(May 7): A remarkable man named Jean Vanier died Monday at age 90 in France, after spending a lifetime improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with Down Syndrome and various other learning disabilities.

It was way back in 1964 that Vanier asked two disabled people to leave state institutions and live in a family-like community that would be more sensitive to their needs and untapped abilities in Trosly-Breuil, France. The idea was to mix those with disabilities and those without and to use “transforming relationships” to “make known the gifts of people who have intellectual disabilities.” The community, called L’Arche, worked well and, under Vanier’s leadership, the idea spread. Today, L’Arche boasts 154 communities worldwide, stretching from Uganda to New Zealand to 18 L’Arche homes in the U.S.

To see a L’Arche community in operation is to be extraordinarily moved by the abundance of love and joy that infuses it. As Vanier once put it, an intellectual disability does not preclude remarkable gifts of the heart or the spirit: “They [the disabled] make you discover what … love and tenderness and mercy and purity really are.”

Later, Vanier co-founded another organization called Faith and Light, which similarly helps those with learning disabilities but who do not actually reside in L’Arche facilities. Faith and Light, which today boasts 1,612 communities in 81 countries, organizes (among other activities) pilgrimages, retreats, and vacation camps.

The son of a Canadian diplomat and governor-general whose family fled France just before the Nazi occupation of Paris, Vanier himself made a living as a university instructor, theologian, and writer, while continuing to live in the original L’Arche facility in France until his death. … [The rest is at this link.]

[Note: In Mobile, we have a wonderful L’Arche home. It’s well worth a donation. Please take a look here. You’ll be well impressed.]



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