Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In the presence of a wise man

image borrowed from 
It's been a long while since I've moodled about L'Arche or its founder, Jean Vanier. But on Friday, he was named as a Commander of the Legion of Honour in France, a high award for civil merit in that country. According to Wikipedia,
the "eminent merits" required to be awarded the order require the flawless performance of one's trade as well as doing more than ordinarily expected, such as being creative, zealous and contributing to the growth and well-being of others.
Jean is not someone who makes a big deal about something like this. In the fancy surroundings of the Hotel Matignon, residence of Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of France, there stood Jean as we in L'Arche are used to seeing him, in his every day clothes, as if to say, "What's all the fuss about?" He's always been one for simplicity. With him came a large contingent of his L'Arche family, many of whom were very happy to meet the Prime Minister, give him hugs, take selfies. and give him the present of a mosaic sign that proclaims "Bureau (Office) M. Valls." At the end of the celebration, Prime Minister Valls commented to a reporter, "I cannot tell you why, but this Friday night will remain for me an unforgettable day." See the story by clicking here.

I suspect it's because of the presence of Jean Vanier, a wise man who has spent his life trying to help the world understand the value of the vulnerable when it comes to softening the heart of every community. And because of the presence of Jean's beloved community, who welcome everyone, even Prime Ministers, and make them feel like part of one family.

As Jean says,
It is because we belong with others and see them as brothers and sisters in humanity that we learn not only to accept them as they are, with different gifts and capacities, but to see each one as a person with a vulnerable heart. We learn to forgive those who hurt us or reject us; we ask forgiveness of those we have hurt. We learn to accept humbly those who point out our errors and mistakes and who challenge us to grow in truth and love. We support and encourage each other on the journey to inner freedom. We learn how to be close to those who are weaker and more vulnerable, those who may be sick or going through crises or are grieving. As we accept our personal limits and weaknesses, we discover that we need others and we learn to appreciate others and to thank them.
--Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 59. 

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