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Back to simplicity

January 2023 – To celebrate two years of Inner Life (yes, already!), Olivier Debray, the president of L’Arche Belgium, takes us back to a little simplicity : this is how he nourishes his inner life, after all!

“My inner life, how do I nourish it?”

After more than 30 years working as a business lawyer in a large law firm, I rejoice every day in this new life, to which my commitment to L’Arche has led me. I am nourished by an authentic encounter with so many good people and, in particular, by the people with a disability, whom I have met in L’Arche: they invite me into a greater simplicity.

Today, it is the simplest things that bring me joy. My inner life is nourished by the small gifts of daily life: a lovely bike ride, a bright and colourful sunset, chance encounters, meeting up with old friends, family moments, a chocolate mousse, a glass of wine. Music and polyphonic singing are also part of my world, and I greatly enjoy melting my bass voice into beautiful harmonies.

I am a firm believer in the power of gratitude: the heart’s tendency to live in a spirit of praise for everything I experience. To see the divine at work in the world, in so many ways, and to cry out to Him in gratitude. Among other things, reading the book “The Power of Gratitude” by Father Pascal Ide (Published by Editions Emmanuel) has accompanied me on this path.

I like to recharge my batteries through contact with nature. There, in nature, I sense that I am touching the divine: marvelling at the beauty of creation, melting into the forest, climbing a mountain, swimming in the sea, feeling the wind on my skin, hearing the snow cracking under my feet…

Next, there is reading, which is very varied. I particularly enjoy diving into contemporary philosophers, and recently read with great pleasure “Eloge de la faiblesse”, (‘In praise of weakness’) and also “Petit traité de l’abandon”, (‘A small treatise on abandonment’) by Alexandre Jollien.

Finally, over the last three years, I have been training as a life-coach. For me, this has been an exciting journey in humanity and personal growth. It has also been a stripping away and a move towards ever greater humility.

However, what nourishes my inner life most of all is the certainty of knowing that I am loved by someone greater than myself. It is the immense mercy of an all-loving Father who shows so much patience, and who accepts me just as I am, with my shadows and my limitations. Rembrandt’s wonderful painting of the prodigal son speaks to me. When I gaze at it, it symbolises prayer, this heart-to-heart with an all-loving Father. This certainty of knowing I am loved offers me great inner peace, but also great freedom, the freedom -in my turn- to love and to give.

Olivier Debray

Illustration: detail from “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, painted by Rembrandt in 1669, now part of the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

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