Christianity 201

March 10, 2012

Jean Vanier Quotations

The author of today’s quotations may be new to you. His name is French, so for our American friends,  it is pronounced “Jon VAN-yay.”  He is the founder of L’Arche, which has branches in Chicago, Washington, Toronto and around the world.  Wikipedia fills us in:

In 1964, through Vanier’s friendship with a priest named Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Jean Vanier felt led by God to invite two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and share their lives with him in a real home in France. Wherever it exists in the world, the goal of L’Arche is to enable people with developmental disabilities to play their full part in their society, helping to make it a more friendly place. L’Arche does this through creating outward facing communities where people with and without disabilities can share life, affirming one another’s unique values and gifts.

Vanier is the author of eight books, numerous articles and the subject of several documentaries.


When I reflect on the Gospel vision, I find that it is incredible. It is a promise that we human beings can get together. It is a vision of unity, peace and acceptance. It is a promise that the walls between people and between groups can fall, but this will not be accomplished by force. It will come about through a change of heart – through transformation. It will begin at the bottom of the ladder of our societies.
Living Gently in a Violent World, p. 29


A minister of the Pentecostal Church of Russia once said to me: ‘When we were in prison – Christians of different denominations – we were united. But now we are free, we no longer talk to each other. New walls stand between us. We learned how to live together in prison, but we don’t know how to cope with freedom.’
Our Journey Home, Novalis, p.16


Forgiveness and celebration are at the heart of community. These are the two faces of love. The poorer people are, the more they love to celebrate. The festivals of the poorest people in Africa last for several days. They use all their savings on huge feasts and beautiful clothes. These feasts nearly always celebrate a divine or a religious event. They are sacred occasions. In richer countries we have lost the art of celebrating. People go to movies or watch television or have other leisure activities; they go to parties but they do not celebrate. Community and Growth, p. 313


When someone has lived most of his or her life at the last place and then discovers that Jesus is there at the last place as well, it is truly good news. However, when someone has always been looking for the first place and learn that Jesus is in the last place, it is confusing!
From Brokenness to Community, p.23


Loving someone does not simply mean doing things for them; it is much more profound. To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance; it is to understand them, understand their cries and their body language; it is to rejoice in their presence, spend time in their company and communicate with them. To love is to live a heart-to-heart relationship with another, giving to and receiving from each other.
Seeing Beyond Depression, p 19


I think we can only truly experience the presence of God in and through our own poverty, because the kingdom of God belongs to the poor, the poor in spirit, the poor who are crying out for love.
From Brokenness to Community, p.20


We human beings are made up of contradictions. Part of us is attracted by the light and by God, and wants to care for our brothers and sisters. Another part of us wants frivolity, possessions, domination or success; it wants to be surrounded by approving friends, who will ward off sadness, depression or aggression. We are so deeply divided that we will reflect equally an environment which tends towards the light and concern for others, and one which scorns these values and encourages the desires for power and pleasure. As long as our deepest motivation is not clear to us and as long as we have not chosen the people and the place of our growth in its light, we will remain weak and inconsistent, as changeable as weathercocks,
Community and Growth, p. 165


If we confine ourselves only to the work of God in ‘our’ group or ‘our’ church, we will miss something. Communities have so much to offer each other. But of course, to really appreciate the working of God in the hearts of other communities and churches, we have to be well rooted in our own; we have to belong. Otherwise we risk living in some confusion, without roots.
Community and Growth, p. 174


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