So many in our world today are suffering from isolation, war and oppression. So much money is spent on the construction of armaments. Many, many young people are in despair because of the danger of nuclear war. Today as never before, we need communities of welcome; communities that are a sign of peace in a world of war.
There is no point in praying for peace in the Middle East, for example, if we are not peace-makers in our own community; if we are not forgiving those in our community who have hurt us or with whom we find it difficult to live. Young people, as well as those who are older, are sensitive to this vision of peace. It must continually be announced so that hearts and minds are nourished.
-Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 177
To look forward, to want life, means we have to be willing to look backwards and become more conscious of all those have hurt us, all that is broken in us and that has brought us inner deaths, hurts that we may have hidden and stifled. It means that we acknowledge the story of our origins, of our own lives, see and accept our brokenness and the times we also have hurt others. When we have accepted who we are and what we need in order to grow in compassion and peacemaking, we can move forward to give life. To forgive is a gift of God that permits us to let go of our past hurts.
-Jean Vanier, Finding Peace, page 47-48
"Hope and Love"
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.
-Jean Vanier, Seeing Beyond Depression, p 19
We are all so impatient. We want everything and we want it now! We want happiness, fulfilment and life. It is normal to want such things. But we have to learn to respect the rhythm of our being. Look at the plants and animals, look at the vegetables and the fruit trees. It takes time to grow and to bear fruit. There are the summers of rich harvests, the autumns with rain and falling leaves, the grey and cold winters where life seems to have stopped and then there are spring times when life is reborn.
It is the same with human life. We are like the fruit trees. We have been planted in the earth of our mother's being and we have grown. We are born, we developed in the sometimes rugged earth of our families. During our life, just as in the cycle of nature, seasons follow one another.
-Jean Vanier, Seeing Beyond Depression, p 41
"The Stumbling of the Adolescent"
In seeking excellence, recognition and power in a competitive way, the adolescent can hurt others. Without necessarily wishing to, he tends to create division, to reinforce the double world of strong and weak, winners and losers, rich and poor, those who are successful and those whose lives seem a failure..
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.247
"The Phases of Life"
Human life passes through very different stages on the way from weakness to weakness, from the mother's womb to the womb of the earth. We pass through phases of activity and light and phases of loss of activity and light, in other words, of suffering.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.246
"The Art of Reproaching"
Always avoid reproaching people out of your own anger and wounded state; wait until you are in a peaceful state. In one house in Trosly, for example, it had been decided that Pierre should be responsible for waking up the rest of the house and making breakfast at seven o'clock. At half past seven, the person in charge of the house turned up. Pierre was not there, the breakfast was not made and everybody was still in bed.
Furious, the person in charge went upstairs to Pierre's room, banged on the door and shouted angrily. But perhaps Pierre had been ill in the night.
It would have been better to wait peacefully and then, at a good moment, to ask with tenderness what had happened. Above all, it is better to ask for explanations than to hurl accusations. We need, first of all, to be sure of the facts and the reasons behind them..
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.241
"A Husband's Response"
A leader of one of our communities told me about his mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. But the person this man wanted to talk to me about was not his mother but his father.
He had been a strong, efficient, hard working man, more concerned with success than with people. But when his wife fell ill, he did not want to put her in hospital.
He kept her at home and it was he who cared for her. It was he who helped her to eat and who brushed her teeth. "And now," the man told me, "my father is completely transformed. He has become a man of tenderness and kindness."
This does not mean that the father was no longer capable of being efficient. He had begun to develop other aspects of his being; his tenderness for a defenseless person, his ability to listen, understand and be in communion with people.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.220
"The Good Father"
When I see a powerful efficient, competent man coming home from work and getting down on all fours to play with his children, laugh with them, become a child with them, I say to myself that this father is really human. He does not regard his children from on high, from some pedestal of authority and knowledge. He allows himself to be touched by their littleness.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.219
"The Nature of our Walls"
Behind our strong inner walls are hidden our primal fears and anguish, but also the source of life. The walls are made up of our selfish and self-seeking attitudes, our need to protect ourselves from everything that devalues us, and our need to have power, possessions and immediate pleasures.
