S+L logo

"What I'm Reading" Wednesday: Living Gently in a Violent World

November 28, 2018
CNS photo/Abramorama

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Expanded Edition)
by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Expanded Edition: 2018, Intervarsity Press) is a collection of essays that emerged from a 2006 conference on the intersection of disability and theology. The authors, theologian Stanley Hauerwas (named “America’s best theologian” by TIME Magazine) and Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche) interlace their reflections on both finding God in communities like L’Arche and how such “communities of peace” can prophetically witness to today’s often violent, searching world.
Many Catholics will be familiar with Vanier’s work; son of Georges Vanier, former Governor-General of Canada, he began L’Arche as an attempt to live out the Gospel (specifically the works of mercy) “incarnationally,” sharing his life at first with just two men in a small house in rural France. Out of that original home has grown a worldwide community of people with disabilities living side by side with those who assist them and share their day-to-day, including over 200 homes, day programs, and workshops in Canada alone.
Though not an Advent-specific read, this volume fits well with the “reason” for the season: contemplating the birth of Christ, the Incarnation. As John Paul II said,
“[Disabled people] show us over and above all appearances that the ultimate foundation of human existence is Jesus Christ. It is justifiably said that they are humanity’s privileged witnesses. They can teach everyone about the love that saves us; they can become heralds of a new world, no longer dominated by force, violence, and aggression, but by love, solidarity, and acceptance – a new world transfigured by the light of Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate, who was crucified, and rose for us” (Message of John Paul II on the Occasional of the International Symposium on the Dignity and Rights of the Mentally Disabled Person).
All our communities are called to become real places where people can encounter the God of gentleness and mercy. Perhaps this book could help your local parish, book club, or small group to reflect on finding God and creating peace this season. The excellent discussion questions included at the end of the book are a great place to start.

Favourite Quote:

“As we live with people who have been crushed, as we begin to welcome the stranger, we will gradually discover the stranger inside of us. When we welcome the broken outside, they call us to discover the broken inside. We cannot really enter into relationship with people who are broken unless somehow we deal with our own brokenness” (p. 67).
If you’d like to learn more about L’Arche, check out the Salt+Light documentary on the Spirit Movers dance troupe at L’Arche Daybreak, called With Our Own Hands: