Jean Vanier

Background

As I went back and reviewed one of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s video I heard him mention a quote from “Jean Vanier”.

The specific quote read:

People come to community because they want to help the poor.
They stay in community, because they realize they are the poor.

I thought it was profound.  And, wanted to see other quotes from Jean Vanier.

BTW, the specific video is:

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove – Oklahoma Christian Q&A
Link

And, the quote is along 3:30 to 4:15 segment.

I listed other videos here.

Quotes

  1. Talents
    • Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief, in their own gifts
  2. Man and Woman He Made Them
    • A society which discards those who are weak and non-productive risks exaggerating the development of reason, organisation, aggression and the desire to dominate. It becomes a society without a heart, without kindness – a rational and sad society, lacking celebration, divided within itself and given to competition, rivalry and, finally, violence.
  3. Finding Peace
    • We can be seduced…by powerful political groups that promise more wealth and lower taxes. Those with power can use clever, psychological tricks and play upon our weaknesses and brokenness in order to attract us to their way of thinking. We can be manipulated into illusion.
    • When we love and respect people, revealing to them their value, they can begin to come out from behind the walls that protect them.
    • True peace can rarely be imposed from the outside; it must be born within and between communities through meetings and dialogue and then carried outward.
    • We work for peace every time we exercise authority with wisdom and authentic love.
  4. Eruption to Hope
    • You see what I am driving at. The mentally handicapped do not have a consciousness of power. Because of this perhaps their capacity for love is more immediate, lively and developed than that of other men. They cannot be men of ambition and action in society and so develop a capacity for friendship rather than for efficiency. They are indeed weak and easily influenced, because they confidently give themselves to others; they are simple certainly, but often with a very attractive simplicity. Their first reaction is often one of welcome and not of rejection or criticism. Full of trust, they commit themselves deeply. Who amongst us has not been moved when met by the warm welcome of our boys and girls, by their smiles, their confidence and their outstretched arms. Free from the bonds of conventional society, and of ambition, they are free, not with the ambitious freedom of reason, but with an interior freedom, that of friendship. Who has not been struck by the rightness of their judgments upon the goodness or evil of men, by their profound intuition on certain human truths, by the truth and simplicity of their nature which seeks not so much to appear to be, as to be. Living in a society where simplicity has been submerged by criticism and sometimes by hypocrisy, is it not comforting to find people who can be aware, who can marvel? Their open natures are made for communion and love.
    • But how to be present to another? Our hearts are so hard. We are so insensitive to the suffering of others. We must pray the Holy Spirit to change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh so that we may give life, for love is giving of life and liberty. By our confidence in another we can bring forth new aspirations and a taste for life in him. We can help the miserable person to live, to progress and to grow. And he will only begin to want to live when he has been told by our gestures, words, the tone of our voice, our look, our whole being that it is important that he live.
  5. Becoming Human
    • Violence
      • Every act of violence is also a message that needs to be understood.
      • I believe every act of violence is also a message that needs to be understood. Violence should not be answered just by greater violence but by real understanding. We must ask: ‘Where is the violence coming from? What is its meaning?
    • When children are loved, they live off trust; their bides and hearts open up to those who respect and love them, who understand and listen to them.
    • “To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.”
    • To reveal someone’s beauty is to reveal their value by giving them time, attention, and tenderness. To love is not just to do something for them but to reveal to them their own uniqueness, to tell them that they are special and worthy of attention.
    • What happens when a child feels unloved, unwanted? There is nothing to compare with the terrible loneliness of a child; fragile and helpless, a lonely child feels fear, anguish, a sense of guilt. And when children are wounded in their hearts, they learn to protect themselves by hiding behind barriers. Lonely children feel no commonality with adults. They have lost trust in them and in themselves, they are confused and feel misunderstood. Lonely children cannot name the pain. Only self—accusation remains. However, life wants to live. If some children fall into depression and want to die, others seem to survive despite adverse conditions such as sickness, squalor, abuse, violence, and abandonment; life can be tenacious and stubborn. Instinctively, all children learn to hide their terrible feelings behind inner walls, the shadowy areas of their being. All the disorder and darkness of their lives can be buried there. They then throw themselves into their lives, into the search for approbation, into self—fulfillment, into dreams and illusions. Hurts and pain can transform into the energy that pushes children forward. Such children can then become individuals protected by the barriers they had to build around their vulnerable, wounded hearts. Children who are less wounded will have fewer barriers. They will find it easier to live in the world and to work with others; they will not be as closed in on themselves. The lonely child is unable to connect with others. There is a lonely child in each of us, hidden behind the walls we created in order to survive. I am speaking, of course, of only one aspect of loneliness, the loneliness that can destroy some part of us, not the loneliness that creates.
    • “Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.”
    • But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.
    • We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help.
    • Claudia lived a horrible form of madness which should not be idealized or seen as a gateway to another world. In l’Arche, we have learned from our own experience of healing, as well as through the help of psychiatrists and psychologists, that chaos, or “madness,” has meaning; it comes from somewhere, it is comprehensible. Madness is an immense cry, a sickness. It is a way of escaping when the stress of being in a world of pain is too great. Madness is an escape from anguish. But there is an order in the disorder that can permit healing, if only it can be found.
  6. Community & Growth
    • “Look at your own poverty
      welcome it
      cherish it
      don’t be afraid
      share your death
      because thus you will share your love and your life”
    • We have to realize that this wound [of loneliness] is inherent in the human condition and that what we have to do is walk with it instead of fleeing from it. We cannot accept it until we discover that we are loved by God just as we are, and that the Holy Spirit in a mysterious way is living at the centre of the wound.
    • Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. Tensions come from conflicts within each person – conflicts born out of a refusal of personal and community growth, conflicts between individual egoisms, conflicts arising from a diminishing gratuite, from a class of temperaments and from individual psychological difficulties. These are natural tensions. Anguish is the normal reaction to being brought up against our own limitations and darkness, to the discovery of our deep wound. Tension is the normal reaction to responsibilities we find hard because they make us feel insecure. We all weep and grieve inwardly at the successive deaths of our own interests.. . . When everything is going well, when the community feels it is living successfully, its members tend to let their energies dissipate, and to listen less carefully to each other. Tensions bring people back to the reality of their helplessness; obliging them to spend more time in prayer and dialogue, to work patiently to overcome the crisis and refind lost unity; making them understand that the community is more than just a human reality, that it also needs the spirit of God if it is to live and deepen.

