Michael Higgins, in his newest book Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart, creates a text that intertwines the factual elements of Jean Vanier’s life with the scripture and morals he acted upon throughout his years as a caregiver, philosopher and writer. Higgins’ and Vanier’s voice often come together as one, allowing readers to feel the presence of Vanier instead of viewing his accomplishments from a distance.
Higgins shares many of the same principles that Vanier promoted through his work and expands upon them in his own words to advocate to the reader their importance, “. . . no one group is treasured by God over others. There is no exceptionalism. We are all, as persons, loved into existence by God: ‘We can only be peacemakers if we believe that every person-whatever their culture, religion, values abilities or disabilities-is important and precious to God and if we seek to open our hearts to them.’”
Vanier had many unique experiences within his life that have greatly influenced the accomplishments that he is celebrated for to this day. Growing up, Vanier lived with his large family in multiple cities across the world, given his father’s hectic career in international diplomacy. Although he had an emotional and loving relationship with his mother, she eventually had to be put in a home due to the neurasthenia caused by her growing familial responsibilities. His relationship with his father was also close and played a large role in Vanier’s ability to express and trust himself. From a young age his father accepted his voice and ideas stuck with him throughout his life, which he describes as necessary for all children to develop the skills needed to be confident in one’s self.
Perhaps what Vanier is most well know for is his role in the creation of the L’Arche Movement which has established multiple homes, communities and networks to allow those with intellectual disabilities to flourish. Although Vanier loved the work he did, he was also very aware of how hard and demanding it was, which instead of despising, he learned to love. Included within the biography are many anecdotes about various people that have touched Vanier’s life and reinforced the great work that he did. Later on in life, Vanier wrote about these experiences in relation to scripture, inspiring many Catholics to find fulfillment in the accepting and taking care of others.
This unique take on such a revered person of God, provides modern day Catholics with a figure that they are able to look up to, especially within these times of violence and turmoil. The many inspirational aspects of Vanier’s life will ultimately teach readers, “the generative power of silence, the restorative power of peace, and the liberative power of restricted tenderness.”
Christina D’Agnillo– Marketing Intern
Below you will find more inspiring books in the People of God series: