Spirituality of Taize takes root

If worship is a reflection of our culture, or perhaps a response to it, then the quieter and more reflective style of worship known as Taizé might be an attempt to seek out a calm port in an angry storm.

“It is a contemplative approach to worship. Its focus is on scripture and prayer,” said David Massey, chaplain at Linfield College, which is now offering a monthly Taizé service.

“The style has really started to catch on throughout the country,” Massey said. “It is maybe a response to our culture of business. People aren’t finding this sort of peacefulness.”

He said, “This service invites the participants to settle down and enter into the quieting engagement of scripture that is shared and prayers that are offered.” The prayer is for oneself but is also for the world, he said.

According to a history posted at www.iclnet.org, the Taizé home page for the United States, the movement began in 1940 with the arrival of a man known as Brother Roger in a desolate semiabandoned village in Burgundy, France.

Then 25, he wanted to offer shelter to political refugees. He also wanted to create a community that would live the call to reconciliation full time on a daily basis.

Brother Patrick J. Burke, currently assigned to St. Mary’s Priory Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland, has done a study of Taizé. In an article titled, “The Spirituality of Taizé,” posted at spiritualitytoday.org, he chronicles its founder’s journey.

Brother Roger was born Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche in Provence in Swiss Jura. His father was a Lutheran minister, but he was also exposed to the Catholic worship tradition, Burke said.

While attending university, Brother Roger began to contemplate monastic life. The title of his thesis was, “The Ideal of Monastic Life Before St. Benedict and Its Conformity with the Gospel.”

Burke said it was “the atrocities of the Second World War” that moved Brother Roger to act on his dream.

Brother Roger began his search for a suitable location in France. He wrote at the time, “If a house could be found there, of the kind we dreamed of, it would offer a possible way of assisting some of those most discouraged, those deprived of a livelihood: and it could offer a place of silence and work.”

The movement’s ecumenical community now consists of 90 brothers from 20 nations, some of Catholic background and others of Protestant. They have taken a vow of common life and celibacy.

Though it remains concentrated in France, the movement has attracted followers around the world. “Some are living in small groups in poor neighborhoods in Asia, Africa, North and South America,” according to the Taizé website.

The brothers accept no donations, not even through inheritance, for themselves, their organization or others.

The community holds no capital. According to the website, its members “work for their living and share with others entirely through their own work.”

The goal of the community is to create a “movement around itself,” the website says. “Instead people are called to commit themselves in their church at home, in their neighborhood, their city or village. The meetings give each person the opportunity to explore the roots of their faith and to reflect on how to unite the inner life and human solidarity.”

Massey said, “There is a sort of ancient/future quality to it, valuing some things from the past and framing them into a contemporary context. It is very simple in its philosophy.”

A person should be prepared to experience a service that is basically focused on prayer and scripture, and a style of music which enhances prayer, he said.

“It appeals across all denominations,” Massey said. “There is no sermon, just a sharing of the scripture and prayer.”

Burke said the emphasis is on reconciliation and forgiveness.

According to Taizé practice, when true reconciliation is achieved, people become simpler and truer in their approach to life. The aim is helping life’s travelers find a port of calm in the raging storm of modern culture and its demands.

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