Jean Vanier, the Canadian Catholic philosopher and theologian who founded L'Arche, the community for disabled people and their carers, has revealed that he suffered a heart attack in October and is now having a 'serious rest' until February.
The 88-year-old has written a cheerful letter on his website outlining how he is recovering at a Christian centre on the coast after having a stent fitted at the end of last month, as reported by Christian Today.
L'Arche — The Ark — emerged from a community started 53 years ago by Vanier in his home town of Trosly-Breuil, a small French village north of Paris where the former naval officer still lives.
Then in his mid-30s, Vanier visited an institution for so-called 'idiots' before deciding in 1964 to invite two men from the institution to live with him.
L'Arche is now based in some 50 countries around the world, and has 10 communities in the UK.
In his letter, Vanier wrote: 'On Friday, October 13, I had a heart attack and was quickly taken to Emergency in an ambulance whose siren cleared the road to the hospital in Compiègne.
'Tests revealed that the main artery feeding my heart was clogged up. This required a surgeon to place a stent in the blocked artery. After surgery, a deep weariness descended. I need serious rest. This is why I have been brought to a very special resting place! A diocesan house at the sea-side, one that welcomes Christian groups and individuals for times of healing and rest. This is where I am right now, supported and watched over by Odile, who was given the task of caring for me and my medical needs in my old age.
'I feel well, but it's obvious that my heart is weaker and therefore me too. I need a good long rest to recover my strength and better accept a life without too many activities. So, with the leader of the farm, Antoine Paoli, I have decided not to give any of the scheduled retreats, conferences and various meetings until early February. Three months of serious rest without any activity.'
Vanier described the 'radical change' brought about in his life now.
'This is a radical change that calls me to live a very quiet life during this period, tucked away in my Lazarus House in Trosly,' he wrote. 'A life where I will learn to live with my own frailty and weakness, in this way becoming smaller: "the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children", said Jesus. A life where, above all, I can learn and keep learning a longer prayer: to remain in God, to remain in Jesus who says: "Abide in my Love". It will be a bit like a new birth. Christine McGrievy, the leader of my L'Arche community in Trosly has given me an important mission: to stay close to God for all L'Arche's needs, and I add for Faith and Light as well. Just to be there, in order to live the essence of our spirituality, in communion with God and with all my brothers and sisters of L'Arche, Faith and Light and our great spiritual family spread throughout the world.
'Quite a radical change! And then, little by little, we will see what I can take on again in February and afterwards. In order to make this new life possible, Christine and Odile will sort out the essential questions. This life will also include reading (serious as well as light- hearted), walks in my garden where I will listen to the birds... and there will also be the "joy" of eating without salt and staying away from the foie gras pâté at Christmas! This life will not just be turned skywards but also towards the earth where there are so many joys and wonderful things.'