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In memory of Jean Wannier

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In memory of Jean Wannier

Tonight, May 7, there was no amazing person who made our world a better place. At the age of 90, the Christian ascetic Jean Wannier passed away. This person has changed the attitude of the whole world towards people with mental disabilities, made it possible for relatives and relatives not to be alone with their misfortune, creating the communities “Ark”, “Faith and Light”. Through his books and speeches, he constantly reminded of hope, and to many discovered what a true life in the community can be.

Today we want to recall some important thoughts of Jean Wannier, collected from his books.

Why look for the perfect community?

There is no need to look for the perfect community. It is about loving those whom God has placed next to us today. They are a sign of the presence of God near us. Maybe we would like other people, more fun and smarter. But God gave us just these, it was them He chose for us. And it is with them that we must create unity and live in alliance.

I am amazed more and more by people whom the community does not satisfy. When they are in small communities, they would like to live in large ones, where they can be better supported, where community activities are more active, where more beautiful and better prepared liturgies are served. But when they fall into large communities, they begin to dream of those small ideal communities. Those with a great deal of work dream of more frequent opportunity for long prayers; those who have a lot of time at their disposal seem to be weighed down by them, and are looking lost for any business that would give meaning to their life. Do we not all dream of that perfect, ideal community, where we could find complete peace, complete harmony, finding a balance between the external and internal components of our life, where everything would be joyful for us?

When we listen to stories of terrible pain and realize that we can not do anything about it, we touch our own vulnerability. We heard a cry of pain, but we do not know what to do with it. None of us knows what to do with the deeply damaged world. Perhaps realizing this can bring us back to the topic of the community. We cannot do anything on our own. Somewhere we need to be together.

“Community is a place of forgiveness and celebration”

Jesus came to create the Body

Jesus came to change the world in which those at the top have rights, power, honor and money, while those at the bottom are considered useless. Jesus came to create the Body. The Apostle Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (in chapter 12) compares the human body and the Body of Christ and says that the weakest and most unseemly members are most necessary for the body. In other words, the weakest and most ignoble people are most necessary for the Church. I have never seen this in the first lines of any book on ecclesiology! Who believes in this? But here is the very core of faith, of what it means to be a Church. Do we really believe that the weakest, most ignoble, those we hide are the most necessary? If this were indeed our vision of the Church, much would change.

I always try to show that there is a deep need in us to meet with those on the other side of the wall, to discover their gifts, to accept them. We should not be trapped in the desire to rule over the poor. We need to be with the poor.

This seems somewhat insane, because it does not look like a plan for rebuilding the world. But perhaps we will change the world if we ourselves are happy. Perhaps what we most need is to rejoice and celebrate with the weak and vulnerable. Perhaps the most important thing is to learn how to build celebration communities. Maybe the world will change when we learn to have fun together. I do not propose to stop talking about serious subjects. But it may be that our world, more than anything else, needs the communities in which we glorify life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we all need signs that it is possible to love one another.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

Our reality is the reality of separation and fear

Our reality is the reality of separation and fear of weakness and death. But somewhere in our hearts there is a desire for peace. The vision of Jesus is that we meet with people at the bottom and help them to rise and trust ourselves. In order to destroy the walls separating people, we do not need to fight against these walls, we need to start at the foot. Jesus came to proclaim the good news to the poor, to free the oppressed, to heal the blind. Let us help the poor rise, and besides, help those who have power and money to see that for the sake of peace, the greatest good for all human beings, they too can enter this vision and begin to help the weak rise.

When this happens, each person will begin to change. Those who have power and wealth will begin to become more humble, and those who will rise will get rid of their need to feel victims, the need for anger or depression. In such spirituality, it will be revealed that God wants me to be where I am, and as I am, plus humble. It is the spirituality of life that helps people to stand up and find their place. This is not the spirituality of death. Jesus wants the afflicted to rise, and the strong to discover that there is a different way — to share and to have compassion.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

Welcome accepting outcasts

Peace can come in this world only when each of us – namely, each person – takes seriously the message about the world that Jesus proclaimed and revealed in life: “Love one another, as I loved you” (John 15:12). How can we come to love one another? How can we come closer to believing that we ourselves are loved?

