Tag Archives: L’Arche

September 2: L’Arche and Care VII -The roots of L’Arche.

Larmes de silence: Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier’s Tears of Silence (DLT, 1973) is the earliest book about L’Arche that I know, As an appendix he has a speech given at Church House in 1972, from which this is an extract.

This is the problem. We have created a society that rejects the weak. This is a terrible indictment of any society. It is a wonderful thing when you put your arms out in a welcoming attitude to a handicapped person; then something happens: his eyes begin to believe and his heart begins to dance and he begins in some way to become our teacher. . .

I begin to discover something: that this wounded person, a distorted face, a crippled hand, that the way the handicapped person looks at me, approaches me – all this does something to me, the wounded person calls me forth. And being called forth, I discover that I can bring him up some tiny little way.

The vocabulary has changed over forty years, but the message is clear. And although big subnormality hospitals are largely consigned to history, our society still rejects the weak, to the extent that parents will be put under tremendous pressure to abort a baby known to have Down’s syndrome.

We need to return, not so much to the 2oth century roots of L’Arche, but to the 1st Century roots of L’Arche, the Joyful Good News we are sent to proclaim to all nations.

(Tears of Silence is on sale in French and English through Abe Books.)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

September 1: L’Arche and Care VI – to be a Thirsty Pilgrim

When L’Arche celebrated forty years in Kent and Britain, we joined the gathering of hundreds walking down the hill from the University to the Cathedral, but until this year we had never joined the annual pilgrimage.

Canterbury being Canterbury, any way into it can be a Pilgrim’s Way, including the official one! L’Arche choose a different way each year, keeping away from traffic as far as possible. Over four days people pray, play and perambulate around Kent, through forest, field and fountain. We don’t do moor and mountain hereabouts in the Garden of England, and after a very dry winter, the mud from the springs and fountains was not in evidence. I’d used some of the paths before and come home knee-deep in clay. Well done the Pathfinders for a dryshod walk in lovely countryside!

As we got further off the beaten track one of the core members in our small group got further and further out of her comfort zone. At prayer time Kate had spoken of how, when she was mending a broken vase, success came when a friend held it steady as the last shard was eased into place. With a little help from my friends …

Now the rest of us had to help our friend with the promise of ‘pub, pub’ getting closer.

It did help that we were one of the groups that did not get lost! And she enjoyed that cooold cola when she got it!

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 31: L’Arche and Care V – So who is helping whom to achieve what?

blakemagdalene-feet-620x640

I’ve had a ‘portfolio’ of teaching jobs over the last twenty years, since I became unable to work full-time in classrooms, so it was easy enough to ease into the current L’Arche approach to work and leisure activities where people commit to a weekly portfolio of activities that might include candle-making, gardening, brewing beer, swimming and the weekly grocery shop.

That’s when we meet our friends, often enough. Our local metro supermarket can seem very crowded when three or four people stop to chat in the narrow aisles! We’ve also joined an informal leisure gardening group that includes core members, assistants and their families.

Jobs can take a little longer … for example, setting up a core member to saw wood safely, despite physical challenges. (I’m grateful for the training I received in task analysis as a young man!) but then three eight-year-old girls want to join in, so it’s time to set up the other saw bench and provide them, too, with encouragement rather than hands-on help.

So who is helping whom to achieve what?

Dear reader, I’ll let you puzzle that one out.

But working with core members and children makes me stand and stare and chat. Stand and let others work, stare at the problem of how to let them work safely. Chat while the job is done, encouraging, praising, suggesting, sharing the satisfaction of a job done, a skill acquired.

Let us be ready to receive from others. Didn’t Jesus get the idea of foot washing, that James talked about on Tuesday, from a couple of women?

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 30: L’Arche and Care IV: Returning to L’Arche.

Janet and I have a little more time that we can call our own, now that we are semi-retired. Mostly it does not feel like a choice between getting on with something and taking it easy: there is always something to be done!

We find ourselves returning to our local L’Arche Kent Community. There is always something to be done there, but we often find ourselves taking it easy in the doing of it.

l’Arche is a community where people with and without learning disabilities live and work together. At totally different times we have both lived and worked in communities in England and Canada, and we have kept in touch with friends in L’Arche Kent, in my case for forty years. We are getting to know newer core members and assistants as we spend more time with them.

Time: there are moments when any of us can feel it running away, and we take account of how we spend it. As my grandmother used to recite:

How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour?

She gathers honey all the day

And knocks off at half past fower.”

(My Grandmother would not have apologised to Isaac Watts, but maybe I should.)

L’Arche slows us down, reminds us that being with people is as important as doing things for them – think back to my mother’s carers we mentioned the other day. The Corporal Works of Mercy are concerned with presence: visiting the sick and those in prison spring to mind. This is not to suggest that core members of L’Arche should be considered sick or prisoners, though when I first joined to community most of our core members had been incarcerated in what were called subnormality hospitals. The very name was dehumanising. After working in one of these places for a few months, I was glad to find a better way.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 28: Caring and L’Arche II – Reclaiming Care, part 1.

50.40. pilgrimage

James Cuming leads the Canterbury-based L’Arche Kent Community. Today and tomorrow we have his thoughts on ‘Care’ as it is lived out in L’Arche.

