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georges_vanier10When George Vanier was installed as Governor-General of Canada in 1959, he began his inaugural address with a prayer:

May almighty God in his infinite wisdom and mercy bless the sacred mission which has been entrusted to me by Her Majesty the Queen and help me to fulfill it in all humility.

In exchange for his strength, I offer him my weakness. May he give peace to this beloved land of ours and to those who live in it, the grace of mutual understanding, respect and love.

He served during turbulent years of minority governments, and in a time of the rise of Quebec nationalism. Nevertheless, a theme that emerged from his speeches could be found in one of his early addresses:

Society must have citizens with open hearts, able to dedicate themselves to the common good, and such citizens will be found first and foremost among members of families where the spirit of generosity and service has taken root.

Like Father, Like Son?


I suppose it should come as no surprise that his son, Jean Vanier (who founded L’Arche – an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities), would say something similar many years later:

We will begin to work for the common good. On the other hand, if we commit ourselves to the making of a society in which we are concerned only with our own rights, then that society must become more and more closed in on itself.

Where we do not feel any responsibility towards others, there is no reason for us to work harmoniously towards the common good.

In his book, Becoming Human, he explores “our understanding of ‘being human’ – informed by his deep yet inquisitive faith and his philosophical training… inspired [mainly] by his transformative experiences of sharing life with people with developmental disability.”

… it has been this life together that has helped me become more human

Five Principles for Becoming Human:

First: all humans are sacred, whatever their culture, race, or religion, whatever their capacities or incapacities, and whatever their weaknesses or strengths may be. Each of us has an instrument to bring to the vast orchestra of humanity, and each of us needs help to become all that we might be.

Second: It is not a question of rejecting the past but letting the past flow into the present and letting this process guide us as to how to live in the future…

Third: maturity comes through working with others through dialogue, and through a sense of belonging and a searching together.

Fourth: human beings need to be encouraged to make choices, and to become responsible for their own lives and for the lives of others… in other words, we humans need to be rooted in good earth in order to produce good fruit. But for this we need to freely risk life in order to give of ourselves.

Fifth: in order to make such choices, we need to reflect and to seek truth and meaning. Reality is the first principle of truth… to be human is to accept ourselves as we are, with our own history, and to accept others as they are.

What have you learned about becoming human?

The more we become like the One who made us for Himself – the more human we become. This is more of that…

Back to the prayer of George Vanier:

… May He give peace to this beloved land of ours and to those who live in it, the grace of mutual understanding, respect and love.