Living for many years with people who were suppressed, humiliated, rejected, locked up in boarding schools, I saw their crying and the deepest desire for a meaningful and genuine relationship.

Most of all, they needed not the well-being and wide opportunities to do something wonderful, but the recognition of themselves as important and valuable human beings. And this could only be done through true friendship with them, one that is full of love.

Really accepting the most outcasts, becoming their friends, we all learn (if we only listen to our inner voice) to accept our own brokenness. We are embarking on the path of disarming our hearts and becoming more humane. Each of us is called to this path. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says, “for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5: 9). Are we all not God's children? And then, aren't we all called to be peacekeepers – in our daily lives (and some, perhaps, in living nonviolence at the political level)? What is important is that each of us learn to hear our inner voice and look for that one Truth that can make us free. The danger lies in the fact that we can be tempted by the media and all that takes away from life in truth about ourselves and our communities.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

How to overcome our divisions

We live in a world of great pain. We must wonder what all this means who we are in this world and, most importantly, how to break through our defense systems. I have already said that Jesus has a vision – and a very deep vision – of how we can overcome our divisions. A clearer understanding of this vision will help us some knowledge of history. During Jesus' time, people with disabilities, especially lepers, were completely rejected by society. Very strong social barriers were erected between the Jews and the Romans. The whole world was divided into small groups defined by the Romans, just as the Greeks defined them before the Romans. This is the way of the existence of any empire. That was the British Empire, now there is the American Empire, and soon there will be a Chinese Empire. The world is the same. Empires rise and fall. They want to rule the world, imposing their "world" on it.

The word has become flesh to unite people, to destroy the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. This is the special meaning of embodiment – to unite people.

In His prayer for unity, Jesus requested that we all become one. This stunning vision of peacemaking has been with us for two thousand years. I don’t know, it may take another fifty thousand years. But Christ is constantly working to bring people together. The danger is what Martin Luther King talked about: we have a desire to humiliate other people in order to rise above ourselves.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

Every prayer of the poor is prayer to God

As we grow weaker and poorer, we are called upon to believe more and more that every prayer of the poor is a genuine prayer to God. God hears the prayers of the poor.

Does the church believe in the sanctity of people with disabilities? Some people believe that the Church should do good deeds for the poor. But do we believe in their holiness? I am very upset when people tell me: "You are doing a good thing." It doesn't really matter to me if I'm doing a good job. What is important to me is the church vision of community, it is important for me to live in a community based on the gospel, together with people with disabilities. We are brothers and sisters to each other, and Jesus calls us to become a body from the pyramidal community.

One of the gospel passages that is very important for the “Ark” is Luke 14: 12–14, where Jesus says: “When you are making lunch or dinner, do not call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your relatives, nor rich neighbors.” Do not call those with whom you, as usual, will praise each other. What do people do when they call guests? They invite relatives. And then one says to the other: "You are super." And the other answers: “No, it's you – super. You gave me good wine last time. And next time I will give you good wine. ” This Aristotelian idea of ​​friendship is the interchange between equals. And Jesus says: “But when you make a feast, call the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed that they cannot pay you back, for the righteous will be repaid to you.” You will be rewarded in Kingdom currency. If you become a friend to someone who is rejected, then you are doing the work of unity. You bring people together. You do God's work.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

We need to get back to the gospel vision

We need to return to the gospel vision. When I think of him, I find him incredible. This is the promise that we human beings can be together. It is a vision of unity, peace and acceptance. This is a promise that the walls between people and groups of people will collapse, but this will happen without violence, and through a change of heart through transformation. And it will start from the bottom of our social ladders. Jesus did not spend much time in the rich cities of Israel, such as Tiberias, He talked with prostitutes, with people who were called "sinners" who were excommunicated from the temple. He was building relationships all the time, it was very important for Jesus. His vision was to bring together all the children of God scattered throughout the world. God hates the walls of fear and separation. The vision of Jesus shows us that divisions are healed by dialogue and staying together.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells us that the Samaritan knew what to do. He picked up the wounded Jew from the side of the road and took care of him. He put him on his donkey, drove him to the hotel and spent the whole evening with him. They talked to each other and realized their brotherhood in belonging to humanity. The two people met and spent time together. And both were transformed. Their prejudices have disappeared.

