Where modernity calls us to privilege personal mastery, progress and doing big things, Vanier’s experience of living with people with profound impairment, and his spiritual reflection on this experience, lead him to focus on being with and for others, especially disadvantaged others – to cultivating sincere presence to others’ desires, being attentive to the beauty in all of our ordinariness, and being of meaningful service. The growth of L’Arche and Faith & Light show how powerful these insights are when executed well.
Jean Vanier’s leadership, writing and practical works cross religious and cultural boundaries. He is a theologian and philosopher who is fully engaged with the ordinariness of everyday life and from whom people from all cultures sense a deep and honest empathy for how hard it is to be, and to do, good in a complicated world. As a practitioner he is a witness to the transforming qualities of love, vulnerability, forgiveness and simplicity: spiritual qualities that are seldom heralded today.
Jean Vanier’s message is essentially the experience he shares through his writings, letters and conferences. He conveys the wonder of discovering the gift of marginalized people who, when they are welcomed, transform us deeply. The weakest among us call us to accept our vulnerability. Jean Vanier argues – sometimes forcefully – that every human being is precious, whatever their culture, abilities or faith. This sense of belonging opens a path to freedom and invites us to deepen our desire to belong in a life shared with the most vulnerable.