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The Heart of L'Arche
A spirituality for every day
by Jean Vanier
Publisher:SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Nearly 50 years ago, Jean Vanier, encouraged by Dominican Father Thomas Philippe, founded L'Arche. It is now a worldwide federation of homes, communities, day programmes and support networks for people with learning disabilities. Back in 1964, however, Jean began to share his life with just two men with intellectual disabilities and so began the journey that transformed his life. As he opened his heart to these men, and cared for them, he learned a lot about the gospel and the life and person of Jesus. He says, looking back over the years "L'Arche has been for me a school of love."
His purpose in writing this little book is to convey the spirituality or the "deeper meaning" behind the life of the L'Arche communities. They are not just good places for people with disabilities to live, but places where all can grow together in a spirituality of love and mutual self-giving, inspired by Jesus and the love of God. I found it 'easy' to read in one sense, but often I needed to stop and really chew over some of his more challenging statements. Out of the depths of his heart and his own life-long experience he challenges us to live the life of faith, trusting in God as we live counter-culturally for him. There are so many nuggets of wisdom that I could share, but I will finish with one from his chapter entitled 'A spirituality centred in the mystery of the poor'. He writes: "L'Arche's spirituality is not chiefly about doing things for the poor, but about listening to them, welcoming them and living with them to help them discover the meaning and purpose of their lives. This relationship is a covenant - a relationship of fidelity rooted in Jesus' fidelity to the poor."
Reviewer: Jackie Rowe (13/02/13)