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Community and Growth

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In another thread, Jon Trott wrote:

I'm not sure what I will do re posting here on issues dearest to my own heart. Maybe I'll just listen mostly to others. "Community is TERRIBLE" says Jean Vanier (who runs the Catholic L'Arche communities -- he says this with a twinkle in his eye, but means it). He thinks, of course, that we all need community. Yet community is where the pain and self-revelation come most intensely...


Jon--I went through Vanier's Community and Growth a few years back as part of my project to go through Renovare's 100 Spiritual Classics. I still have many of the posts I made to a now defunct Yahoo! group devoted to that list and the works on it, and I'd welcome the chance to discuss Vanier's work, which I found fascinating but which didn't generate much discussion at the time.

Could you say a bit about your reader relationship to Vanier? In what contexts, how recently you read him, what resonated (or didn't) about his words, anything like that. If it's not fresh or if you don't care to do so, that's okay, too.



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I tell people if they want a manual on "how to do community," read Vanier. It will cure them of that idea.

Vanier to me is brilliant. We've had him at the festival, though depressingly when he appeared at Main Stage there was only a smattering crowd there -- mostly JPUSA folks, I suspect!

"Forgiveness is the heart of community." Absolutely true in our experience.

His riffs on people who are wounded bringing out in turn our own wounds, and that this is what community often is about... again, brilliant stuff that has been lived rather than theorized by its author.

It is so hard to talk about the book, mainly because for this pilgrim, opening it ANYWHERE reveals some nugget of reality. I just tried that with my desk copy, and here's what I got (at random, now):

"Some people fear to enter a community because they are afraid of losing their identity. They fear that they will disappear, lose their personality and inner wealth if they become part of a group and accept the principles of community discernment. This fear is not entirely unjustified. When we come into community we give up something of ourselves, and the rougher elements of our personality will have to be left behind. Assertiveness, which enriches an individual, will have to give way to a greater ability to listen; impatience will have to give way to patience. A new strength will be born and new gifts will appear [....]"

Ha! Resonant with me.... and the worst thing is, that "the rougher elements of our personality" keep on showing up. Tenacious little boogers.



Edited by jon_trott
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