JEAN VANIER was born on September 10, 1928; his father was Governor-General of Canada. After spending much of his childhood in London, he entered the navy during World War II, becoming an officer on Canada’s only aircraft carrier. But he performed poorly on night-watch, preferring his prayer book to scanning the skies for enemy planes.
His mother introduced him to a priest, Thomas Philippe, who in turn was acquainted with a Dr. Preuat, who thought his mentally handicapped patients would benefit from some living arrangement including a workshop. While Thomas was refurbishing a chapel to help with Dr. Preuat’s work, he gently suggested to Vanier that there was “something special to be done among handicapped people.”
This was God’s call to Vanier. He purchased a house and invited Raphael, Philippe, and Dany to live with him. With no lavatory and no electricity, the going was rough. Dany proved too difficult to handle – and Vanier has always had a keen sense that servants are not superhuman, that they cannot surmount any and every hurdle. He named his new ministry “L’Arche,” the French word for “ark” but also for “arch.”
“So it’s the whole vision of a boat where we welcome people who are in pain,” Vanier said. “It’s the place where we are saved. It’s the place of the covenant. … Then there is the whole idea of the arch as a bridge, the bridge between two worlds.”
– James C. Howell
Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs
From page 42 of Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs: Saints and Their Stories by James C. Howell. Copyright © 1999 by James C. Howell. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
What task is God calling you to do? Share your thoughts.
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Matthew 17:4, NRSV
This Week: pray for those experiencing serious health issues. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section.
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This week we remember: Eric Liddell (February 21).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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