Throughout the Gospel, we see a contrast between those who are well integrated in society, but who are too busy, and those who are excluded from society and do not know where to put the time. In the parable of the marriage feast (Matthew 22, Lk 14), some people are too absorbed in their short-term projects – marriage, purchase of land. They have no time for a celebration of love. Therefore, the king or the owner of the house tells the servants to go along the streets and alleys and bring all the outcasts – poor, crippled, blind. Bring them all. And they rush to the feast of love.

The Apostle Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians says that God chose the weak and the unwise to confound the strong and wise; He chose the most humbled people from the very bottom of society (see 1 Cor 1: 27-29). We see how an image unfolds in this teaching in which a hierarchical pyramid turns into a body growing from below. One may ask, does this mean that Jesus loves the weak more than the strong? No not like this. The secret of mentally retarded people is that they crave genuine and love relationships more than power. They are not obsessed with the desire to gain a high position in the group that provides recognition and promotion. They cry for the most important thing – about love. And God hears their prayer, because in a sense, they respond to the prayer of God Himself – to give love.

That was exactly my first experience when I got to the boarding school. The prayer of people with disabilities was very simple: do you love me? They only asked about this. And it aroused something very deep in me, because in me there was this very primary cry. I knew that I could be successful. I served well in the navy. I became a doctor of philosophy. I knew that I could continue to climb stairs, but I did not know if anyone really loved me. If I get sick, who will be with me? I knew the need to be accepted and admired. But something in the depths of me did not know whether anyone loved me and cared for me at least as a person, and not because of my achievements.

“Living Peacefully in the Middle of Violence: A Prophetic Evidence of Weakness”

In the heart of the community is a holiday

Forgiveness and celebration are at the heart of the community. These are two sides of the same coin, one reality, the reality of love. Holiday is a common experience of joy, a song of gratitude. We praise God for being together, and thank Him for the gift that has been given to us. The holiday nourishes hearts, returns hope and instills courage in order to survive the suffering and horrors of everyday life.

A holiday is a reinforcement, a renewal. In its course, the final destination of the community is highlighted. As such, it awakens hope and gives new strength in order to accept everyday life with even greater love. The holiday is a sign of resurrection, giving us the strength to bear the cross of every day. Glorification and the cross are connected by intimate bonds.

It is amazing how the Church retained a sense of celebration. Every day is a holiday; there are great liturgical holidays and holidays of heavenly friends, the anniversary of various saints. And then, in the midst of the day, the Mass is served. The words uttered at the Mass always amaze me: praise and celebration, presence, fellowship, food and sacrifice, the Eucharist and thanksgiving.

These words express well community life. It is necessary that we actually live for each other, communicating with each other in order to enter into fellowship with Jesus. It is then that the celebration and service of God takes place. This fellowship, this worship of God is a time that nourishes; we become bread for one another because God has become bread for us; it is food in the heart of the community. Sacrifice is always at the center of community life, because it is about sacrificing our own interests for the sake of the interests of others, just as Jesus sacrificed His life so that we might receive the Spirit. The celebration begins with a request for forgiveness and ends with thanksgiving.

Our era has a “party” feeling, that is, a meeting at which they drink and eat; dances are organized, but often this is a matter of the couple, or even a completely individual matter. Our time loves the play, theater, cinema, television, but lost the feeling of celebration.

Very often today we have joy without God or God without joy. This is the consequence of many years of Jansenism, according to which God was presented as a Severe Almighty Being; joy broke away from the divine.

Holiday, on the contrary, is joy with God. Each culture and any tradition expresses this joy in its own way – more or less obvious, more or less collected.

The gospel is littered with holidays. The first miracle of Jesus occurred at a wedding in Cana; he turns water into wine, so that the feast is more beautiful; often it is at the time of the holidays that Jesus appears in the temple and proclaims the Good News in a colorful manner. He died on Easter.

At the heart of the holiday is the poor. If the smallest are excluded, this is no longer a holiday. It is about finding dances and games in which the poorest people in the community, children and the elderly, all the weakest, could participate. A holiday should always be a holiday of the poor.

“Community is a place of forgiveness and celebration”

Section Jean Wannier: books and interviews.

Lecture by Marina Mikhailova about Vanya.

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