As we enter the month of February when stores are awash with merchandise sporting pinks, reds, and purples, consider that the first boundary of respecting yourself and others is your . . . SKIN. Reflect for a moment what skin does for our bodies. Our dermal layer protects us from dirt, disease, germs, injuries, and invasion by unsafe foreign objects. Essentially, skin keeps the good IN and the bad OUT.
There are many types of love (including non-sexual or erotic love) and expressions of love that reflect the beauty, truth, and goodness of God and his plan for love even in our imperfect and broken world. He created us out of and for love.
During the month of February and the Feast of St. Valentine’s Day, remember your body and every other human’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20)
May God bless you and keep you!
My mom and I watched a documentary on EWTN recently called the “Vanier Way.” A group of students from the Canadian Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School: “visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, and immerse themselves in the culture as they partake in workshops in pottery, mosaics, and gardening.” (@EWTN) These disillusioned high school students visit Parisian and French cultural, religious, and historical sights as well as immersing themselves in a few different L’Arche communities around the Paris area. The students were more moved by the L’Arche community than the Eiffel tower. Why? Because they experienced authentic love and joy. They experienced real truth and beauty amid the broken, outcast, and “undesirables” of society.
“L’Arche was not my project, but God’s.”- Jean Vanier
The students are blessed to interact with the Founder Jean Vanier who established the first L’Arche community in the late 1960s outside Paris after visiting local asylums. A female friend suggested the term “L’Arche” or “The Ark” in English indicating a community where people with intellectual disabilities could create a new family and no longer hide in the shadows of society. In 1970, the first L’Arche community opened in India. In 1972, the first USA L’Arche home was founded in Erie, PA. Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen lived his last 10 years at a Toronto’s Daybreak L’Arche home. As the founder states, “L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, other seeds were planted in other soils. . . L’Arche became ecumenical.” All L’Arche communities have a religious dimension to their community even in communities with those of severe intellectual disabilities. “Some communities are one religion, others are inter-denominational or inter-faith. Members are encouraged to grow in their spiritual journeys, and people who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.”
“Without this spiritual dimension and growth in holiness, L’Arche could become simply another group home. It would lose what makes it unique.”- Jean Vanier
The beauty of the documentary lies in the reactions of the high school students interacting with members of the community, how they process those interactions, and the transformative seeds planted. Another beautiful aspect is the insightful and authentic observation and story telling quality of Jean Vanier who speaks with a spiritual depth, peace, and humility few people evoke. He warns about the impact of social media (guilty here) and the power of “the tyranny of the Group.” And provides interacting on a human level with “the other” as an antidote against “the tyranny of the group.” These human interactions, absent of cell phones and social media shake us up and out of ourselves and illuminate the lies and pressure we follow so blindly with or without question.
The heart of the Vanier Way is simply the recognize and live in accordance with the profound recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human being from conception to natural death regardless of form or function. Our job is to love. Love and be loved in return. To love without measure or degree. To love the lovable and unlovable. And to allow love to transform us and inform us. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” – St. John Paul II
“Our community life is beautiful and intense, a source of life for everyone. People with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.” —Jean Vanier
May God bless you and keep you! You are more precious than you believe!
To learn more about the United State’s L’Arche community: LINK
To learn more about the International L’Arche community: LINK
“Leaving on a Jet plane! . . .” Cue the excitement and the thrill of international travel. Regardless, of the reasons behind travel, whether domestic or international, the drive comes from an innate, human curiosity and capacity for learning and experiencing the “other. ”
What does travel look like for a person with chronic health conditions? Depends on the condition and circumstances. Certain conditions may even limit a person’s ability to travel. But I know my packing list and priorities differ from your typical travel blog.
Points to Ponder:
1. Understand the region of the world you are interested in travelling to. Be realistic about your condition(s) and understand the potential risks of visiting an area where you will not have access to certain types or quality of medical care. God be with those that don’t have access to good medical care.
2. Check with your health insurance company to see if your policy follows you to your travel destination. My past two policies did, but only certain facilities in the UK were covered. If not, weigh your need for a temporary, international health insurance policy.
3. For ease of mind, research how to access healthcare services in your destination country(ies). Most of the world operates on a different healthcare system then the US. The local Embassy website will outline how US Citizens can access different healthcare services within that specific country.
READY TO PACK?
1. Medications– The General Rule of Thumb: Carry on your prescription medicine in the original package(s) with a Letter from your prescribing doctor outlining the medical necessity of your medications. Research medication travel guidelines by country you plan to visit. Most Embassy websites within your travel country will have info regarding travelling with prescription medication. If you have less than 3 months of medications, you typically don’t have to disclose to Customs (varies by country). If you have over 3 months of medications, medications administered by injection or liquids, or medications that are “controlled substances,” assume you will need to disclose to Customs.
2. A Doctor’s Letter. Make sure to request a Letter outlining the medical necessity of your prescription medicine needs, list of prescription meds, and contact info for your prescribing physician at least a 1- 2 weeks before travel. Most doctors are responsive to patient requests, but your doctor could be out of the office. This way you aren’t stressed and scrambling at last moment. Having this letter will help with any Customs inquiries or if you needed any medical attention while travelling.
3. Daily Dosage. Depending on the quantity and shape of your medications, bring a pill case or Ziploc bags filled with your non-prescription medications. Once through Customs, you can easily transfer your daily dosage from the prescription packaging to a convenient and portable on-the-go system. For example, I take more non-prescription and prescription meds daily than can fit in any pill case. I use sandwich size Ziploc bags. Once through Customs, I add my prescription meds to my supplements and grab one bag per day. Do not discard the original medication packaging.
4. Pack Extra. Pack more prescription medications than days you are actually traveling. Don’t save space by packing fewer meds. Take another 1-2 weeks of meds for “just in case.”
5. Prone to Nausea. If you’re susceptible to stomach sickness, skip the airline barf bags and pack a couple quart to gallon Ziploc bags. Discreet and practical, these plastic bags allow for better control and ease of disposal. I have complicated migraines and sometimes struggle with nausea.
6. Research Handicap accessibility and guidelines at your intended travel destination. Check with your modes of transportation and lodging about handicap accessibility and accommodations. I do not need special accommodations for accessibility, but please, research for your particular needs.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the experience of international travel! May God be with you on your next adventure.
St. Christopher, pray for us!