Monday, March 16, 2015

Seeing with the heart

I'm back from an excellent week at Villa Saint-Martin in Montreal, where I was the musician for the team leading the annual Emmaus retreat for L'Arche assistants.

It was an excellent week, with so many graced moments. Besides providing music with my guitar, I was also there to walk with assistants individually for a half hour each day, and what a privilege it was! These young people have such deep spirits. They see with their hearts, perhaps because they have learned from those with disabilities that the eyes can often provide us with faulty information when it comes to what is really important. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." That essential is love, of course.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus only saw clearly after Jesus broke the bread with them... and we spent some time last week looking at where we find the bread that nourishes us in our daily lives. I realized that, like the assistants, I am fed by experiences like the Emmaus retreat, and by the writings of Jean Vanier, who sees how important the weak are when it comes to enlarging the hearts of the strong.

My journey on the road with my 6 new friends from across Canada (Whycocomagh and Antigonish NS, North Bay, Toronto and Richmond Hill, ON, and Lethbridge, AB) filled me with amazement and joy. I really felt the Holy Spirit working in the way that their journeys and mine came together in the things we had in common, and in our differences, too. They taught me so much!

The little unexpected bonus of the week was that Jean Vanier received the 2015 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. The 1.7 million US dollar prize honours "a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension whether through insight, discovery, or practical works." (All three, I think, in Jean's case).

L'Arche's founder joins the ranks of many wonderful people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Brother Roger of Taize, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and Mother Teresa, who have been recipients in the past.

Jean wrote a wonderful message in response to winning the prize that you can read by clicking here if you're interested. Below is a short video of some lovely interactions at the press conference...

At the end of our week of retreat, during our little celebratory fiesta, some of us raised our glasses and toasted Jean's inspiration to start an amazing community. He is a wonderful man, and his vision has done a lot for our world. Through him, the Spirit inspires people with and without disabilities in all 147 L'Arche communities in 35 countries around the world, 29 of them in Canada, to live together in loving mutual relationship. And his writings inspire us all to be aware of and love ourselves and each other in our vulnerability. We are one family, whether we realize it or not, and as family, we are only as well as we treat our weakest members, who often are our greatest teachers.

In Montreal, we were certainly inspired through our retreat and the stories shared there, to be like our community's founder, to see with our hearts, and to find Jesus in everyone we meet.

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