Jean Vanier, Templeton Prize Winner

Jean Vanier with John Smeltzer"702524260 txjiQ-O" by Warren Pot - Own Photo: Warren Pot taken at L'Arche Daybreak, Richmond Hill, Ontario. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Jean Vanier with John Smeltzer”702524260 txjiQ-O” by Warren Pot – Own Photo: Warren Pot taken at L’Arche Daybreak, Richmond Hill, Ontario. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the midst of many lamentable events in the news both here and abroad came the wonderful news today of the awarding of the Templeton Prize to Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities. His work began in 1964 when he invited two developmentally disabled men to live with him. These two men are listed with Vanier as the founders of the first L’Arche Community. Since then he has founded 147 similar communities. He left an academic post at the University of Toronto to pursue this work.

In his statement on receiving this prize he said:

“We must start to meet: people must meet people; we are all human beings. Before being Christians or Jews or Muslims, before being Americans or Russians or Africans, before being generals or priests, rabbis or imams, before having visible or invisible disabilities, we are all human beings with hearts capable of loving,”

This is in fact what occurs in his communities where people are treated with dignity. Whenever Vanier speaks he has developmentally disabled people with him. The press conference at which he received his prize was no exception.

While there seems to be a media frenzy going on right now around the SAE fraternity video, I thought it might be salutary to help circulate a different kind of video, one that celebrates rather than demeans the dignity of all human beings, and gives us an example of someone who has lived both simply and nobly in a deeply Christian mission. Better than anything I can say is to hear Vanier himself.

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