A desire to belong

Jean Vanier  born September 10, 1928, is a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964 he founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. He is passionate about the idea that everyone belongs, in his book ‘Becoming Human’ he writes,

“Belonging then is a school of love where we learn to open up to others and to the world around us, where each person, creature, and thing in our world is important and is respected.”  

At the heart of Vanier’s theology is the human desire to belong. Human beings are made for deep relationships; they are made for community. As he puts it: “The longer we journey on the road to inner healing and wholeness, the more the sense of belonging grows and deepens. The sense is not just one of belonging to others and to a community. It is a sense of belonging to the universe, to the earth, to the air, to the water, to everything that lives, to all humanity.” In order to belong somewhere, a person has to be missed when they are not there. Vanier’s theology of community and belonging requires that those whom we have chosen to name “disabled”, should have a place of belonging within the community of the friends of Jesus. If they are not missed they do not belong; if they do not belong there is no community.