Wednesday Author Spotlight: Jean Vanier

JV-PortOfPh-01-294x300A couple years ago, I was doing some research for a project and came across an organization L’Arche, founded by a man named Jean Vanier in France in 1964.  He is one of the people that has helped me to see that letters can be powerful forms of writing.

Periodically, Vanier sends a letter to friends of L’Arche.

Here is the mission of L’Arche if you have not heard of it:

The L’Arche communities bear witness to the reality that persons with intellectual disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality, and friendship. We make explicit the dignity of every human being by building inclusive communities of faith and friendship where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.

When I read Jean Vanier’s Easter letter this last week, I knew that I wanted to share some excerpts of it with my blog followers today.  I get bombarded with emails and other kinds of letters, but I always read Vanier’s letters.

He began the Easter letter with this beautiful poem:

In a world where there is so much suffering,
I want to live each day,
yes, each day,
in thanksgiving,
giving thanks to God, because life is so beautiful.

I love to watch the flowers emerging from the earth,
and the littlest daisies,
they are so beautiful, and so humble.

None of these are big or elegant flowers like roses,
they are so tiny, so fresh,
colorful and close to the earth ;
they are like a smile from the earth.
I don’t know who planted them,
perhaps they land in this earth,
carried here by the wind,
breath of life.

I love to watch the birds,
the sparrows,
sometimes the pigeons
the little doves,
and soon the swallows.
They move so freely from tree to tree,
branch to branch ,
so beautiful !

The moon, some evenings we see it so clearly,
as it shines down on us with such gentleness,
and tenderness.
With compassion as well,
as it looks upon the hatred
and the wars of this world.
And yet, the reality is so beautiful.
Yes we are called to love reality and not to run away

Jean Vanier is one of those people who makes me feel like I am reading the words of a saintly person.  So, I want to share more of his writing than I usually do in the Wednesday author spotlights.

Here are some excerpts of his Easter 2014 newsletter:

Behind my life, behind all that I have done
and all that I have not done, behind all that is
invisible and all that is visible in creation, behind
all that – the flowers, the birds, the moon and the
earth – there is a God so humble, so beautiful, and
so hidden that some don’t think He exists at all.
They are unable to feel His presence, in life in the
evolution of life, in the evolution of humanity, in the
weak and in weakness. It is only in stilling oneself in
silence that His presence can be detected, because
God speaks in silence. His word is so life-giving, one
must be silent to hear it.

We are now in Easter week, a passage, a moment
of transformation; from suffering and loss spring
forth new life, a resurrection, a rebirth, our hope. I
give thanks to Jesus who teaches me to love each
person, whatever their religion, their faith or their
vision of life.

He finished his letter with this idea:

God is thirsty for unity, he longs to bring
together all the children of God who have been
dispersed. He longs to break down the walls which
separate us from each other, so that life can spring
forth. God weeps before division. God wants us to
celebrate unity, and to work humbly and poorly for
unity. This God is so hidden behind all the noise and
the stresses of our societies. He is there, He waits,
He waits for an encounter, He waits for me, He waits
for each of us. Let us pray together for our world in

One of the reason that I appreciate the writings and Jean Vanier’s work in the world is because his message runs counter to many prevailing cultural ideas about progress, prosperity and what and who deserves to be sustained.

Our world often focuses so much on competition for approval, achievement, and optimizing our lives and careers.  We forget that “success” without unity with the poorest and most humble in our world lacks a connection to the sacred and the holy.

Jean Vanier epitomizes a life of humility and continuous rebirth.  From its humble beginnings in 1964 when Jean Vanier built community with two men having disabilities, L’Arche has grown to an international organization 0f 140 member communities in 36 countries.

Today’s contemplation:

Are there any places in your life where humility and community can be a source of rebirth for you?

2 thoughts on “Wednesday Author Spotlight: Jean Vanier”

  1. Thank you Karen. I am fortunate to see this in my catching up on blogs today. Fortunate also that google translate will work on Jean’s pages for me to read his work. My french is not good.


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