Encountering the grieving other


Jean Vanier was the son of a 19th Governor General of Canada. His life led him into the navy, then in 1962 he defended his Doctoral thesis, ‘Happiness as Principle and End of Aristotelian Ethics.’ 

In Kathryn Spink’s second biography of Jean it is noted in the text that at important times in his life journey a resounding ‘echo’ in Jean’s being was his yearning, ‘To follow Jesus.’

Jean is recorded as saying he had heard the ‘primal cry of people with disabilities.’ Jean understood this cry from persons as a need for friendship. On the 5 August 1964 Jean responded to this cry of persons with an intellectual disability. Jean welcomed three persons, Raphael, Philippe and Dany into a small house in a village to the north of Paris.

Unbeknown to Jean this would be the first of more than 140 L’Arche communities scattered across the continents. 

Each community has a unique history and story. A community may be of one particular faith eg. of the Anglican faith, or it may be an ecumenical community or an inter-faith community.

Kathryn Spink who notes ‘…those whose bodies were broken, minds were disabled and hearts were open had the gift of

revelation and the capacity to lead others into the communion that is the life of God.’


Encountering the grieving other (Compass Theology Review)

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