THE STORY OF FAITH & LIGHT
“Faith & Light believes that each person, however profoundly handicapped she or he may be, is called to be a source of grace and peace for the whole community, for the church and for all humanity.”
Meb was a painter, he had an intellectual disability. He composed his work of art on the occasion of the first pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1971, after someone read him the Charter of the first Faith and Light pilgrimage.
What he did was very simple. A boat in which he put a number of figures. He painted twelve of them. Jesus must be sleeping somewhere in the bottom of the boat. Then there was the sun and the clouds.
We are in a boat and we are travelling together. Sometimes the sea is rough, sometimes it’s dead calm, sometimes you need to row, and sometimes the wind blows in the sails.
Faith and Light was created following the organisation of a pilgrimage to Lourdes in Easter 1971, at the initiative of Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu. It was a response to an appeal from Taddée and Loïc, two children with intellectual disabilities, and their parents.
In order to participate, people were asked to form communities bringing together persons with intellectual disabilities, their family and friends, particularly young people.
Often living in distressing situations, the pilgrims experienced joy and moments of deep communion in Lourdes. On their return, the communities continued to meet at least once a month for mutual support and to deepen the grace they received in Lourdes. Other communities were born.
For more than thirty years, the communities have spread and grown throughout the whole world. Today, more than 1450 communities of different Christian traditions have developed in 78 countries. In most of these countries, persons with intellectual disabilities are living in very precarious or even tragic conditions.
Faith and Light is a community and family based movement. At the heart of these communities, where people meet rather than live, you can find persons, children or adults with intellectual disabilities of different levels. At each gathering, the community experiences a time of friendship, prayer and celebration.
The disabled person helps other community members to understand that there is another world outside the one of competition, money and material pleasures. Through his/her frailty he/she calls for tenderness, loyalty, listening skills and faith. He/she is the source of communion and unity in his/her community, his/her Church and between the different Churches.
Faith and Light, born on Catholic ground, is now developing in other Christian traditions too. Very often the members of a community belong to the same church and are integrated in the Parish and the Diocese. Some communities are of mixed denomination. All members are encouraged to deepen their faith and their love of Jesus in their own Church.
EXMOUTH FAITH & LIGHT GROUP
Our Faith & Light Group in Exmouth has been meeting for 17 years. Many of our twelve friends with learning disabilities were just teenagers when they first came.
Our meetings consist of :-
- A welcome
- A sharing of news since we last met
- A Gospel story which we sometimes mime
- A song/hymn with actions
- Silent prayer time with music – in which we name those we wish to pray for tonight
- Singing and dancing
- A shared supper
During each year we try to take our group out and we also have the opportunity to meet other groups in the South West.