Look through the pierced hand

Jean Vanier, founder of the Ark community, wrote in his book Becoming Human:

If you want to discover the beauty of another man, we must first discover his value by giving him enough time, attention and affection. To love means not only do something for him, but also help him to recognize his uniqueness, to tell him that he is special, precious and worthy of attention. 

When doing is not enough

It is true that the word love is often defined by actions. Each new assistant, who comes to the Ark’s house to live and work with people with mental disabilities, goes through a similar process.

He would like to do something for boys and girls, anything to what he is sure would make their lives easier. After some time, often with disappointment, he realizes that all these activities mainly do not produce desired results which he initially anticipated. Boys and girls with disorders are still faced with the same daily challenges, their attitude does not change significantly, the work becomes monotonous, boring and useless. It seems to him that it’s all in vain.


Up to some point when he finds himself before the important questions: Why am I here really? What is my mission?


Far from saying that physical activity and aid are not necessary and important. But the assistant’s challenge is similar to challenges of every person in any relationship: to help another human being to open up and reveal his wounds so to be able to realize his own humanity, value, uniqueness and at the same time, paradoxically, one’s strength.

But how to do just that? How can we help a person to open us his treasure box and reveal us his wealth?

The answer might be simpler than you think, but very challenging: we need to show him our own wounds!

Pierced hand


Bible chapter tells us about Jesus showing his pierced hands to desperate Thomas (John 20;19-29). Through these wounds, Thomas could perceive the truth, find strength and purpose. This situation goes much deeper than it seems at first glance.

I remember how much it touched me when I was contemplating it during a month-long silent spiritual exercises. At some point, it revealed to me the mission that we all have as brothers and sisters in our mutual relationships.

Apostle Thomas could surpass his doubts, sadness and despair only by sticking his fingers through the open wounds of Jesus – a sign of weakness and humanity.

First aid

To a desperate man, who stands helplessly before another, and is looking for that ‘something’ to grab and once again swam to the surface, help tips are not sufficient, nor are rational solutions and faint consolations: “Everything will be OK.”

To someone, who is trapped in fear and is afraid to jump the hill or take the next step, assistance by persuasion and encouragement is often not enough.

Do we really need perfection as a role model?

I think nowadays we do not need so many examples of strong, non-vulnerable, invincible, ‘saints’ and perfect individuals. What we lack, on the one hand is to be humble and show off our own pierced hands and on the other hand, we lack the courage to look through open wounds of another.


In this deep spiritual interaction we can find the truth, find strength and realize how precious we are and finally, we can meet God.

Hiding turns to jail

True story. Certain priest had a serious problem with alcoholism. His addiction has led so far that he could no longer celebrate the Holy Mass without drinking alcohol. This of course did not go unnoticed with his parishioners. One day, at the end of the Mass, he announced the crowd to go abroad for three months to attend some educational courses.

Mask off

Shortly after he returned home, in the exercise of worship once again he started to totter. Then, one day, he contritely stood before parishioners. He reveled them his problems with alcohol. He openly admitted that he did not left for education, but to treat his addiction. He confessed his story, his struggles, ups and downs, successes and failures.

Enough of the hiding, enough of bandages, all masks dropped. Like Jesus, he also opened his palms, showing the wounds and allow people to have a look through.

Inspiration and changes

I will never forget an acquaintance’s comment as she was attending this Mass:

In those few moments a priest has inspired more people that any of his sermons in last ten years did!

And the change has influenced the priest alone as well. Light started to shine to his issue again – this was a time to start some radical changes. The consecutive treatment was successful and today a priest carries out his work much more freely than ever before.


Some day the assistant, sitting on the couch, helplessly watching boys and girls (who each in their own way reveal their personality, without reservations and secrecy, openly and shamelessly) finally gets it:

These people are showing me their wounds! They open me the way to a new reality, so far undiscovered. If I accept and love their pierced hands, I can also discover parts of myself that until now I didn’t know anything about.

“Here is the man!”

The moment of such kind of illumination, not a rare occasion at the Ark community, helps the assistant to uncover his real mission. He starts to perceive relations with other people, not just with disordered people, in a new, different way. He learns to accept his own weaknesses and recognize their importance. 

Here is the man!

Then, too, he can open up to the world and lose fear to show himself in his true light; helpless and weak, similar to whipped Jesus, when Pontius Pilate announces him to the crowd with: Ecce Homo ‘Here is the man!’ (John 19:5)

Finally, he can unwind the bandages off his hands, show his open wounds and invite others to gaze through. Love, which has so far only been perceived through concrete tasks and works, can now deepen and find its way directly into the heart of another.

Nace Volčič

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