Communio is inspired by a wide variety of individuals and philosophies with the primary sources being Jean Vanier’s L’Arche communites, E.F. Shumacher’s economic philosophy, and the Social Encyclicals of the Catholic Church.
Jean Vanier is the son of the Governor General of Canada who at the age of 13 enlisted in the British Navy during World War II. He left the military in his early 20′s, proceeded to get his doctorate in philosophy in Paris and went on to teach philosophy at the University of Toronto. In 1964, at the age of 36, he invited two individuals with intellectual disabilities, who lived in an asylum, to come live with him. 45 years later there are over 130 communities in 35 countries where assistants dedicate months, years and sometimes their entire lives to living with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Since the conception of L’Arche, Vanier has shared his experiences of living in community with the weakest and most vulnerable of the world. He has helped show that individuals with intellectual disabilities, who have often suffered greatly, are a beacon of hope for the world which seems to always be in constant conflict and struggle.
Vanier has given the world a great gift not only in L’Arche, but also in the vast number of books he has written; he is truly one of the great spiritual writers of our time. If you have not read any Vanier, we suggest you start with a little book entitled From Brokenness to Community. It consists of two lectures Vanier gave in 1988 at Harvard University. We recommend it because it is short (50 pages), inexpensive and gives a very good summary of the spiritual philosophy behind L’Arche, and therefore, Communio.
(The following about E.F. Schumacher was taken from his Wikipedia page, which in our opinion, gives the best summation of his life.)
E.F. Schumacher was an internationally influential economic thinker with a professional background as a statistician and economist in Britain. He served as Chief Economic Adviser to the UK National Coal Board for two decades. His ideas became well-known in much of the English-speaking world during the 1970′s. He is best known for his critique of Western economies and his proposals for human-scale, decentralized and appropriate technologies. According to The Times Literary Supplement, his 1973 book Small Is Beautiful is among the 100 most influential books published since World War II. It was soon translated into many languages and brought international fame to Schumacher, after which Schumacher was invited to many international conferences, university guest-speaker lectures and consultations. Schumacher’s basic development theories have been summed up in the catch-phrases “Intermediate Size” and “Intermediate Technology”. Schumacher’s other notable work is the 1977 A Guide For The Perplexed, a critique of materialist scientism and an exploration of the nature and organization of knowledge. Together with long-time friends and associates like Professor Mansur Hoda, Schumacher founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action) in 1966.
The other primary inspiration of Communio are the Social Encyclicals of the Catholic Church. Beginning with Rerum Novarum (New Things) by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and developed more fully by successive popes, the social encyclicals concern the application of Christian principles to the current world in which we live. These principles include the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity & love and the dignity of the individual. While this website is not the appropriate format to go over each one of these points in depth, we will touch on each one of them. All definitions come from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the (Catholic) Church.
The Common Good
“The principle of the common good, to which every aspect of social life must be related if it is to attain its fullest meaning, stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people. According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates, ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.’ Just as the moral actions of an individual are accomplished in doing what is good, so too the actions of society attain their full stature when they bring about the common good.”
“It is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good, and is found in ‘a commitment to the good of one’s neighbor with the readiness, the Gospel sense, to ‘lose onself’ for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage.”
“…all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help – therefore of support, promotion, development – with respect to lower order societies. In this way, intermediate social entities can properly perform the functions that fall to them without being required to hand them over unjustly to other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and substituted, in the end seeing themselves denied their dignity and essential place.”
Love & Dignity of the Individual
“Personal behavior is fully human when it is born of love, manifests love and is ordered to love. This truth also applies in the social sphere; Christians must be deeply convinced witnesses of this, and they are to show by their lives how love is the only force that can lead to personal and social perfection, allowing society to make progress towards the good. Love must be present in and permeate every social relationship.”
“Only the recognition of human dignity can make possible the common and personal growth of everyone. Together with equality in the recognition of the dignity of each person and of every people there must also be an awareness that it will be possible to safeguard and promote human dignity only if this is done as a community, by the whole of humanity.”