L'Arche Community Homes- An Aspiration for the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre
I wanted to share this week my reflections about the L'Arche community residences, I am sure many of you have heard of Jean Vanier who is the founder of the community homes for those with intellectual and mental disabilities. I had always hoped that the vision of the Guild would be to have our own Labre homes set up in a similar way as the L'Arche community. Sadly, though, the aspiration never came true and it seems God's will is to keep this apostolate simply as the spiritual advocates for these such people and programs.
The L'Arche communities: "Worldwide, L’Arche is organized into regional and national groupings of independent, locally operated agencies which it calls “communities." Each L'Arche community normally comprises a number of homes and, in many cases, apartments and day programs as well." (Wikipedia: L'Arche)
The L'Arche website tells it best: "We create communities with a culture of shared lives between people with and without intellectual disabilities, from which we can work together to build a more human society." Click Here to visit L'Arch international website/ USA: Click Here to visit L'Arch USA
This idea of normal functioning people living with those who have mental disabilities and/or mental illness always attracted me. I also had aspirations for even a religious order that does the same type of work. Again, these never came true. However, at some point these could become a reality in the future as a fruit from all of the prayers and sacrifices from the Guild members. Who knows really? It is up to God! You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Our Eternal Father will do something else and it will be better. Why? - Because He is the one who knows best!
I must tell you though, that there has been valid accusations of sexual inappropriate behavior by the L'Arch communities founder Mr. John Vanier. These incidents did not happen within the L"Arch communites but independantly during his own private time while Mr. Vanier was spiritually directing females. I have placed an excerpt from an article in American Magazine telling the story. It is quite shocking and terrible. Please pray for Mr. Vanier's eternal soul and spiritually support the L'Arche communities as they grapel with this horrifc accusation.
One of our spiritual supports has a message:
Four hundred and fifty years ago, St. Teresa of Avila, our Foundress, wrote The world is on fire! The Church of her time was being torn apart and she agonized over the suffering of this Lord of mine Who is so much oppressed by those to whom He has shown so much good that it seems as though these traitors would send Him to the Cross again! The Church today is again in suffering as the revelations of sexual abuse by her members daily come to light. Christ has indeed been crucified again, thousands of times, in the persons of the victims of horrendous abuse. Jesus said, Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to Me. He has been abused in the persons of girls and boys, men and women, and those who have crucified Him are His own ministers. Of all the members of the Church, they can the most identify with Him who was rejected and abused by His own.
For us, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, the sense of betrayal is heart-wrenching! We are called to a life of prayer. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb—the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit … brings to life in prayer. In this night of the agony, we identify in prayer with each person who has suffered abuse.
Join the Guild today, to become the spiritual support for communities like L'Arche and all those trying to good for persons with mental disabilities and mental ilnnesses.
The articles on Jean Vanier follow.
Tim Duff, Co-Founder Guild of St Benedict Joseph Labre
Timothy Duff (Tim) CO-FOUNDER AND GUARDIAN has been a lay Catholic board ceritifed hospital chaplain for over 20 years. He has worked with psychiatric patients throughout the times of his ministry, He founded the Guild with his mother Mildred in 1996 under the guidance of the late Father Benedict J Groechel C.F.R.. The apostolate came about when Tim's brother Scott who has suffered from Schizophrenia was unjustly placed in prison, They prayed tirelessly and worked hard to not just release Scott but to change the laws in Massachusetts. Our Lady of Fatima intervened to help them accomplish the task.
Their story can be read here
Mr. Vanier Accused of Inappropriate Behavior with Women While Spiritually Directing Them
Excerpt From an Article in America Magazine:
The investigation, commissioned by L’Arche International in 2019 shortly before Mr. Vanier’s death, found that Mr. Vanier engaged in unethical and abusive behavior with the women that mirrored the abusive behavior committed by his spiritual mentor and an early advisor to his organizations, the Rev. Thomas Philippe, who died in 1993.
While the report found no instances of abuse of those served by Mr. Vanier’s ministries, those who admire him must now grapple with how the founder of L’Arche, a man praised by popes and politicians for his humanitarian work, could for decades lie about his connection to an abusive priest while engaging in similar behavior himself. “I can’t wrap my head around it,” Tina Bovermann, the national leader for L’Arche USA, said in an interview with America. She is not alone in trying to make sense of this seeming paradox.
