I believe that in our crazy world with so much pain, rivalry, hatred, violence, injustice and pressure around, there are poor, the rejected and marginalized people who can become the source of life and salvation for us and for the whole world.
And I hope that each of you could someday experience the incredible gift of friendship of these people, so you will can receive life through them. They invite us to express love, compassion and harmony.
So was written by Jean Vanier, the founder of the Ark community, and together with Silva we can only confirm his words. In every community where we lived, we have experienced some of this spirit, and we are returning home much richer.
The final stage of our first year of travels concludes where it had been started – in the community ‘Il Chicco’ in Rome, together with people with intellectual disabilities.
The news shocked the community
A week ago, Theo, a longtime assistant in the community, originated from Congo, received the shocking news of the death of his brother. The reason wasn’t any illness or some accident, but murder for political reasons, similar happen many times recently in the DRC.
Probably you are not very up to date with the situation in this African Republic, the media reports are scarce as well.
The people were opposed to the extension of the mandate of President Joseph Kabila. President on the other side uses force, violence, imprisonment and killings over the protesters and all alternative thinkers. Asimilar situation as in Ukraine.
Family at risk
Theo’s brother was a simple man, aged 37. His work has been devoted to helping others as a male nurse. He was happily married, and now he left behind a wife and a child.
Theo’s family in Congo is at risk for quite some time now. A few months ago, Theo made necessary arrangements to immigrate his mother from the country and now she can live safely in Paris.
The power of community
Perhaps I would not write about this if the whole community would not react with strong support and compassion. The tragedy hit Theo very hard and everybody, so be the persons with disorders, or assistants, could felt his pain.
In the Shalom chapel, we organized a joint morning prayer, afterwards also the holy Mass for Theo, his family, the deceased’s brother, and of course for all the people in Congo who suffer from political pressures.
The above words of Jean Vanier become vivid at times when the community is wounded. At that time it gets even more connected and become a source of comfort and strength.
Love without borders
Many boys and girls with disorders wept together with Theo in the chapel. Every one of them before and after the prayer approached Theo, hugged him, and expressed their grief.
They touched us with their sincerity and the way they were able to bear the pain of another. This is how each cummunity functions:
When there is a single member wounded, community as a whole is injured.
In previous contributions I often wrote about the fact that people with mental disabilities have no internal behavior limitations, compared to us, the ‘normal people’ or they seem severely blurred in any case.
This is often a challenge for the community and for managing internal relationships. But being without limitations they can fully express their pain and wounds, as well as they can love without borders. Their compassion is deep and can rise a man from the ashes.
Compassion makes us human
How can we treat our wounds without compassion towards the other?
I was addressed by the words of an Arker, which is famous around the world for his deep thoughts and knowledge. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, professor, theologian and writer lived for some time in the Ark community in France, together with Jean Vanier. He wrote about compassion:
Compassion invites us to go where it hurts, to enter the wounds, to share our fears and confusion. Compassion drives us to cry with despaired and to mourn with isolated.
It requires of us that we are weak with the weak, wounded with the wounded and helpless with the helpless. Compassion makes us human.
We can say that during this past year, when we share life with people in needs, we realized the true meaning of the word man: so perfectly created, complex being, beautiful and capable, yet so weak, vulnerable, helpless and dependent of others.
Strong and weak points
When a person adopts and recognizes only its strong side, one becomes self-sustaining and thus separated from the community and from the others. A lot of energy is spent on maintaining ones strength and independence. One does not let to be vulnerable to others, so he is deprived of their sympathy and support. He suffers.How can we heal our wounds without compassion of the others? Click To Tweet
But God was made flesh in order to show us what it means to be a true man. He showed us that we can be strong only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be weak.
In our weakness there is a strength, as the Apostle Paul says, and furthermore, one can build the strongest bond towards God and other people through ordeals. Growth always starts at a depth and light can only be detected in the dark.
Our backpacks are ready. The time has come to return to Slovenia. We will be staying home for a month before continuing our journey – outside Europe for the first time. There is a good chance for us to continue on a mission in Manila (Philippines). We will share more as soon as things are finally agreed.
In the month of February, we have completed a cause to raise money for the community Betzata in Lithuania. Thank you for your donations from the bottom of our hearts!
If you feel that our journey is close to you, until our next chapter we invite you to donate for the Operando Society. Part of the donations will be spent for our travel costs.
Operando – God is working, right now!