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Man Alive: Jean Vanier

The Story


"Jean Vanier's gentle spirituality is a lodestone in our technological wasteland," says host Roy Bonisteel in this 1973 episode of Man Alive. Vanier is the son of Canada's Governor General Georges Vanier and is the founder of L'Arche, a community for the mentally challenged. In this interview, Bonisteel is asking the soft-spoken Vanier about the power of prayer. "Prayer is adoration, prayer is thanksgiving," says Vanier. He sees prayer as not just an act, but also a general state of mind.

Medium: Television
Program: Man Alive
Broadcast Date: April 9, 1973
Guest: Jean Vanier
Host: Roy Bonisteel
Duration: 27:54

Did You know?


• Jean Vanier was born in Geneva in 1928, as the son of Canadian diplomat Georges Vanier. Georges Vanier was best known for being Canada's governor general from 1957 to 1969.

• After serving in the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy, Jean Vanier resigned and went to France in 1950 to pursue a PhD in philosophy from L'Institut Catholique de Paris.

• After becoming aware of the bleak institutional living situation for the mentally disabled, Vanier felt the need to create an alternative. In 1964, he opened the first L'Arche house, in a small village in France called Trosly-Breuil. In this house, several intellectually disabled men live together in a "family atmosphere," which was a sharp contrast to the typical institutional settings that were the norm in the 1960s.

• L'Arche houses soon started to open around the world. Today (2008), there are more than 130 "L'Arche communities" in over 30 countries around the world, in such diverse locations as France, Australia, Uganda, Haiti and India. A L'Arche community consists of up to eight or nine homes and/or day programs integrated into local neighbourhoods.

• Canada's first L'Arche house opened in Richmond Hill, Ont. in 1969. There are now nearly 200 homes and day programs in more than 25 different L'Arche communities across Canada.

• Vanier has received countless awards and honours for his work over the years, including being named a Companion of the Order of Canada and an induction into France's Legion of Honour.


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