Mr. Vanier wrote publicly in 2015 about the revelations of abuse committed by his spiritual mentor, whose wisdom and dedication to the disabled he said had inspired his own life of service. He put his feelings this way: “I am unable to peacefully reconcile these two realities.”
How can I reconcile the good and evil of Jean Vanier?
Officials with L'Arche USA report that they are unaware of similar allegations within L'Arche in the United States, adding that “we encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed abusive behavior of any kind within L'Arche to report their concern.”
L’Arche USA officials add: “It goes without saying that these revelations are shocking and saddening. We strongly condemn any behavior that violates the emotional and physical integrity of others.
“At L’Arche, dignity matters: we believe in the inherent value of every human being. We are determined to reflect on what we believed to be true about L’Arche’s founder and L’Arche’s founding story.” The officials add: “We remain committed, as always, to safeguarding all of our members, with and without intellectual disabilities, here in the U.S. today. A comprehensive safeguarding initiative is currently being implemented as part of our continuing commitment to these core values.”
A 2008 article in America described Mr. Vanier as a “celibate spiritual leader who is not a priest,” though he led retreats, authored many books about faith and spirituality and engaged in spiritual counseling. It was through that spiritual direction, the report says, that Mr. Vanier met young women with whom he engaged in years-long sexual relationships. Mr. Vanier maintained that the relationships were consensual, but the women say they were vulnerable and that Mr. Vanier abused his position and authority.
The L’Arche founder’s behavior seemed to repeat the pattern of abuse initiated by his mentor, according to the investigation. Father Philippe had been Mr. Vanier’s “spiritual father,” who inspired him to begin his ministry with disabled people. The pair met in 1950, when Mr. Vanier, then in his 20s, joined L’Eau Vive, a community for theology students in France founded by Father Philippe. Two years later, Father Philippe was called to Rome and removed from ministry, ostensibly for unspecified health reasons.
Mr. Vanier, born in Geneva and a Canadian citizen, was the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors, including the Templeton Prize, the Legion of Honor, France’s highest prize, and the Paul VI International Prize, which Pope John Paul II awarded him in 1997. His two organizations, L’Arche and Faith and Light, have more than 1,500 communities operating in dozens of countries. They bring together disabled and non-disabled adults to live and work alongside one another and are widely praised for their efforts.
In the press release, L’Arche USA officials conclude: “We acknowledge the incredible courage of the witnesses who testified during this investigation. The bravery of these women calls us to recognize the importance of truth-telling and its alignment with our core values. While many questions will yet be answered in the coming months and years, we stand today on the side of those who have been harmed.”
Source: Read Full America Magazine Article here
Who was Jean Vanier/ Founder L'Arche (1928-2019)?
Jean Vanier was raised in one of the most distinguished families in Canada, and from an early age he imbibed his parents' deep faith and commitment to seervice. At thirteen, with his father's permission, he crossed the Atlantic during World War II to attend the Royal Navy Academy College. In 1950, he resigned his Naval commision feeling it was time to devote himself to the work of peace. After considering the priesthood, he instead persued a doctorate in philosophy.
A great turning point came in 1963, when through the influence of a French Dominican priest, he became aware of the difficult life of those with intellectual and devlopmental disabilities, often institutionallzed and deprived of respect. Responding to a deep sense of calling from God, he quit his teaching position, bought a house in a French village, and invited two disabled men to share his home. After years of action and the life of the mind, Vanier said, "I began to live from my heart." In time others followed, those with disabilites as well as able assistants, and thus began L'Arche Community- a name taken from the story of Noah's Ark.
L'Arche ultimately spread to 154 communities in 38 countries, reflectin Vanier's insight that "we are healed by the poor and the weak... transformed by them if we enter into relationship with them... They call us together, in unity and peace to build community."
Vanier became a global spokesman for the values of community, compassion and respect for life. He died on May 7th, 2019, at the age of ninety.
"Change the world, with love, one heart at a time."- Jean Vanier
Source: Give Us This Day, Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic, Dwyer, P Pub., Liturgical Press, May 2020 Issue www.giveusthisday.org