AURORA EXTRA: At Home in L’Arche

In L’Arche worldwide there are 149 communities and 14 projects in 37 countries. L’Arche Hunter is one of the 14 projects. L’Arche’s founder Jean Vanier will turn 88 on 10th September.  He wrote the following contribution especially for the book, My Home in L’Arche, an initiative of L’Arche Hunter and he entitled it At Home in L’Arche.

At Home in L'Arche. Yes that is what it is all about!

At home is then about relationships, about bonding, about creating a sense of family where each person can feel free to grow and to develop. That is what I wanted and hoped for when I welcomed Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux from an awful, violent institution on the 5 August 1964.

These two wonderful men had no family. They had been placed in this institution created for men with disabilities when their parents had died. The institution was over crowded, it had been created for 40 men but it had welcomed over 80. They slept in two big dormitories - bed to bed with no place for personal belongings.

I did not feel called to enter the system and reform institutions. All I could do was to welcome these two men in a small, dilapidated house in Trosly Breuil, about a 100 km from Paris. Our life centreed a lot around food, buying food, cooking food, eating food and then washing up. Meals were times of fun, we laughed and laughed. Our conversations obviously were not serious. We were trying to live one of the calls of Jesus when he said: "when you give a meal do not invite members of your family, rich neighbours of friends. When you give a banquet invite the poor, the lamed, the disabled and the blind and you will be blest" (Luc14).

Yes we were really blest. Friends were attracted by the sense of fun in the community, even if they were not satisfied by the quality of the cooking!

Yes we had fun; we had bought a mustard pot, when opened there jumped up, because of a powerful spring, the head of an animal that looked at you threateningly. Raphael loved giving it to visitors when we had meat. The greatest moment was when the local inspector came. Thank God we had meat that day and thank God he liked mustard.  Raphael was quivering with excitement as he gave the pot to the inspector, and he was almost on the floor with laughter when it happened.

To create home is to have fun together; it is to eat and celebrate together. To create home is to be bonded together by bonds of love and fidelity. To create home is to discover a place of belonging where each person can grow in inner freedom.

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Jean Vanier Image
Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche Internationale.

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