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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WriterMom: A Tribute to Jean Vanier

A Tribute to Jean Vanier

This is a tribute from a Jewish mother of a handicapped child to Jean Vanier-a righteous, loving Catholic who has made the tender care of the disabled his life’s mission. He inspires me, his love of humanity humbles me. At a time when “ethicists” and “evolutionary biologists” of all stripes and colours openly call for the extermination of ‘inferior’ lives, Jean Vanier courageously stands with G-d, stands with life and never fails to articulate the beauty, and the inherent G-dlieness and holiness of disabled person’s souls.

Sometimes, I also struggle with “why”. Why my son? Why me? I realize, through prayer and through the words and action of deeply religious people, such as Jean Vanier and the Lubavitche Rebbe of blessed memory, that the only reason is ‘because’. Because G-d made him that way. Because G-d knew you could be the right parents for this precious soul. Because G-d always knows best.

The way in which we treat the vulnerable, the way we interact with the disabled – these are the markers of our humanity. G-d has created souls that can never hurt someone’s feelings, and can never break someone’s heart. Their souls may be trapped in bodies that betray them, or their bodies with minds that can’t take care of themselves. Yet, holiness surrounds them and we underestimate the moral significance of their presence on this earth at our own peril.

Listen to the man himself:

God has chosen the weak of this world, the lowly, the most despised to shame the wise and the strong, Mr. Vanier said. Whatever their culture or religion, their abilities or disabilities, each person is precious and sacred.

"The only thing Jesus asked us to do is love one another as Jesus loved us and to receive the word of God as a personal message: that you are loved, that you are precious to God. You are challenged to become in your flesh a good news, not just to announce a good news, but to become in some way, the face of Jesus."

At first, Mr. Vanier admits, we may feel repulsed by poverty, disfigurement, or weakness. Mother Teresa taught him that if we stop, like the Good Samaritan, when we see a man dying in the street, repulsion will turn to compassion as we try to alleviate his pain. And compassion will turn to wonderment, "for the man looks at you and with his eyes says `thank you' even as he dies in your arms."


L’arche Canada

Video interviews with Jean Vanier.

Books by Jean Vanier.

May Hashem bless and protect you, Jean Vanier.

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