It will take time for these walls to fall, as the hidden strength of life flows through us from our inner source, and permeates the whole of our lives. Once the transformation has begun, it requires perseverance and time. It will involve pain and suffering. In order for the vine to bear fruit, much fruit, the branches must be cut and wounded. They must bleed.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.216
"Praying as Self-discovery"
Prayer is not, first and foremost, saying prayers. It is opening the most intimate part of ourselves to God. It is discovering that in the deepest part of our body and our being there is a source, and that source is God. God is the power that unites the universe and gives everything meaning.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.215
"Learning to Live in Peace"
Inner healing and peace come gradually as we penetrate these shadow areas without being completely overwhelmed by them, as we learn to live with anguish without falling into depression or self-hatred, anger or guilt. On this road, it is important to continue to do things that give life to others, to work for justice knowing that our motives will always be mixed. They are mixed because we are human.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.209Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.206
"Complexity of Humanity"
Human beings are so complicated. We are body and spirit and we are heart and mind. We are searching for communion, but also for independence and success. Physically, we are close to the earth; but through our intelligence, we are close to what is cosmic. We each have our own personal history and our family roots. We are all a mixture of light and darkness, trust and fear, love and hatred.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.206
"Awareness as Starting Point for Change"
The awareness that we need to change grows out of an awareness of the gravity of the conflicts in the world, in society, at work and in our families. Are human beings condemned to continual conflict, to hatred and war? Is peace possible? How can we renounce the spirit of competition and criticism that leads to the use of force and looks on weakness and difference with contempt?
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.205 Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.205
"The Inner Damage of Prejudice"
There is disorder when we are prejudiced, when we make errors of judgment about others, when we are incapable of forgiving, or of listening to and welcoming strangers. We die inwardly when we shut ourselves off behind the walls that protect us. Life ceases to flow. We no longer give life to those around us.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.205
"The Desire to Change"
In order to change and to become more open to others, we must first recognize that we need to change. If we do not recognize this, if we consider ourselves perfect, then we are not going to set out on the journey towards inner healing. We only go to the doctor if we are ill and know it, or if we need a checkup.
In the same way, what gives us a desire for inner healing is an awareness of our prejudices, the difficulties we have with our sexuality and relationships, the divisions and blockages within us, the problems we have in communicating, and our fear of others and the anger they provoke in us.
This desire for change becomes stronger when we want to grow in love and compassion, to live communion and cooperation, to be true to ourselves and to choose peace.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.205
"We are Forgetting How to Celebrate"
The danger nowadays is that people no longer know how to celebrate and eat together. In some families, everybody eats at different times. They are all busy with their own projects and people they have to meet and they bolt their food down. In order to create unity, to live as a body, we need to know how to take time over meals, to eat well, with good wine or beer. We need to know how to tell stories, our own stories, and to laugh and sing together.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.201
The Ultimate Purpose
Celebrations are an expression of the ultimate purpose of humanity. We are made for communion and celebration, for the joy and blossoming of every person. The Bible talks of the end of time as a wedding feast between humankind and God where there is ecstasy, joy and celebration in God.
- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p. 200
A Song of Gratitude
Celebration is, first and foremost, a song of gratitude, a thanksgiving. We are not alone. We are all part of the same body and there is no longer any rivalry or competition.
We are together in unity and love. The greatest of humanity’s riches does not consist in money or possessions but in loving and united hearts, the strong supporting the weak while the weak call forth the true humanity of the strong as they help them discover their hearts and their compassion.
So celebration is like a prayer that flows from unity between people; it is a sign and a source of unity with God and of the inner unity in each person. The Eucharist, which is at the heart of all Christian celebration, means 'thanksgiving.'
- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p. 200
Finding Sexual Equilibrium
I am amazed to see how life in a mixed community, full of life-giving activities and of relationships full of love and celebration, is a source of equilibrium for many people with handicaps, how it helps them to integrate their sexuality. Slowly, men and women who have lived through all sorts of sexual experiences in psychiatric hospitals, and who have been deeply disturbed by them, recover their equilibrium.
- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p. 197
Looking for True Relationship
In L'Arche we live together, men and women, assistants and people with handicaps in the same houses. Obviously, it is not all easy. We are not naïve. There are difficulties, especially for the younger assistants who have not yet worked through questions of sexual integration and who think that true relationship requires physical intimacy, even when there is not permanent mutual commitment.
Sometimes these young people come from broken families and this has caused a certain brokenness within them. It takes them time to discover the road to wholeness, the strength of communion of the heart and of a spirit stronger than sexual desire, and how community life, a spiritual life and a clear ethical code can help them on this journey.
- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p. 196
"Difficulties in Sexual Integration"
Sometimes there is discord between the heart which thirsts for communion and for loyalty to one person, and sexual fantasies and desires. Many good husbands have spoken to me about the difficulties they have in this area, and their attraction to younger women.
The integration of genital sexuality is never an easy thing. It is a slow process which requires effort and clear choices, a communion in love, tenderness and concern for the other, and the help that comes from God.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.196
"Integration of Sexuality"
It is not easy for human beings to live their sexuality. In marriage, more than anywhere else, the integration of sexuality is achieved with the greatest harmony. In marriage, the body, spirit and heart, passion, tenderness and kindness, the ecstasy of the present moment, and security and faithfulness for the future, intimacy, communion and desire to give life all come together.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p.195
"Peace as the Presence of God"
We must learn to rest in that peace which comes when God touches our hearts. We must know that this peace is the presence of God, that this is how God speaks to us--through this love which touches us at the core and flows through all our being and plunges us intosilence. We must be open to this peace.