When French Catholic Jean Vanier brought two men with intellectual disabilities to live with him in his home, he did so more out of a sense of religious duty than anything else.
But as time went on, he began to realize that what the men needed was not help, but friendship. In the founding of his L’Arche (The Ark) homes for people with intellectual disabilities, friendship became the pillar of what those communities were and are all about.
“In short, Vanier had discovered they shared a common world,” Professor Stanely Hauerwas said in his keynote address last month at the University of Notre Dame’s annual conference sponsored by the De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.
Hauerwas, a theologian and the Gilbert T. Rowe professor emeritus with joint appointments at Duke divinity school and Duke law school, was a personal friend of Vanier, who died at the age of 90 earlier this year.
“I don’t know where we would be without such witnesses today. It’s remarkable,” Hauerwas said of his friend.