“Care”. The word promises so much yet its outworking can be so clinical.

L’Arche is an intentional faith community of mutually concerned, crazily diverse human beings. But we’re also an accredited, approved, qualified, rigorously inspected agency of health and social care. We’re a service provider and we deliver our service to service users. We practise care on clients. We’re a delivery agency, a utility company. Customer satisfaction is important to us. Why? Because we’re G-R-R-R-EAT! Because you’re worth it. Because I’m lovin’ it.

When did care move from being a verb to become a noun? When did care stop being something you felt and became something you delivered – a commodity – something to be traded, quality assured, ‘rigorously tested’, measured, accredited. When did society first start ‘doing’ care to people?

I’m being facetious. Care as a noun of course has a valid and entirely different definition to that of the verb. Providing ‘care’ to someone with particular needs enables the individual to live life with more freedom and independence which in turn offers more opportunity for them to care about—and be cared—for by another human being.

The great observation by Jean Vanier 50 years ago which led to the founding of the first L’Arche community was something so simple and obvious that it almost makes you wonder what all the fuss is about: when two people are genuinely and mutually concerned for one another, involved with one another, care for one another, both will change, both will grow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

June 20: Shared Table III, the Small Miracle, a True Story.

larche-shared-table-640x347

There were four of us living in the L’Arche house, a couple of kilometres from the community hub, but just by the railway station. Marie and I were cooking ribs and rice with salad. The door bell rang, and rang again. Gwen and Andrew had almost an hour before the next train to Canterbury: come in, sit down, you’ll join us of course.

The bell rang again: three coming off the down train; that made nine, and six friends walking by the top of the road also came down to our door.

I do remember there were eventually fifteen souls – and fifteen spicy ribs: one each! Plenty of rice, even if cooked in relays as none of our pans were big enough; plenty of salad, and there just happened to be a cake and plenty of room on the floor.

Not the meal we’d planned exactly, but we all ate what was placed before us, some with forks, some with spoons, (Luke 10 again) and some of the visitors helped with the washing up!

MMB.

The photo shows preparations for another shared meal at L’Arche Kent, 30 odd years on. I think Peter, second right, was among us at the spontaneous occasion described above. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

7 April, Shared Table XII: Washing Up is Part of the Meal.

washing-up-waiting

I’m afraid this posting is well and truly out of sequence! Our Shared Table season will begin at Corpus Christi, June 18 in England, but this follows on from yesterday’s reflection on ‘eat whatever they set before you.’

More than one local miner told me that the men who had been sent down here to Kent to open the new pits were largely the ‘awkward squad’ from mines in Scotland, Wales and Northern England. George was one of the last-named. His reputation lives on, as I discovered maybe twenty years after he left us, when I was working in his village of Aylesham.

George was not awkward for the sake of it. He saw the hardships and injustice his fellow miners endured in the days before the pits were nationalised and did something about it. He often pointed out that landowners whose fields sat over coal measures earned more from selling the concessions than the miners who endured harsh conditions to dig it out. George conquered a stammer to be able to stand up and speak for his fellow workers. He even went back to the mines after spending his War service in the Merchant Navy.

In his ill-health retirement – coal was not always kind to those who worked it – he came to L’Arche from home, working in the garden or the workshop, sharing our meals, and always first at the sink when washing up was to be done. There was always plenty of it, and if George did not cook, he certainly contributed to the meal and to the community in this way.

George was a cheerful giver, and is no doubt cheerful in a happy place now.

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

A Letter of Hope from Syria

syrian-gathering

Whatever happens in Syria, the L’Arche Community is still living its vocation. Here is a letter (in English) reviewing the last year at Christmastime.

We have celebrated Christmas in joy, as faced with our daily situation, celebrations are a call to us not to be drawn into deadly sorrow. Celebration is the best remedy against the absurd and despair.

lettre-de-safina-aux-amis-2016-en

Please pray for all Christians and Muslims living the call not to be drawn into deadly sorrow.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Year of Mercy

More about Playing

We talk about ‘playing’ a musical instrument, using the same word as for a children’s game. The evolutionary biologists would tell us that play in animals, including humans, has survival value: for the individual, for the pack or family, and for the species as a whole. Players need to know that their play partner or opponent is friendly, even when what the game looks aggressive. They also need to learn how to temper their playful aggression: nipping gently, not biting, for example. All that makes sense.

But music? We know that birds use it assertively to define their territory, though to my ear a well-tuned, innovative song thrush takes his singing a step further than ever he needs to.

Human music seems to be another gratuitous gift. The variety today is beyond measure, but so much of what was played before us is forever lost, no recordings, not a written note from so many of our ancestors.

The act of playing depends on so many other people: woodcutter, instrument maker, electrician,  composer, architect, hall cleaner, printer … the list goes on, whatever genre of music. And how it can move us! And it needs to be practised, solo and in a group. How many groups started as friends, playing – the operative word here in many ways – at school or in each other’s homes?

L'arche procession1

I leave you with a spine-tingling moment as L’Arche communities from around Britain and Europe entered Canterbury Cathedral last summer for their 40th Birthday bash. I was glad to be there!

See The Independent Catholic News story at: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=25097

For animals, in particular dogs at play: John Bradshaw, In Defence of Dogs, Penguin, 2012, pp202ff.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections