Come With Bread

Jean Vanier, the founder of l’Arche homes for mentally and physically disabled adults, writes a tender and powerful book, “Becoming Human.”  In his chapter on “The Path to Freedom”, he writes about companionship and the need for accompaniment along the journey to freedom. He writes:

An accompanier is someone who can stand beside us on the road to freedom, someone who loves us and understands our life.  An accompanier can be… a friend – anyone who can put a name on our inner pain and feelings. Accompaniers may be… those who have experience in untying the knots that block us in our development. They may be… people who have grown in the way of God, who seek to help us understand each other’s humanity and needs, and who help us recognize God’s call to communion, inner liberation, and a greater love of self.

Accompaniment is necessary at every stage of our lives, but particularly in moments of crisis when we feel lost, engulfed in grief or in feelings of inadequacy. The accompanier is there to give support, to reassure, to confirm, and to open new doors. The accompanier is not there to judge us to to tell us what to do, but to reveal what is most beautiful and valuable in us, as well as to point towards the meaning of our inner pain. In this way, an accompanier helps us advance to greater freedom by helping us to be reconciled with our past and to accept ourselves as we are, with our gifts and limitations…

The word “accompaniment,” like the word “companion,” comes from the Latin word “cum pane,” which mean “with bread.” It implies sharing together, eating together, nourishing together, walking together. The one who accompanies is like a midwife, helping us to come to life, to live more fully. But the accompanier receives life also, and as people open up to each other, a communion of hearts develops between them. They do not clutch on to each other but give life to one another and call each other to greater freedom…

Accompaniment is at the heart of community life in l’Ache, but it is at the heart of all human growth. We human beings need to walk together, encouraging each other to continue the journey of growth…


It is with great insight that Vanier recognizes the role of companionship in the process of “becoming human.”  And when he writes, “an accompanier is someone who can stand beside us on the road to freedom,” it resonates with the word Jesus’ used to describe His Holy Spirit in John 16:

Unless I go away, the “Counsellor” will not come to you… He is the Spirit of truth – and He guides you into all truth.

That word translated “counsellor” in the NIV, or “comforter” in the KJV, is the word “para-kletos” – one who calls you to His side.  In effect, Jesus’ Holy Spirit is our “companion” – just like Jesus who accompanies us “with bread” and friendship.

Therefore those who would follow Jesus will find themselves to be companions with others along the way. Grace to you on the journey to freedom.


For more, see “Friendship.”

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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2 Responses to Come With Bread

  1. Dr. J says:

    Thank you so much for posting excerpts from this magnificent and insightful book by Jean Vanier, Becoming Human.

    I was especially moved by this excerpt from his chapter on “The Path to Freedom.”:

    An accompanier is someone who can stand beside us on the road to freedom, someone who loves us and understands our life. An accompanier can be… a friend – anyone who can put a name on our inner pain and feelings. Accompaniers may be… those who have experience in untying the knots that block us in our development. They may be… people who have grown in the way of God, who seek to help us understand each other’s humanity and needs, and who help us recognize God’s call to communion, inner liberation, and a greater love of self.
    As I read his well-chosen words, two thoughts came to mind: first of all, the lyrics to an old gospel song from my childhood:
    Walk with me Lord; walk with me
    Walk with me Lord; walk with me
    Ooh, while I’m on this tedious journey
    I want Jesus to walk with me.

    Oh, hold my hand Lord; please hold my hand
    Oh, hold my hand Lord; hold, hold my hand
    While I’m on this tedious journey
    I want Jesus to walk with me.

    The words, “Be my guide,” and “Be my friend” also introduce other stanzas ending with “While I’m on this tedious journey.”

    I also recall a statement by poet Robert Bly who noted, “It’s easier to go through suffering if you have a name for it.” We recognize that “an accompanier can be… a friend – anyone who can put a name on our inner pain and feelings.” The Lord Jesus Christ was, likewise, man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He always proved to be the quintessential example of a friend who loved at all times, a brother who was borne for adversity.

    Your post was inspiring, and I appreciate this remarkable writer and humanitarian with whom I was not acquainted. Thanks also for the like you posted on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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