Jean Vanier

A week ago we celebrated the life and legacy of Henri Nouwen, a man who gave up a life of prestige and respect working as a professor for institutions such as Harvard and Yale to live and work among people with severe mental and physical disabilities.  He left behind a life of recognition and honor in the world’s top academic institutions to work with the disabled folks at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Ontario, Canada.  He was heavily influenced by the founder of the L’Arche communities, Jean Vanier.

I was first introduced to Jean Vanier by Aaron Mansfield, a former pastor at The Rock/La Roca UMC.  He suggested that I read Vanier’s book, Community and Growth, when I was the youth pastor at the church.  At first glance I thought the book looked rather boring.  Don’t let the title or cover fool you; this book has impacted the way I view church and community perhaps more than any other book I’ve read.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned through reading Vanier is that a Christ-centered community must place the most vulnerable and marginalized at the center of its life.  Jesus always placed those on the margins of society at the center of his life and mission.  

To grow in love is to try each day to welcome, and to be attentive and caring for those with whom we have the greatest difficulty; with our ‘enemies’: those who are the poorest, the oldest, the weakest, the most demanding, the most ailing; those who are most marginal in the community, who have the most difficulty conforming to the rules; and finally those who are the youngest. If people are faithful to these four priorities of love then the community as a whole will be an oasis of love.
— Jean Vanier, "Community and Growth"

-Pastor John