Jean Vanier (b. 1928) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian and humanitarian. In early 1945, while Vanier was visiting Paris where his father was serving as Canadian Ambassador, he and his mother went to assist Concentration Camp survivors. This was a profoundly moving encounter he never forgot. After a 5 year stint in the Canadian navy, his spiritual calling to “do something else” led to resigning his commission in 1950, ultimately leading to a PhD in philosophy. In the 1960’s, his spiritual work led to developing communities around the world for people with developmental disabilities after becoming aware of the institutionalization of these folks. In 1971 he co-founded “Faith and Light”, an international movement of forums for people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends.
Today, there are over 1800 Faith and Light communities around the world. He also became active in organizing a movement called “Faith and Sharing” which are retreats where people from all walks of life are welcome. As of 2013, there are 13 communities in North America that organize annual retreats and days of prayer. The following, from his book “Finding Peace”, is an expression of his work:
“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work – hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss – loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.”