Love, thoughts and cherished pictures
Happy Birthday Jean!
We send our love, thoughts and some cherished pictures, from your community of L’Arche London, Ontario. We are so blessed, and so happy on the occasion of your 90th Birthday.
Happy Birthday Jean,
We hope you are doing well on your special day. We are all very grateful for all that you have done in starting L’Arche and bringing L’Arche out to the world. Without it, we would not be all here together gathered around a table enjoying a wonderful meal and life together and trying to think of what to say to you for your birthday! Thank you for your great ideas and the challenge of living them out daily that we are all called to. Our friend Jim is very thankful for your friendship and thinks you are an amazing man and he would like to know “how did you get to be so old?” (That is his signature question on everyone’s birthday). Our friend Peter also says,“Happy Birthday, very good job Vanier, very nice, amen”. And our friend Paul called out from his mat where he has been relaxing and rolling around saying “Raaww Rrraar Reeer”.
Happy Birthday and many blessings and good health in the year ahead from all of us here at
Happy 90th Birthday Jean Vanier!
I am so grateful to you that you brought L’Arche to life. And shone the light on the glorious wonders of people with intellectual disabilities. Each time I am given the gift to be with my friends I am filled with great joy. The attached photo of Winnie, Melissa and Kate from Jubilee House was taken on a walk together at Sifton Bog, a very lovely setting and peaceful place. It was a beautiful day and I love this picture!
With thanks and deep appreciation for you,
I had no idea of the significance of the tall, gentle man who sat beside me that evening as we ate an everyday French meal together at La Semence – a L’Arche home in Cuise la Motte, France. Sitting next to Jean Vanier, I remember him asking me about my life – where I was from, what my faith background was, who my family was. Although it was over 30 years ago, I still remember how the conversation made me feel: like I belonged, like I had value. More than anything, in a few short minutes Jean had given me the strong impression that I was known – an ocean away from where I was born and raised, here in this little French village – I was known. What a gifted man.
I had entered this French, Catholic community with some apprehension. I was neither French, nor Catholic, and I felt like a foreigner in many ways when I arrived at L’Arche. As I shared with Jean how I had found my faith and how the Mennonite church I had been attending in Canada had informed my faith – I was very surprised to find that Jean knew much more about the Mennonite history and faith than I did! What a transforming thing it was for me as a young person to meet someone so grounded in his own faith tradition, but also so knowledgeable and respectful of another.
I noticed that he had the same deep interest in everyone at the table that night, most of whom he knew already. He was ready with a tidbit of information that might be of interest to one, and a joke that might thrill the next. I realize now that this is really how L’Arche was founded and how it grew – by being interested in people – really interested in them and taking the risk to love them with their weakness and strengths alike. I saw the words of scripture jump to life “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28) Could I be so bold as to add neither Disabled and Abled?
If anyone had been looking in on my life in 1997, they may have concluded that I had arrived at L’Arche in France quite by accident after my other plans had fallen through. Today I believe it had far more to do with God’s grace and providence. I have had a few other opportunities to meet Jean over the years – the most remarkable to me being when he visited our L’Arche London (Canada) community in its early years. By then, I had come to understand what a significant influence this tall, gentle man was having on the entire world. Jean brings with him a message of Hope: the hope of being known, of being loved, and being valued.
Happy Birthday, Jean!
L’Arche London, Ontario