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.