Bishop Nicholas writes:
What can bring us happiness? This question, which vexed Aristotle and the author of the Psalms, is the question being asked implicitly by the John Templeton Foundation, as it seeks answers to ‘the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality’. Templeton has recognised that L'Arche has found something of an answer: that you begin to find happiness when you share your life with the poor.
Templeton annually honours those who have ‘made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works.’ Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche, has been judged to have succeeded on all three counts and he was accordingly awarded the Templeton Prize at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square on Monday 18 May.
Jean explained the vision of L'Arche by recalling when Jesus said: ‘When you give a special meal, don't invite your family and rich neighbours, so that they invite you back in return. No, when you give a meal, invite rather the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind: that they cannot repay your invitation means you will be blessed.’
‘It is not they who will be blessed,’ he went on to explain, ‘but you!’ Herein lies the key to happiness: that welcoming into your life those whom society would discard will bring you unimaginable riches. Members of L'Arche then illustrated the point by dressing a table for a feast and inviting forward people with disabilities. I was invited to join Bishop Richard Chartres of London and Jean Vanier in laying the table and summoning forth people with disabilities. The joy around the table was palpable.
The joy in the Church at the presence of so many people with disabilities reminded me why I love L'Arche. It's because it announces the Kingdom: it opens our hearts to realise that when we share our lives with those whom society judges unworthy and useless, we are profoundly enriched. More than that: we experience communion; and discover a happiness we simply won't find elsewhere.
For more photos of the ceremony, please click HERE.