L'Arche founder Jean Vanier urges youth to "learn from the weak"
The founder of L'Arche Communities for the disabled urged World Youth Day participants to listen to "the teachings of the weak" in a society where there's an increasing thirst for power and wealth.
Jean Vanier, 74, has seen L'Arche grow to 120 communities in 30 countries. People with mental disabilities live in these communities in a family atmosphere, with volunteers dedicated to their service. WYD organisers asked Vanier to give several catecheses in English, and a seminar in French on social services.
"The weak say to us: 'I need you.' If they are heard, a community is created," said Vanier. "The one who runs the greatest risk is the one who says he has no need of anyone."
"That man creates war and competition. However, to the degree that one recognizes 'I am weak, I need you,' we are willing to work together."
"Are we willing to hear the weak one? This is the question. If we decide not to listen to him, then we continue living in division, in competition, in war. If we choose to receive him, then we build the future together," Vanier stressed.
Vanier said his experience of living with the disabled for more than 40 years has taught him that they "are not only precious from a human point of view [but] they also have a special nearness to God."
Pope John Paul II was moved by the sight of L'Arche's young men on Thursday, when the "Spirit Movers", an artistic group of the mentally handicapped, performed a choreography.
29 Jul 2002