closer relationship with Jesus.


Finding Peace

House of Anansi Press, 2003

One of the deepest human desires, Vanier writes, is our need to live in peace. He asks, “We yearn for peace, but what is it exactly? How do we find it, and how can we bring peace to our lives and our communities?” In this book, Vanier reflects on recent world events, identifying the sources of conflict and fear within and among individuals, communities, and nations that thwart us in our quest for peace. Peace is not just the work of governments or armies or diplomats, he argues, but the task of each one of us. We can all become makers of peace. We can do our part. And though it’s easy to be a lover of peace and much more difficult to be a worker of peace, Vanier shows us that ordinary people, unknown and unrecognized, are transforming our world little by little, finding peace in our neighbourhoods and lighting the way to change.


Seeing Beyond Depression

Paulist Press, 2001

This brief and elegant volume is full of hope. Vanier explores depression as a wounding of the heart that sends individuals into a deep abyss of anguish, apathy, loneliness, and despair. It is an illness we cannot treat ourselves.
When we are depressed, we have to rely on the kindness of others, especially those friends who are in a heart-to-heart relationship with us. Vanier is convinced that it is important to put words to the pain of depression and to have faith in the sun that is shining behind the dark clouds. But perhaps the best medicine is relying upon a network of friends who love and accept us. Vanier concludes: "Depression is a painful reality, a crisis, but at the same time crisis can bring us to greater freedom if we discover how to live with it and how to move towards healing."


The Broken Body: Journey to Wholeness

Darton Longman & Todd Ltd, 1999

The central question asked here is this: How can we discover the source of wholeness, healing and hope amidst a broken and suffering world? Jean Vanier examines the roots of brokenness within the Jewish and Christian traditions and the meaning of the Good News of Jesus for our world. The Broken Body is written for all who wish to follow Jesus on the path to wholeness. Vanier calls the readers to come closer to people who suffer. He offers hope and encouragement, and the assurance that peace and joy can be found but only by first accepting the reality of suffering and the cross in one’s own life and in the lives of others. This book is about the good news: in every parish, in every home, in every heart that welcomes a wounded person, there is the quiet presence of Jesus, consoling, loving, announcing the good news.


I Meet Jesus

Paulist Press, 1998

I meet Jesus. He tells me “I love you”: story of the love of God through the Bible
With simply written text and illustrations, this book tells the story of the Love of God through the Bible. One can stop and spend time with just one picture – one that speaks to the heart and gives peace. Vanier invites us to be part of the family of God in a warm, friendly and prayerful manner.


Our Journey Home

Orbis Books, 1997

Rediscovering a common humanity beyond difference.

Drawing on thirty years since the founding of the l'Arche communities, Vanier describes the beauty and holiness of life and the need to overcome the various divisions that separate us from one another. Vanier’s work is a call to unity founded on the covenant of love to which God is calling all community members. This calling implies welcome and respect for differences. Unity at l’Arche presupposes that the most vulnerable in each community is at the centre, paradoxically holding the community together. In this way each community is in solidarity with one another. Vanier’s message is clear: The communities of l’Arche want to be in solidarity with the poor of the world, and with all those who take part in the struggle for justice.


Images of Love, Words of Hope

Robert Pope Foundation, 1997

This book is based on the thirteen part television series called “Images of Love, Words of Hope: Jean Vanier in Conversation.” In an age and time when there is much confusion, discouragement and little direction, Vanier’s vision and insights on the human condition are deeply valuable. “The mystery of God,” writes Vanier, “is that He does not come into our world of power; He comes into our littleness and weakness.” Vanier’s message of love and hope is simple: We can walk together along the road of pain, but also the road of joy and peace. Together we find strength and compassion to create of this world a place where there is greater peace.


From brokenness to community

Paulist Pr, 1992

The text in this book originates as two lectures given by Jean Vanier as part of the Wit Lecture series at Harvard University in 1988. He speaks eloquently of the lessons he has learned from l’Arche. He speaks of his own healing and his own need for people. He speaks of the power of belonging and how it satisfies the deepest needs in people. Vanier does not romanticize community. For him, community is a place of struggle, conflict and confrontation. Community is a place where the ego dies, a place of surrender. However it is also a place of celebration, joy and ultimately of human fulfillment. For Vanier, community is a place where we encounter God: God is present in the poverty and wounds of our hearts. God is not just present in the capacity to heal but rather in the need to be healed.


Be not Afraid

Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 1975

Vanier brings to life the Beatitudes by saying that we must contemplate Jesus as He lived and, above all follow Him because we cannot be called disciples of Jesus Christ if we do not. And to follow Him is to put our hand in His hands, our steps in His steps. It is to take the same road and to stay on it. It is to let fear fall away, putting our confidence in him, because his is the healer, the One who comes to bring us life and liberate us from ourselves. Because Jesus comes to heal us from our egoism, aggressiveness and anguish, Vanier writes that we can face our fears, and accept ourselves as we are, without being afraid.


Eruption to Hope

Paulist Pr, 1971

“Sharing” is the theme of this book. “Eruption to hope” comes out of a collection of talks and poems given to international groups, businessmen and educator. It is of vital interest to individuals as well. Vanier believes that our civilization will erupt in ruin unless we share. If we share, then good will and love will give way to an “eruption of hope”. An interiority of hope is the cause and effect of the young person discovering a true personal morality, writes Vanier, a morality of love which surges from the inner being and flows like a source of living water. It is this morality or spirituality which gives real interior liberty and eases all fear.


In Weakness Strength

Griffin House, 1969

The spiritual sources of Georges P. Vanier, 19th Governor-General of Canada.
Georges P. Vanier, Jean Vanier’s father made a strong impression on his son. After Georges’ death, Jean Vanier wrote this biography encapsulating his father’s spiritual life. For Georges, love was the “central aspect of human faith and God,” and this idea has also been his son’s overarching theological and philosophical basis. In his life, Georges suffered greatly from an amputated leg resulting from a war injury, and in Georges’ biography Jean wrote that pain was the foundation of Georges’ spiritual life. He believed that pain and weakness were the clearest roots to communion with God. Jean Vanier draws inspiration from his father’s life to articulate the spiritual meaning we feel in pain, dependence and frailty.