What We Believe
The L’Arche Vision
Can we hope for a society whose metaphor is not a pyramid but a body, and where each of us is a vital part in the harmony and function of the whole? I believe we can, because I believe that the aspiration for peace, communion, and universal love is greater and deeper in people than the need to win in the competition of life.
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
The very people whom our society so readily excludes [are those] whose humanizing gifts are most needed today. It will be through meaningful relationships – relationships of mutuality – that lasting changes will come about in the perspective and practice of individuals and eventually of society as a whole. And when the wider society grasps the benefits it receives from including all its citizens, the work of pleading for inclusion will no longer be necessary.
Beth Porter, More than Inclusion
When people of differing abilities spend time WITH one another, they help create a better world.
L’Arche Canada 50th anniversary campaign
L’Arche has a broad social vision beyond providing care and services for people with disabilities. L’Arche seeks inclusion for people with disabilities but also seeks to change the society in which they are included. How? One heart at a time.
We believe in:
Home not housing
We do not seek to provide services for people with disabilities. Core members and assistants share their lives with one another. Home life is at the heart of a L’Arche community. Core members and assistants live, work, pray and celebrate together, sharing their joys and their suffering and forgiving each other, as in a family. They have a simple life-style, which gives priority to relationships.
Key Traditions of L’Arche communities 2009
Independence and Interdependence
We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging. Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
Mutually transforming relationships are at the heart of a L’Arche community. Assistants do things with core members, not for them. The challenges and fruits of friendship, to be cared for and accepted as we are, are the foundation for personal growth. This mutuality is important, in part, because part of our human dignity lies in being able to help others. This is especially important for those who find themselves most often on the receiving end of help.
Celebrating the gifts of each person
The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of L’Arche … and at the heart of being human. Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
L’Arche seeks to reveal the particular gifts of people who have intellectual disabilities. People who have intellectual disabilities often possess qualities of welcome, wonderment, spontaneity, and directness. They are able to touch hearts and to call others to unity through their simplicity and vulnerability. In this way they are a living reminder to the wider world of the essential values of the heart without which knowledge, power and action lose their meaning and purpose.
Embracing our limitations
Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness. Jean Vanier
Just as we all have gifts to share, we all have limitations and disabilities. The sharing and acceptance of our weakness can be a source of humility and also forgiveness. Sharing our gifts can improve our community but sharing our vulnerability is the glue that binds us together. The lack of unity in our culture is often rooted in our inability to accept our own poverty and that of others.
We are called to develop our abilities and talents to the full to realize our potential as individuals. We are encouraged to grow in love as well as in independence, competence and the ability to make choices. Personal growth occurs best when people live in an atmosphere of trust, security and mutual affection. Core members are helped to set personal goals, to continue to learn and try new activities and to participate in their community. Assistants are encouraged to take responsibility for their personal growth and this is supported through mentoring and daily leadership. We believe that this time for reflection contributes to their quality of life and the quality of life of the core members.
Unity in diversity
In a divided world, L'Arche wants to be a sign of hope. Its communities, founded on covenant relationships between people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture, seek to be signs of unity, faithfulness and reconciliation.
Charter of the L’Arche Communities
It is better that we are different one from another. We do not need to be the same to live together; in fact too much mutuality can actually be a barrier to growth. Conflict can be an opportunity to challenge our assumptions and perhaps deepen our understanding or change. The different members of a community are called to be one body life in a L’Arche community.
Openness and Integration
L’Arche communities are open and welcoming to the world around them. They form an integral part of life in their localities and seek to foster relationships with neighbors and friends. The communities seek to work closely with the families and guardians of people who have disabilities, professionals, government authorities and with all those who work in a spirit of justice and peace for people who have disabilities.
We believe that in order to grow we need to nurture the whole person, including our inner selves. We therefore make time for regular prayer and reflection within community life. Each community member is encouraged to discover and deepen his or her spiritual life and live it according to his or her particular faith and tradition. This spirituality is central to what we do and who we are.
A rich spiritual life is possible for people with disabilities. In fact people with disabilities often have particular spiritual gifts. It is often through weakness, recognized and accepted, that we develop inner freedom and the liberating love of God is revealed.
Core members and assistants arrive in community with a variety of faith backgrounds. We welcome people of all faiths. Those who have no religious affiliation are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.
L’Arche is an international Federation. The same sense of communion that animates individual homes unites the various communities throughout the world. Bound together by solidarity and mutual commitment, they form a world-wide family. L’Arche international is actively involved in providing support to communities in developing countries.