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Remembering Jean Vanier, The 'Living Saint'


Now we remember a man who dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate. Jean Vanier passed away in Paris on Tuesday at the age of 90. A philosopher and humanitarian, Vanier told his father he wanted to join the Navy when he was just 13. Here he is speaking with public radio host Krista Tippett in 2007.


JEAN VANIER: I still remember when he said, I trust you. If that's what you want, you must do it. The fact that he said I trust you meant that I could trust my own intuitions.


After World War II, Vanier spent time with concentration camp survivors in Paris. It inspired him to eventually leave the military and commit his life to peace.


VANIER: I knew that I had to leave. I knew that I had to move forward into a domain which was more spiritual.

CHANG: Vanier found his calling in the early 1960s, when he visited a French institution for men with intellectual disabilities. He was so moved that he bought a house and invited two of the men to live with him. From there, he devoted himself to bettering the treatment of those with disabilities throughout the world.


VANIER: What people don't realize is that a child who feels that they're not wanted as they are, that they are a disappointment, they don't realize that the child has a wounded heart.

SHAPIRO: Vanier's home with the two men grew into the international organization L'Arche, which works to provide homes and workplaces for people with disabilities.

JAMES MARTIN: There is absolutely zero question in my mind that he is a saint. And I'm sure the church will, in decades or maybe centuries, recognize him as Saint Jean Vanier.

CHANG: That's Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Catholic magazine America. He spoke with us on Skype.

MARTIN: His greatest legacy is to remind people that people with disabilities are beloved children of God and that we encounter one another often most effectively in our weakness and our vulnerability and in our brokenness.

SHAPIRO: Vanier died earlier this week. His deep compassion and care for others survive him today.


VANIER: Somewhere the deepest desire for a soul is to be appreciated, to be loved. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.