Category Archives: Interruptions

20 May: Jean Vanier RIP

By Eddie GIlmore; from the Irish Chaplaincy blog

Another tribute to Jean Vanier from a long-standing community member; Eddies now works at the Irish chaplaincy, but is still present to the Kent community.

As I was told of the death, at the age of 90, of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, there immediately came to mind my favourite story connected with the great man: an important story for me, and one which I discovered years later from Jean I’d actually misheard!

Jean was a son of Georges Vanier, a Governor-General of Canada, and he crossed the Atlantic at the height of the second world to join the British Naval College at Dartmouth. After the war, one of his tasks, together with a fellow young naval cadet, was to ‘entertain’ the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on a long sea voyage to South Africa. I was touched to hear that when Jean went to Buckingham Palace in recent years to collect an award from the now Queen Elizabeth she said to him “hello Jock”, this being the name that those close to him used when he was growing up.

From this rather privileged background Jean found himself in 1964 in a village called Trosly in the North of France, moving into a dilapidated old house with two men, Raphael and Philippe, who he had met and befriended at a large institution and who he had invited to come and live with him. The house was named L’Arche, French for the ark, and it would grow into a worldwide network of 150 communities in almost 40 countries, where people with and without learning disabilities live and work and share life together. I joined the L’Arche community in Canterbury in 1988 and was there for 28 years, and it’s where I met my wife so I have a particular reason to be grateful for what Jean started.

In 2006 I was attending an event in Trosly for directors of L’Arche communities in Europe, at which Jean spoke to us. In one of his talks he recalled how he’d been visiting a prison in America where one of the guys had told him proudly (or at least this is what I heard at the time!) “I’m the best card-dealer in the State of Virginia”. Jean went on to say “you know, we all need to be the best something; but where do I want to choose to be the best?” I interpreted this as meaning ‘where do I want to choose to use my gifts?’ At that time I was coming to the end of my initial 4 year ‘mandate’ as Director and unsure whether or not to continue for a second 4 year term, but this story inspired me to do so.

I told this story often to people and I hoped I’d have a chance one day to say thank you to Jean. Years later I drove a minibusful of people from L’Arche Kent over to Trosly to visit Jean, who we knew could be in his final years. It was never easy to get to speak to him one-to-one but following mass in the lovely converted barn of a chapel I spotted that he was momentarily on his own in the courtyard and seized my chance. I went over and said I wanted to thank him for something he’d said years earlier that had been very important for me. “Oh yes”, he replied, “what was that?” I said he’d been speaking about the man in a prison who claimed to be the best card-dealer in the State of Virginia. “No, no, no!” said Jean, “the best car-stealer in the state penitentiary”! And we both roared with laughter.

God bless you Jean, and Thank You

And, by the way, if you want to see some archive L’Arche photos from the 1960s and 1970s (and even later!) then click here: Jubilee Blues

(Jean, seen here with Raphael and with Gabrielle who founded the first L’Arche community in India)

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After all the shouting

 

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A man recently took his life after appearing on a British ‘reality’ tv show where a lie detector allegedly ‘proved’ that he was unfaithful to his partner.

Thank God for the Samaritans, including my friend L, who listen in ways beyond the capabilities of such shows. They know, far better than the distressed caller ever can, how much their death will affect others. Here’s another reminder of how to contact them, a poster that greets the traveller at Canterbury West station in Kent.

Talk to us if things are getting to you, 116123.

And if someone desperate talks to you, take courage, and listen.

WT

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Prayer Vigil for Sri Lanka.

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Fr Tom Herbst OFM, an occasional contributor to this blog, sent this notice today on  behalf of Kent University Chaplaincy.

We are organizing- at very short notice- a candle/prayer vigil at Uni as a memorial for the Sri Lanka victims. It will be held at 8:00 PM beginning outside Eliot College then moving into the chapel. If you can make it that would be great as we would like to see as many people there as possible. Can you pass the word to people who may be interested? Maybe announce on your blog?

If you can make it this evening, that would be good. If not, please spare a moment around 8.00 to join us in prayer.

MMB

 

 

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Franciscan Missionary Sisters – thank you and goodbye

Dear Friends,
Canon Anthony Charlton has published a tribute to the Franciscan Missionaries of Saint Joseph who are leaving the city and the parish after 27 years.

Sadly, by the end of this month, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of St Joseph will have left the parish after their presence here of twenty-seven years when Sister Margaret arrived to study at the Franciscan International Study Centre (FISC). From there she moved to St Bonaventure’s University in Upstate New York to study for her Masters in Franciscan Studies returning to teach at FISC where she remained until its closure. During that time, she served as Director of Franciscan Studies and Sabbaticals and the Spiritual Direction Course in which a number of our parishioners took part. Margaret also served as Vice Principal.

For the rest of Canon Anthony’s message, Read on here.

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You came to see me

Here is another post from Eddie Gilmore about the work of London’s Irish chaplaincy with prisoners, as well as an interesting reflection on his own early career and on friendship.

Will.

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7 March. Jean Vanier speaks to the ‘Flame’ conference.

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Jean Vanier recently spoke by video link to young people gather in London for a ‘Flame’ conference. This link leads to the text of his speech at ICN.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36658

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Daniel O’Leary RIP

Daniel O’Leary RIP

Eddie was community leader at L’Arche Kent and is still very close to the community. He now works at the Irish Chaplaincy in London, from where this blog has been taken. 

 

I was sad to hear of the death in January of Daniel O’Leary, the well-known and clearly much-loved priest, spiritual writer and retreat-giver.

