Renowned philosopher, writer and humanist Jean Vanier is the founder of two international organizations for people with intellectual disabilities, L’Arche and Faith and Light. He has been a progressive advocate for marginalized people in society for over five decades, inviting us to discover the profound teachings and the gifts that they offer.
Happy 90th anniversary, Jean!
“Genuine healing happens here, not in miraculous cures, but through mutual respect, care, and love. Paradoxically, vulnerability becomes a source of strength and wholeness, a place of reconciliation and communion with others.”
– Jean Vanier
Templeton Prize 2015
Jean Vanier was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for his innovative understanding of the central role of vulnerable people in the creation of a more just, inclusive and humane society.
“A tiny child needs not only food and shelter but something more… much more… a feeling of love, that someone cares for him, ready to die for him, that he is really loved, that he is important… precious. And so he begins to live and begins to sense the value of his being. And so it is that life rises in him and he grows in confidence in himself and in his possibilities of life and of creation.”
“We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”
“He who clutches desperately to security, to every day habits, work, organization, friends, family, no longer lives. More than security, life needs adventure, risk, dynamic activity, self-giving, presence to others.”
“I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”
“The heart is never ‘successful.’ It does not want power, honours, privilege, or efficiency; it seeks a personal relationship with another, a communion of hearts, which is the to-and-fro of love. This opening of the heart implies vulnerability and the offering of our needs and weaknesses. The heart gives and receives but above all, it gives.”
“It is important to enter into the mystery of pain, the pain of our brothers and sisters in countries that are at war, the pain of our brothers and sisters who are sick, who are hungry, who are in prison; brothers and sisters who do not know where they will sleep this night. It is important to enter into the pain of all those for whom no one cares and who are alone; all those who are living grief and loss.”
“Every human being has his or her secret and mystery. Some lives are long, others short. Some people seem to live through stages of growth, others do not. But I believe that every person arrives at true maturity at the moment of death.”
“Communion means accepting people just as they are, with all their limits and inner pain, but also with their gifts and their beauty and their capacity to grow: to see the beauty inside of all the pain.”
“A growing community must integrate three elements: a life of silent prayer, a life of service and above all of listening to the poor, and a community life through which all its members can grow in their own gift.”
“There are forces of selfishness and fear in each of us, but where there is good spiritual nourishment, the power of love rises up.”
“When an activity or a person fills our lives, inspires us or gives us a zest for life, their absence can plunge us into this feeling of total emptiness. We live a kind of inner death. Life no longer flows forth in us. We are filled with a sense of loss and of grief; a heaviness, which resembles depression, permeates our whole being. This pain and this heaviness are not a sickness but a normal, natural reaction to a loss that touches the very meaning of our lives.”
“Real rest involves relaxing the heart with friends and family through celebration, laughing, singing, joy, humour. It means feeling well and happy in our body, house, family and community.”
“A community is always built around people; people should not be shaped to suit community.”