Dear Companions on the Journey,
A name you should know: Jean Vanier, the Canadian philosopher and theologian, founder of L’Arche Communities around the world. L’Arche “creates communities of friendship and belonging. In L’Arche, people with and without intellectual disabilities live, work, learn, and grow together. L’Arche demonstrates that when persons with intellectual disabilities take their place at the table, they contribute to a more just, compassionate, and vibrant world for all.” We live in a world where, for some, a better world is a world without such people, as recently in Iceland one government official bragged that the country had eliminated Down syndrome. How? By eliminating, through abortion, those who had Down syndrome. Is that the world we want?
One of the things I love about the Paulist Center Community is our inclusion of people with many dimensions of being human. What binds us all is not our income, our education, our holiness, our brains, but our being human, searching for meaning, and, for most of us, finding that meaning in following Jesus of Nazareth…however failingly that may feel at any moment.
Jean Vanier recently turned 90. To celebrate, he formulated “10 Rules for Life to become More Human.” They are:
1. Accept the reality of your body. “We are born in weakness (as a little child); we will die in weakness. And when we get to a certain age – ninety – we begin to get weaker.”
2. Talk about your emotions and difficulties. He acknowledges that men in particular “have difficulty expressing their emotions.”
3. Don’t be afraid of not being successful. “You have to discover you are beautiful as you are” regardless of whether or not you are successful.
4. In a relationship, take the time to ask, “How are you?”
5. Stop looking at your phone. Be present! To young people, he says, “You are people of com- munication.” But then he asks, “Are you people of presence? Are you able to listen?”
6. Ask people, “What is your story?” “To meet is to listen: Tell me your story. Tell me where your pain is. Tell me where your heart is. What are the things you desire?” He adds, ”I need to listen to you because your story is dif- ferent to my story.”
7. Be aware of your own story.“You are precious. You have your ideas: political, religious, non-religious, you have your vision for the world. Your vision for yourself.”
8. Stop prejudice: meet people.
9. Discover your deepest desire and listen to it. Where is your greatest desire?
10. Remember that you’ll die one day. “I’m just somebody who was born ninety years ago and will die in a few years time, and then eveybody will have forgotten me. This is reality. We’re all here, but we are just local people, passengers in a journey. We get into the train, we get out of the train, the train goes on.”
What do you think?
And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center