Jean Vanier, the Canadian philosopher and theologian and the founder of L'Arche communities, turned ninety this week. To commemorate the occasion he released a YouTube video laying out his “ten rules for life to become more human” by sharing his thoughts on life and on growing older. He speaks about success, vulnerability, listening, fear and love.
Ever since he was a boy in Norway, the son of a country vet, Erik Varden has felt a sense of longing – of homesickness “for a homeland I recall but have not seen”. There were decades of “rudderlessness, pain and questions” before he discovered where this was leading him: the enclosed Cistercian monastery of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, where he is now Abbot, and where he hopes to die.
Who is in love is always “beside himself with joy.” He comes out of himself, forgets himself because to encounter the other proves to be an irresistible impulse. Even the mystical experience of ecstasy, from the Greek word existánai means “to be beside oneself” and caught up in God. “It’s not that we love God but that God first loved us, so we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us and his love comes to perfection in us.” (1 Jn 4:9-12).
Richness does not lie in the structures, but in its members, with special mention to the most needy and vulnerable. It is my hope that my reflections will evoke in you a similar sense of thanksgiving and belonging without, of course, denying our flaws and lack of perfection.