One of the concerns of the Gospel of John
being produced late in the first one hundred
years after the Christ events of death and
resurrection was how to keep these
experiences, this real presence of Jesus
Christ, alive in the human experience.
The belief of the Church, that very, very
disparate gatherings of people that
inhabited various and sundry communities
around the Mediterranean sea all agreed that
Christ was present in the proclamation of
the Word of their developing “bible” and in
the rituals of the Eucharist but these were
not initially uniform and not every
community held the same explicit beliefs in
how Word and Sacrament created the presence
What they did agree on, however, was that
they, individually and all together, had the
means within them to act as they believed
Christ acted, they could be forgiving,
loving, accepting, tolerant, and intentional
about caring for one another, the poor, the
refugees, the exiles, and the immigrants
that were the results of wars and
insurrections caused by the occupation of
the armies of Rome.
It is their actions that principally and in
the first instance were the cause of the
rapid spread of the Christian way of life
across the Mediterranean basin, the Middle
East, Northern Africa, and into Asia within
the first hundred years.
phenomenal fact when you consider the
language and cultural differences alone, not
to even mention, the various religious
traditions that varied wildly from the
outright sexual to the heady intellectual
and the bizarrely mysterious.
It seems that Christianity tapped into the
fact that people left to themselves enjoy
being kind and accepting and tolerant and
good to one another.
Even today when it is hard to believe the
extent of the degeneration of values in the
Christian churches and our country that we
see happening before our eyes, it is still
individual and communal real acts of human
kindness and tolerance and self-sacrifice
that ordinary people undertake day in and
day out that gives reason to suspect that
there is more going on than we can
The contemporary trumpeted presence of
Christ that blares a terribly discordant
symphony of division and fear and “just
discrimination” and outright hatred in
self-serving and self-conscious Catholic and
Protestant “evangelism” will not be the
final breath of the Real Presence of Christ
of that I am hopeful.
The noise of much of conventional
Christianity does not convince so, so many
of the young who bravely and courageously
seek to act with personal integrity and
justice and love and wisdom inspired, I
believe, they probably don’t, by the Spirit
of Christ breathed into all of creation at
the very beginning.
One example of conventional Catholicism to
celebrate today is the life of the man, Jean
Vanier, the founder of the international
movement known as L’Arche, The Ark.
quote from an article found in the online
and in print magazine, The Christian
Century, written by Melissa Florer-Bixler:
Vanier returned to France after teaching
philosophy in Toronto and serving in the
Royal Navy during World War II. A local
priest took him to an institution in Trosly
called Val Fleury. Here he saw people with
profound disabilities treated as refuse.
Here are the poor, the priest told him.
In 1964 Vanier took three men out of this
institution. Two of those men, Raphael Semi
and Philippe Seux, continued to live with
Vanier in a house in Trosly, the first
It did not take long for the community to
grow. “On the edge of the forest of
Compiègne, L'Arche has opened its first
home for the mentally and physically
handicapped,” Vanier wrote in his earliest
diary entries about L’Arche. “These
family-like homes, each welcoming from four
to nine boys, at least twenty years old, are
lifelong homes. They are the first of a
group of homes which will be linked together
with workshops, a cultural centre, a chapel
and the necessary medical help.”
People continued to come, to see in L’Arche
a spark of hope not only for people with
intellectual disabilities but for a new way
of being in relationship, a new way of
ordering life. The community of Trosly grew.
Then others began to gather together in
homes to undergo the transformative rhythms
of daily life. L’Arche communities arose
around the world—in Uganda and the West
Bank, in France and Washington DC, in Japan
Vanier offered the gift of L’Arche to the
world through his writings, opening a window
to the communities of L’Arche International.
Some of his reflections appear in his book
The Gospel of John: The Gospel of
Relationship. In 2008 Vanier reflected
on L’Arche and nonviolence with theologian
Stanley Hauerwas in their book Living
Gently in a Violent World. But the best
known book, often called the “L’Arche
Bible,” is Community and Growth, a
series of reflections that continues to form
intentional communities throughout the
world—communities that hope to live the
charism of friendship discovered in L’Arche.
Many people know about L’Arche through the
writings of author and theologian Henri
Nouwen. Vanier struck up a friendship with
Nouwen after the two met at Harvard. Vanier
sensed a loneliness in Nouwen and invited
him to spend time with the people of Trosly.
This visit led Nouwen to leave his position
at Harvard to become pastor of L’Arche
Daybreak in Toronto. (Nouwen recorded his
experience in The Road to Daybreak.)
L’Arche grew by invitations like these,
because the people who visit the communities
and homes of L’Arche sense God in the
changing rhythms of slowness and gentleness,
in the dismantling of violence and
self-protection that comes when life orbits
around the most vulnerable in our world.
This activity, Vanier reminded us, was not a
burden but a wellspring of joy.
Vanier came looking for Jesus in the
neglected. He found fullness of life in
those snatched from despair and placed down
in homes based on mutuality, respect, and
care. As a doctor of philosophy, a member of
the Royal Navy, a published author and
professor, Vanier knew the patterns of
success and advancement. Where he discovered
life was in relationships that offered
instead to undo our desires for power.
COMING EVENTS IN JUNE
On Sunday, June 2, we will have a homecoming
for our college kids who are home for the
summer or have never left home or have
graduated and their friends.
We will begin at 10:30 Mass for those who
choose to attend and then continue in the
old CFP and VBS territory with food, really
good food, and beverages appropriate to
college or post college will be served.
There is no charge and all of you are
welcome and welcome to bring your friends.
Our first ever sock hop, no one under 50
allowed, will be Friday, June 21, starting
at 5. Admission is $10 which includes the
music and all of the Chicago Style Vienna
Beef hotdogs you can eat and all of the
popcorn you can eat popped with corn from
our own fields.
Water and iced tea are free but other
beverages will be available for purchase.
State law prohibits any alcohol that we do
not provide so, sorry, no BYOB.
June 21 is midsummer, the longest day in the
year, a day and night of great festivity in
the Scandinavian countries when people dress
up and eat and drink and dance and talk all
night long, so get a group together or come
on your own and pick up a group and bring
your friends and neighbors but no one under
50 allowed, remember. ID’s checked at door!