Wednesday, 9 July 2008

International Eucharistic Congress: testimony of Jean Vanier

I have been putting together a powerpoint presentation of my trip to Quebec, which readily gives me material for some more posts! In choosing one of the testimonies to feature, I went for that of Jean Vanier. His testimony was given on the theme "The Eucharist: the gift of God par excellence", in French. The English translation is my own, and is taken from the written text of the testimony. Photo credit to

Jesus came to bring down these walls in our hearts and to make us, his disciples, workers for peace. The great thirst of Jesus is unity: "That they may be one as the Father and I are one" ....

After a conference about people with a handicap that I gave in Syria, the grand mufti of Alep arose to thank me. He said: "If I have understood properly, people with a handicap lead us towards God" ....

Jean Vanier developed a theme of how we, who draw close to Jesus in the Eucharist, should also draw close to him in the handicapped person, and become for them a Eucharistic presence of Jesus.

In L'Arche and Foi et Lumiere, we have the experience that when we are attentive to the deepest needs of people with a handicap, we can recognise their wish for communion at the moment of the Eucharist. Is there not hidden in their cry for a communion of hearts a cry for communion with Jesus in the Eucharist?... Can we not dare to hope that one of the fruits of this Eucharistic congress will be that we all might discover the deep meaning of this gift of the friendship of Jesus in his real presence in the Eucharist - and that we will all look to live a real presence alongside people who are weak and rejected?...

And the final words of his testimony were:

And I dare to evoke another hope: that the body and blood of Jesus really present in the Eucharist can be the source, no longer of division between all the baptised, but of unity among them, so that the world might believe in the liberating love of Jesus.

Two things particularly struck me about Jean Vanier's testimony. The first was that, though the experience of many L'Arche and Foi et Lumiere communities is now one of a multi-denominational, multi-faith or even non-believing background, nevertheless the testimony was profoundly Christocentric and Eucharistic. The second was the closeness of the testimony to the spirituality of unity of the Focolare movement. When I shared this testimony with our Word of Life group earlier this evening, they recognised this affinity immediately.

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