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
Everyone is called to chastity. Not everyone is called to abstinence, but all people are called to embrace chastity. What is chastity? An orientation towards God, His divine plan, and the good of the other by practicing a chaste love in the actions of our body and a purity of the heart, mind, and soul. Chastity can include abstinence (refraining from marital sexual behavior outside of marriage.) However, chastity must be practiced within a marital relationship too.
Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of lust. Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of pornography. Marriage IS the fulfillment of love- Christ’s love for us. Marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with us and His love for the Church. Marriage and the marital embrace between a man and woman mirrors the eternal exchange of love between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father. God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A love that is self-giving and self-sacrificial. A love that lasts. A love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
Hannah, I’m not married. Well, neither am I. Chastity isn’t solely a sexual ethic or a list of dos and donts. Instead, chastity is an ethos- a change of the heart which transforms and animates our very being and behaviors stemming from Our Love of God and the recognition that we ourselves and others are created in the image and likeliness of God.
This week my accountability partner and I are embracing the virtue of chastity and turning away from lust. To practice chastity involves self-discipline and self-denial. Turn towards God, Our Lady, the angels and Saints in times of weakness and temptation. Denying yourself the entertainment of lustful thoughts and temptations is the beginning. With spiritual maturity, you must pray for, intercede for, and even fast for those that awaken lustful thoughts and habits. We must first transform ourselves and move outwards. How many women or men in sexually provocative or exploitative situations are being prayed for, interceded for, and fasted for? Not enough.
Speaking from personal experience chastity has always been my goal. Not always attained but always the ideal. When I have fallen away from chastity, I experience fear, shame, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, division, pride, etc. In past relationships, I’ve felt the insidious pressure of having my morals slowly stripped away followed by a sinking feeling in my heart and rising fear of exploitation. I’ve experienced when the person who “cares” for you enters the room and internally feeling, “what part of my soul will die today?” (by the way, if you are in this position, run far far away towards God, don’t look back, and take the time to heal.) My dating and relationship legacy is minimal. But it doesn’t take long for lust and objectifying behavior to creep in.
Whenever I practice chastity whether as an individual or in a relationship, I feel free. A freedom that requires taking responsibility for my actions and the impact of my actions gave on others (including my relationship with God.) Chastity opens me to love not lust or the byproduct of lust- fear. I feel capable of expressing and receiving love instead of dishing out a hearty dosage of fear and objectification. Lust is suffocating and enslaving. The worries or anxieties fade away. The constant battle between God, myself, and the other subsides. The room clears snd makes space to learn and experience authentic love. My body, soul, and heart no longer feel divided, in constant turmoil, and filled with uncertainty. Instead of feeling divided, my heart, soul, and body unite more closely with God and His plan. A fullness and richness (a warmth and light) replaces the bleak yet fleeting pleasures that fill the void of lust.
Where do I start?
- If you are Catholic, go to reconciliation. Experience authentic love within the confessional. Christ wants to share His love with you (His healing and forgiveness.)
- Sin no more! Resolve to sin no more and amend your life. Surround yourself in a culture of chastity (friends, media, entertainment, dialogue, etc.)
- Develop a daily prayer life. Learn to dialogue with God. Call on Our Lady’s powerful intercession. Meditate on the lives of the Saints. Read scripture.
- Identify areas of temptation (near occasions of sin). Know thyself. Know your limitations and weaknesses. Don’t play with fire. Don’t even strike the match.
- Fast- whether from food or other pleasures or enjoyments. Fasting develops spiritual muscles. Fasting allows you to rely on God more than yourself. Self-denial and discipline counteracts lust and pride.
- Offer moments of temptation to Our Lady and/or God. Pray for yourself and the untwisting of your heart. Pray for the awareness of the gift of authentic sexuality. Praise God for this gift! Pray for the victim of your lust. Recognize their God-given dignity.
- Love- practice authentic love in your thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. Let people witness Christ’s love through you. Put the good of the other before your own desires and passions.
Prayer for Chastity
Lord, help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you. Grant me the grace to resist the many lies that distort this divine gift and help me to live my sexuality according to the truth of self-giving love. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.
The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of the Americas and Respect Life, prompted me to read the Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. Then I realized in the season of anticipation of a child’s birth what could be a more beautiful reflection on marriage and family that reflects Divine love as instituted by the Divine Creator. May you all have a Blessed & Happy Advent!