      I am told that there is a Chinese word for ‘crisis’ which means ‘opportunity and danger’. Every tension, every crisis can become a source of new life if we approach it wisely, or it can bring death and division.”

    • We discover that we are at the same time very insignificant and very important, because each of our actions is preparing the humanity of tomorrow; it is a tiny contribution to the construction of the huge and glorious final humanity
    • The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.
    • A community that is growing rich and seeks only to defend its goods and its reputation is dying. It has ceased to grow in love. A community is alive when it is poor and its members feel they have to work together and remain united, if only to ensure that they can all eat tomorrow!
    • At the heart of the celebration, there are the poor. If [they] are excluded, it is not longer a celebration. […] A celebration must always be a festival of the poor.
    • I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.
    • All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We are afraid to be children, to be ourselves
    • 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.
    • We have to remind ourselves constantly that we are not saviours. We are simply a tiny sign, among thousands of others, that love is possible, that the world is not condemned to a struggle between oppressors and oppressed, that class and racial warfare is not inevitable.
    • A Christian community should do as Jesus did: propose and not impose. Its attraction must lie in the radiance cast by the love of brothers.
    • It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of community.
    • Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.
    • When people love each other, they are content with very little. When we have light and joy in our hearts, we don’t need material wealth. The most loving communities are often the poorest. If our own life is luxurious and wasteful, we can’t approach poor people. If we love people, we want to identify with them and share with them.
    • One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.
    • Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.
    • Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.
    • A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.
    • If we are to grow in love, the prisons of our egoism must be unlocked. This implies suffering, constant effort and repeated choices.
    • People cannot accept their own evil if they do not at the same time feel loved, respected and trusted.
    • Every human activity can be put at the service of the divine and of love. We should all exercise our gift to build community.
    • The response to war is to live like brothers and sisters. The response to injustice is to share. The response to despair is a limitless trust and hope. The response to prejudice and hatred is forgiveness. To work for community is to work for humanity. To work for peace is to work for a true political solution; it is to work for the Kingdom of God. It is to work to enable every one to live and taste the secret joys of the human person united to the eternal.
    • …Individualistic material progress and the desire to gain prestige by coming out on top have taken over from the sense of fellowship, compassion and community. Now people live more or less on their own in a small house, jealously guarding their goods and planning to acquire more, with a notice on the gate that says, ‘Beware of the Dog.
    • in the end, the most important thing is not to do things for people who are poor and in distress, but to enter into relationship with them, to be with them and help them find confidence in themselves and discover their own gifts. . . . The promise of Jesus is to help us discover that the poor are a source of life and not just objects of our charity.
    • The cry for love and communion and for recognition that rises from the hearts of people in need reveals the fountain of love in us and our capacity to give life. At the same time, it can reveal our hardness of heart and are fears. Their cry is so demanding, and we are frequently seduced by wealth, power and the values of our societies. We want to climb the ladder of human promotion; we want to be recognized for our efficiency, power and virtue. The cry of the poor is threatening to the rich person within us.We are sometimes prepared to give money and a little time, but we are frightened to give our hearts, to enter into a personal relationship of love and communion with them. For if we do so, we shall have to die to all our selfishness and to all the hardness of our heart.
    • “Community as caring . . .So many people enter groups in order to develop a certain form of spirituality or to acquire knowledge about the things of God and of humanity. But that is not community; it is a school. It becomes community only when people start truly caring for each other and for each other’s growth.”
    • In community, people let down barriers; appearances and masks disappear. But this is not easy. Many people have built up their personalities precisely by hiding their wounded hearts behind the barriers of independence and of the attitude, “I know, you don’t”. They are highly active and their activity is based on the need to assert, to succeed, to control, to do projects and to be recognized . . .A community comes about when people are no longer hiding from one another, no longer pretending or proving their value to another.
  7. Spirituality
    • We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.
  8. Love
    • To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance.
  9. Introspection
    • Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness
    • This evolution towards a real responsibility for others is sometimes blocked by fear. It is easier to stay on the level of a pleasant way of life in which we keep our freedom and our distance. But that means that we stop growing and shut ourselves up in our own small concerns and pleasures.
  10. Humanity
    • Our humanity is so beautiful, but it needs to be transformed
  11. From Brokenness to Community
    • To be in communion means to be with someone and to discover that we actually belong together. 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. To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude: “You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust”

 

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