The spiritual earthquake caused by the revelations about Jean Vanier has shaken Jim and I. Being among those who knew both Jean Vanier and Père Thomas personally (we lived at l’Arche back in the 1970’s), we are suffering a serious spiritual concussion of the heart. The 154 l’Arche communities in 38 countries broke the news to their members as follows: our founder has died — a second time* … Jim and I are shell-shocked with them, we weep with them and with all who feel shaken, betrayed and horrified. Because once part of l’Arche, always part of the l’Arche family, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.
Biological death is a natural part of life. It is expected, even though we are never ready to embrace it. Biological death at a ripe old age after a rich life, as Jean Vanier’s appears to have been last May 2019, can even be a true celebration of thanksgiving. Now, nearly 10 months later, both the church and the world are in shock. This second death, caused by grave sin, is unexpected, shocking, and worse, way worse, especially in the wake of the radiant, global, life-giving movement that l’Arche has become since it began in 1964. Already universities are revoking past awards, schools are considering name changes, publishing companies are ceasing publication of his books. The effects of the news are devastating, far-reaching and far from over. There will be more … oh my God, there will surely be more.
I too feel the effects. Not even a recent harrowing drive home through a snow storm affected me the way this news has. My writing and my ministry are being sucked bone-dry. Grief is exhausting. I’m guessing there won’t be many blog posts for a while. I’m grateful for guest preachers in my parish over the next couple of Sundays. From here on I will let the words of others speak their own painful truth (see the links below), while aching for healing and understanding, for mercy and reconciliation in and with all in the l’Arche family. And we cry out to God in prayer:
If you, oh Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80)
Michael Higgins in the Globe & Mail
Ian Brown’s article in the Globe & Mail
The Sinner and the Sin in Convivium
When Saints Fall by Thomas Reese
Krista Tippet reflecting on the revelations
CBC Radio Interview on The Current
Ron Rolheiser’s column
* From Irene Tuffrey-Wijne’s account of a shell-shocked l’Arche community
A deeply thoughtful reflection by Rhonda Miska on Living Lent
Former Irish President of Ireland Mary McAleese wrote to Pope Francis