A Cry is Heard by Jean Vanier
‘A path to unity and peace is possible’, says Vanier in what may prove a valedictory for the world. Now in his 90th year, the author provides us with a primer for living as human beings in our strife torn world, and a catechism for life in God’s kingdom of justice, love and truth. The book is slim yet packs into forty six vignettes spiritual insight, wisdom and often heartfelt self-awareness and humility the stories of L’Arche, and those who have accompanied on its 50 year journey.
‘Transformed by the weakest, we discover that together we can work for a transformation of our societies, ‘Vanier reflects in a chapter where he speaks of peoples of all faiths finding the possibility of ‘shared happiness, despite cultural differences.’ His description of creating the early communities for and with intellectually disabled people, is both moving and challenging. His ‘dream of “living” with the poor in the name of Jesus – and not just “doing good”, ‘ touches and exposes a gospel lived.
‘Belonging for becoming’, is Vanier’s appeal to people of all faiths and none, but particularly Christians for community, reconciliation, healing, forgiveness and peace. I sense this book may well prove to be a game changer in the way that we strive to witness to the good news of God’s Kingdom. To my mind it dovetails well into the final work of Walter Wink, Just Jesus – My Struggle to Become Human – Image Books. Wink’s brief summation of his life and mission, like Vanier’s exposes the necessity for us to re-discern what it means to be human, and why the vocation of followers of Jesus Christ must be exemplars of humanity, peace builders and reconcilers.
Courageously Vanier recounts faults, failings and sin in both himself and others. In an age when so much misuse of power and abuse haunts our churches, Vanier’s perception of sin and grace provides important lessons.
“You never wanted to meet me; you always wanted to change me,” were the dying words of a man in a Sydney park to a young woman worker. Vanier reflects on the mission of L’Arche that it was ‘not about converting others, but understanding them, creating links of trust. Listening to them and doing so humbly. ‘This is a transforming book, potentially a dangerous one. A Cry is Heard invites us to abjure those things that strengthen our egos, and re-inforce our fears and prejudices. It calls us to the “serious discipline” of listening, silence and work on oneself. It bids us turn upside down many of our preconceptions on what it means both to be human.
Reviewed by the Rt Revd Peter Price