Daniel was a Kerryman who spent much of his priestly ministry in the Leeds diocese and also taught theology and religious studies at St Mary’s, Strawberry Hill. His writings had a certain light touch to them, and indeed he had at one time a regular piece in ‘The tablet’ called ‘Travelling Light’; yet what he had to say was profound, very down to earth, and had an evident authenticity. There are none of us on this earth who are without our struggles, and I’m sure that Daniel had his, but he was able to make something creative from it. His slim but inspiring volume ‘The Happiness Habit’ contains, among many other gems, a wonderful piece of Hasidic wisdom:

“Rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way; it will still be muck. Instead, start dancing your life thankfully on this beautiful earth”.

The theme of thankfulness and gratitude is a common one in Daniel’s writing. He encourages us in ‘The Healing Habit’ to repeat at the beginning of every day the words ‘Thank you’, and he quotes Meister Eckhart, the 13th Century German mystic: “If the words Thank You were the only words you ever uttered, you would become a magnet for love and beauty”.

Reading some of the obituaries following Daniel’s death, I was struck by a sense of humanity and compassion; of him being always prepared to meet and accept people where they were. Jonathan Tulloch recounts in ‘The Tablet’ the joy of a neighbour when Daniel had agreed to baptise her granddaughter, which had been refused by another priest. Tulloch was later brought by this neighbour to mass at Daniel’s parish of St Wilfrid’s in Ripon. He found himself in a packed congregation amidst a troupe of Morris dancers who had been organised to accompany the offertory procession. I think I would have enjoyed a Daniel O’Leary mass!

Another common theme in Daniel’s writing is the call for us to get in touch with those places within us wherein lie our deepest longings and dreams. ‘The Happiness Habit’ begins with a quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. There is an echo here for me of the American poet Mary Oliver who also died recently. Her poem ‘The Summer Day’ concludes with these lines:

Doesn’t everything dies at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

 

I give thanks for your life Daniel. You seem to have lived it well, and I am inspired by you to try and do likewise.

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Interruption: Franciscans and Muslims come together in Pakistan.

This morning’s Independent Catholic News has a story from FIDES about the start of a year of dialogue in Pakistan between Muslim and Franciscan scholars to mark 800 years since Saint Francis went to meet the Sultan during the Crusades. Working for peace is still part of the Franciscan vocation.

PS: Independent Catholic News is well worth subscribing to. Follow the link and you’ll see why! WT.

 

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Archbishop Justin Welby calls us to choose unity in 2019.

 


 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby issued the following message on New Year’s Day:

Living together is never easy. Families have all sorts of arguments. At this time of year especially, we get together, enjoy company, but sometimes get on each other’s nerves.

Here at Lambeth Palace, where Archbishops have lived and worked for centuries, we’ve been trying an experiment. Since 2015 we’ve been bringing together young Christians from around the world to live as a community for ten months.

They have an extraordinary range of backgrounds, cultures and opinions. They live together, cook together, volunteer with charities together, pray together, and – because they’re human- they clash together. That can be over something as small as the washing up, or as big as their politics.

They are united by one thing: their faith in Jesus Christ. But their own faith is not what holds them together.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples: “I have called you friends […] I chose you.” He didn’t always get on with them – in fact, sometimes they drove him up the wall. But they were united by something greater than their differences, his friendship.

In this community, I find it so powerful that these remarkably different people decide to choose each other. There’s a parallel with our country today. We’re wonderfully much more diverse than we used to be. Yet we disagree on many things. And we are struggling with how to disagree well. Turn on the television, read the news, and you see a lot that could tempt you to despair.

Hope lies in our capacity to approach this new year in a spirit of openness towards each other. Committed to discovering more of what it means to be citizens together, even amid great challenges and changes.

That will involve choosing to see ourselves as neighbours, as fellow citizens, as communities each with something to contribute. It will mean gathering around our common values, a common vision, and a commitment to one another.

With the struggles and divisions of recent years, that will not be easy. But that difficult work is part of the joy and blessing of being a community. Whether it’s the twenty people here – or millions of us.

So: will we choose each other again? Because in that choosing lies our hope.

I wish all of us a happy and – more importantly – hope-filled New Year.

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L’Arche Advent Newsletter

We are happy to share this message from L’Arche. You may not be in a position to give to L’Arche just now, but please do follow the link to the Advent Appeal site for the interview with Jean Vanier. Whatever we can do to alleviate loneliness will be an act of grace: Happy Advent!

Maurice.

“Community is a road where every day we learn to accept the other with love.” Jean Vanier

For many people, this time of year raises important questions about exclusion and belonging. They are at the heart of the nativity story.

Our Advent Appeal this year focuses on L’Arche as a place of belonging in a time of loneliness and exclusion.

As part of our Appeal, we recently interviewed our founder Jean Vanier. He shared his moving reflections on loneliness and belonging, and his own experiences of ageing and loss.

The theme of belonging also emerges in a beautiful story, which came to light when we followed up last year’s Advent Appeal. In this story Amanda describes how, thanks to her daughter Laura, who belongs to the Manchester Community, she has become part of an “extended family” in L’Arche.

If you go to our Advent Appeal site you will be able to listen to Jean’s interview and read Amanda’s story in full.

If you can, please consider making a gift to L’Arche this Advent by following the link below. Your donation helps us create communities of belonging and transformation, in which some of our most vulnerable fellow citizens make a real impact on society, not just in the UK but around the world.

Thank you for any support you can give. I wish you a peaceful Christmas.

Peace,

John Sargent
National Leader, L’Arche in the UK

Donate to our Advent Appeal

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