Jean Vanier, humanist, philosopher, theologian, man of letters is first and foremost described by his companions as a man with heart, a man of compassion. He is a passionate advocate for humanity and truth.
Jean Vanier is a philosopher, writer, religious and moral leader and the founder of two major international community-based organizations, L’Arche, and Faith & Light, that exist for people with intellectual disabilities. The 147 L’Arche communities in 35 countries and 1,500 Faith & Light communities in 82 countries are living laboratories of human transformation. In and outside of these organizations, he has spent more than four decades as a deeply radical advocate for the poor and the weak in our society.
While the progressive disability movement speaks mainly about tolerance, rights and normalization, Jean Vanier has shaped a distinct way of thinking that builds on those minimum standards of a civil society while inspiring us to transcend them. He invites us to recognize the profound gifts and lessons that people who have been rejected by society can offer when they are properly supported and included.
Jean Vanier’s leadership, writing and practical works cross religious and cultural boundaries. He is a theologian and philosopher who is fully engaged with the ordinariness of everyday life and from whom people from all cultures sense a deep and honest empathy for how hard it is to be, and to do, good in a complicated world. As a practitioner he is a witness to the transforming qualities of love, vulnerability, forgiveness and simplicity: spiritual qualities that are seldom heralded today.
Where modernity calls us to privilege personal mastery, progress and doing big things, Vanier’s experience of living with people with profound impairment and his spiritual reflection on this experience, lead him to focus on being with and for others, especially disadvantaged others: to cultivating sincere presence to others’ desires, being attentive to the beauty in all of our ordinariness, and being of meaningful service to others. The growth of L’Arche and Faith & Light show how powerful these insights are when executed well.