The Ache for Community

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche ( Wikimedia File, Creative Commons License )

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche (Wikimedia File, Creative Commons License)

Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities in France and around the world, was a profound thinker as well as a catalyst for social change. His books Becoming Human and Community and Growth are treasure troves of quotes about our common state, our crisis of loneliness and loss of identity. Here a choice few:

To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.

Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.

A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.

The meaning of loneliness has been on my mind lately. How do we build up a space where people can truly enter and bring themselves? Where we can be ‘little’ and have the courage to be the children that we are, as Vanier says above? To be simple and little and small, with desire for the infinite, seems to me to be true humanity.

We need a community of artists and creatives and thinkers.

We are still developing the plan for this, but am trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide us as we move forward and build this community. We have some promising ideas, but they are - as of now - unproven. This is going to be an exciting year, for sure!

Recently, I’ve been listening to the Catholic Creatives podcast, where they ponder this every day. They are such a good example of Catholic community and artists banding together to create new culture. May God guide The Merry Beggars and our mission as we try to create a space for theatre artists to create joyful, vulnerable, and powerful theater.

If you have any ideas or thoughts on how we can do this, please chime in below!

- Peter Atkinson

Peter Atkinson