Sunday, December 07, 2008

Jean Vanier Is a Genius

I ran into Jean Vanier over and over and over this year. Vanier is the founder of L'arche, an international network of communities in which the able-bodied and the disabled live together, serving to heal one another and flourish as a community. I'ver read about, and read from, Vanier in the past, but this year he seemed to be everywhere I turned.

* I had a moment of epiphany where I thought he might be a good teacher for my book, so I re-read Becoming Human and quoted him frequently in Deliver Us from Me-Ville.

* My friend Chris Heuertz, director of Word Made Flesh and author of a book I edited, Simple Spirituality, received a really nice endorsement from Vanier.

* Vanier coauthored a book with Stanley Hauerwas, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, which my employer published this fall and I just finished reading this morning.

* I once rescued a tattered copy of his book Community and Growth from a broken-down home being renovated in a rough-and-tumble Chicago neighborhood, but I've never read it. Matt Woodley, the author of Holy Fools, told me it changed his life.

Vanier, it seems, is everywhere I want to be. He offers a deceptively simple understanding of what it means to be Christian and what it means to be human. He addresses the first in Living Gently in a Violent World:

Faith in Jesus is trust that we are loved. It is knowing that deeper than being part of a group, religious or otherwise, there is the fundamental experience of becoming a friend of truth, a friend of Jesus, a friend of God. But I can't do this alone. I need community. I need friends.


I was recently challenged to write a statement of my faith in 140 characters or less. It strikes me that such an exercise would be relatively easy for someone like Vanier, whose strong intellect is eclipsed by his courageous ethics and his steadfast humility. I imagine his Twitter of Faith might read something like this:

I am loved, therefore I am.
I am, therefore I must love.

1 comment:

Margaret Feinberg said...

I get to hang with Chris this week. Super excited!