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Dear Friends,

 

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 of Christ.

 

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.

 

A 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 comprehend.

 

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.

 

I 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 L’Arche community.

 

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 and Egypt.

 

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.

 

Peace,

Father Niblick

  

 

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!