Béatrice Yatoua, a novice with the Daughters of Jesus, shares with us her experience at l’Arche in Trosly-Breuil in the north of France. For her, it was a grace to give and receive in an environment where everyone can feel welcomed and loved despite their disabilities.
The discovery of something marvellous
I came to realise that L’Arche is an oasis of joy and love. It’s not without sadness, but there is hope of life and joy in the most diminished.
My internship at l’Arche in Trosly-Breuil, working with handicapped people, enabled me to experience closeness and to meet the poor, humble, and compassionate Christ. During those two and a half months, I lived our charism daily. I discovered many things that helped me to grow in goodness.
In the beginning, I was touched by the residents’ difficulties, given that some of them have serious illnesses. I wondered how I could create a fairly simple relationship with these people who are so wounded and limited. Working with other assistants and with the help of the psychologist, I gradually allowed myself to get close to them.
A very humanising but difficult experience
The people welcomed at l’Arche have different life histories: people who are ill and sometimes violent, who like their space because they feel invaded by others.
Once I was sitting next to someone at the “Word and Prayer” workshop. I introduced myself, he looked at me and I looked at him; he smiled. I was scared because he was stout and more than six feet tall. After a few minutes, he raised his head and asked me: “You wear the cross, are you a Sister? I replied: “No, but I’m training to become a Sister“. He bent his head and smiled.
His smile helped me to get closer to him. That simple smile enabled me to overcome my fears, my resistance, and my limits. I realised that these fragile people can help us open up, break through our barriers and return to the source.
You have to love people and welcome them
Another resident told me about his experience of l’Arche. He said: “Beatrice, l’Arche has a sacred history, but today I only keep the good things and let go of the bad”.
Then he added: “What I like most of all is that it’s like being in a family; we live forgiveness. At l’Arche, we sometimes argue, but we forgive each other. Elsewhere, when they go to war, they break everything, they kill people for nothing… unfortunately, it has come to this, it doesn’t make things any better. But I don’t like the war that’s going on in the world at the moment.
I can’t stand it. These are people like us, we have to love them and welcome them. For me, peace is the most important thing. You have to help others, do them a favour. But forgiveness doesn’t just happen. When you’ve argued, you’ve hurt someone, it’s like a war, it doesn’t help. It’s better to talk than to hurt the person; it’s by talking that you can forgive and be relieved.
L’Arche is a good place to start again. Elsewhere, when there’s a war, they go too far and nothing comes of it.”
The key to understanding
I was deeply touched by his testimony, and it encouraged me to step outside myself and not remain indifferent to what is happening in the world. I felt that there was a presence of God in what they were able to share from their fragility and their hope. As Jean Vanier, the founder of l’Arche, used to say: “Love is the key to understanding others”; it’s true.
- The various activities and workshops … talking together and praying, music, walking, swimming, beauty, crafts, sport, etc.
- The humble tasks of daily life … accompaniment, bedtime, showers, cooking, cleaning, and prayer
- Relationships and sharing in simplicity
All were a source of joy and love. This has helped me to grow humanly and spiritually and leads me to say that our charism of humanisation is still relevant today.
Honouring the Sacred Humanity of the Son of God
It means taking care of my neighbour. It also means valuing others, respecting them as people, and helping them to grow. It’s an invitation to look at the humility of Jesus, who took on the human condition and made himself the servant of all.
I have to admit that this course of active contemplation, compassion, and tenderness for people with disabilities obliged me to move out of my comfort zone and open myself up to the unknown. It helped me to look further afield, to look beyond appearances, prejudices, and my own boundaries to live Love and a simple life.
My internship was about giving and receiving :
“There is more happiness in
giving than in receiving” »
Novice Daughters of Jesus