Essential Writings is a collection of writings by Jean Vanier that was edited by Carolyn Whitney-Brown. Vanier is best known as the founder of L’Arche.
I really enjoyed this book as it gives a great picture of Vanier’s life and thought. It begins with a nice introduction to his life, including his family background, time in the navy, his education and teaching and finally his introduction to the world of disabilities.
I thought this would be just chapters from a selection of Vanier’s books. Instead it includes chapters on a number of themes with each chapter made up of short selections from a wide range of his writings.
This book includes portions from his popular books but also letters, newsletters, personal conversations and even Vanier’s words from Henri Nouwen’s funeral.
Reading this book made me appreciate Vanier even more than I already had. He immersed himself in the world of disabilities, living in very humble circumstances even though he had every advantage to be successful according to society’s standards.
Vanier’s Catholic faith was central to all he did. As a Protestant, I appreciated how Jesus-centred he was. Reading Vanier’s theological reflections didn’t leave me thinking we belonged to different traditions.
Essential Writings made me want to read more from Jean Vanier.