John Vanier addresses Community of Saint Anselm

‘You are more precious than you dare believe’ – Jean Vanier speaks with Community of St Anselm

15 Jan 2016

The founder of the L’Arche movement, Jean Vanier, spoke with members of the Community of St Anselm at Canterbury Cathedral this morning.

Vanier, 86, yesterday addressed the week-long gathering of Anglican Communion Primates at Canterbury Cathedral that concludes today.

The Community of St Anselm, an international Christian community for young men and women launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been praying for the Primates in the Cathedral every day this week.

Speaking to the Community in the Crypt where Primates have gathered for worship this week, Vanier spoke of the importance of trusting oneself.

“The big thing is to trust oneself. It’s about listening to the inner voice. Listening to something that’s inside each one of us, which is a compass to make us more human, and more in tune with things of God.”

“In the Vatican Council is says the dignity of the human being is the personal conscience, which is that secret sanctuary where God speaks with each of us, indicating what is just and true and helping us move away from the opposite.”

“We are in a world where people are not encouraged to listen to the inner voice – what do you think, what do you believe? – we are in a world where people are not encouraged to believe in themselves.”

He added: “You are more precious than you dare believe.”

Reflecting on his decades-long experience of living in community with people with disabilities and without, Vanier said communities such as the Community of St Anselm are “nourishing” because they involve living with people who are very different from ourselves.

He said it is good to be surrounded by those who clash with us, because it helps us find “the place of nourishment” and “to discover little by little who am I”.

Vanier answered questions from the Community about living with fear and growing in faith. He said his deepest fear is fear of humiliation, and his deepest desire is to be with Jesus.

Watch the Community of St Anselm on praying for the Primates at Canterbury Cathedral:

(See also the following link from Bishop Graham Kings, Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion:


From the very useful link to Bishop Graham King’s overview of the Primates’ Meeting, (linked immediately above the line here) I have selected the above article which describes the informal impromptu meeting of Fr. John Vanier (L’Arche Community) with the Lambeth Palace-based ecumenical Community of St. Anselm.

The fact that Fr. Vanier had introduced to the remaining Primates, on the final day of their meetings in Canterbury, the prospect of joining together in the Foot-Washing ceremony – as a way into corporate reparation for perceived (and secret) activities that encouraged division in the Communion – affords us all some idea of the tensions within the gathering that were able to be dealt with by those prelates remaining at the Meeting.

Interesting too is the fact that the ecumenical Community of Saint Anselm – set up by the ABC at Lambeth Palace for the purpose of seeking the unity of Christians – should have been praying especially for the Primates’ Meeting and, as a consequence, received a personal visit from Fr. John Vanier, Founder of L’Arche communities around the world, that deal specifically with disabled and broken people.

Restoration and reconciliation are two priorities for this 86-year-old Roman Catholic priest. May we hope that his words to the young people at Lambeth were fruitful in their working for unity in the Universal Church. And may the experience of the Primates’ mutual foot-washing have renewed, or brought about, a spirit of deep fellowship in the hearts of the participants. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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