Difference Is a Treasure, Says L'Arche Founder

Jean Vanier Comments on Love and Poverty

ROME, MAY 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Contact with the poor "transforms and heals" us, says the founder of L'Arche Community.

In a conference held last week in the church of St. Joachim in Rome, Jean Vanier said that "difference is a treasure," and that accepting the poor "changes us, transforms us, makes us more human, and is a way to know God."

The founder of L'Arche, an ecumenical and religious movement that assists people with mental disabilities, said that "the human world is a world of conflicts, wars, divisions, dominated by the inability to meet one another."

Each one of us, he said, builds walls because "we are afraid of one another."

Our fears are many, the founder said: "fear of death, of disappearing, of being rejected, of not being loved, of not being successful, of feeling guilty, of the chaos within us."

The fear of showing our vulnerability leads us to hide because we do not want others to see our interior poverty: To have our "poverty" seen by others and "our profound vulnerability" touched by them, makes us fear that we will be abandoned, he said.

Vanier asked: "How can we become more human? How can the walls that each one creates be pulled down? How can we overcome the fear of being rejected? How can we be ourselves, accepting what we are with our frailty?

"We are all human beings, we are all persons. Whatever our abilities or disabilities, our culture or religion, our ethnic group, we are all unique persons, precious, of profound value.

"We are all capable of receiving God, notwithstanding our poverties, whether or not apparent."

What matters, the founder continued, is to let the walls fall down to be able to enter into relationship with one another, to be able to reveal to others that they are far more beautiful than they think.

He said that to love someone does not mean to "possess or control him; it is not only an emotional reality, it is not necessarily to do something for others."

To love a person

"To love someone," he said, "is to reveal his beauty to him, to reveal to him that he is a person, that he is important, that he can do beautiful things with his life."

Love, Vanier continued, must not be only emotional. People must be loved "with intelligence to help them get up again," "to want to go beyond the walls, through the walls," "to reveal to those who have been crushed that they are of value."

"What I wish to transmit before I die is that life is beautiful if we are determined little by little to demolish the walls that separate us," he said.

According to the founder of L'Arche, we must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge an important truth: "I am not superior to you, I am not better than you, I am like you. I have my frailty, my limitations which, perhaps, I have often hidden; you have your limitations, perhaps more visible, but behind your limitations you are a person, your heart is."

"For the walls to disappear, for us to be able to be vulnerable to one another, to not let ourselves be led by competitiveness, for the world to find peace, we need a community of brothers and sisters of Jesus," he said.

Vanier founded L'Arche in 1964 to provide group homes and spiritual support for developmentally disabled people.

L'Arche, which in English means "the Ark," has more than 120 communities in 30 countries.


Original article found at http://www.zenit.org/article-16089?l=english