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Jean Vanier: 8 favourite quotes from his writings

Allyson Kenny

Friday, May 10, 2019

Photo of Jean Vanier by Warren Pot
Photo credit: Warren Pot. Courtesy of L'Arche.
As the world continues to mourn the death of Jean Vanier, I wanted to offer readers a selection of some quotes from his works that I find particularly touching. As a fan of his writings, last November I reviewed the newly-expanded edition of Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness.
For this post, I was inspired to include quotes primarily from his best-known books and those which best capture the heart of his compassionate, inclusive, and tender message.
1. Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.
Becoming Human, 2008; based on the 1998 CBC Massey Hall Lecture Series of the same name
2. The heart of L'Arche is to say to people, "I am glad you exist." And the proof we are glad that they exist is that we stay with them for a long time..."I am glad you exist" is translated into physical presence.
Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, 2008, co-authored with Stanley Hauwerwas
3. A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.
Community and Growth, Revised Edition, 2006 (originally published 1979)
4. A Christian community should do as Jesus did: propose and not impose. Its attraction must lie in the radiance cast by the love of brothers.
Community and Growth, Revised Edition, 2006 (originally published 1979)
5. Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work -- hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss -- loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.
Finding Peace, 2003
6. A society which discards those who are weak and non-productive risks exaggerating the development of reason, organisation, aggression and the desire to dominate. It becomes a society without a heart, without kindness - a rational and sad society, lacking celebration, divided within itself and given to competition, rivalry and, finally, violence.
Man and Woman, God Made Them, 2006 (originally published 1984)
7. The weak and the poor are for us a source of unity. Jesus came into the world to change and transform society from a “pyramid” in which the strong and clever dominate at the top, into a “body”, where each member of society has a place, is respected and is important.
Befriending the Stranger, 2010 (originally published 2005)
8. Peace cannot be imposed by politicians or Churches. Peace has to grow within each person if it is to endure. Our society can only be healed when each person in it is healed.
Encountering "the Other", 2006

On Thursday, May 16, Jean Vanier's funeral will be broadcast live on Salt+Light Television through the generosity of KTO in France.
Click here for more information.

Photo of Jean Vanier at L'Arche in Trosly-Breuil
Photo credit: Elodie Perriot. Courtesy of L'Arche.

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