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Young people congregating at Taizé
The beautiful lush countryside of southern Burgundy is dotted with farms and lazy cattle. It is calm and sparsely populated, until you get to Taizé that is. This tiny hillside village, not far from Cluny, has become world famous for its international religious community.
From early spring until late autumn, the village is buzzing. There are wooden bungalows and marquees, tented camps all around to accommodate the visitors, craft workshops and meeting places. When it gets too hectic, the little Romanesque church in the village, lit only from the light of the stained glass window provides sanctuary.
Young people from all over the world congregate there for a week at a time, to pray, sing and hold discussion groups in order to 'build relationships of trust among human beings.' Some weeks during the summer, as many as 5000 arrive from 75 different countries. 'A week in Taizé is a way of realising the intimate relationship between an experience of communion with God in prayer and personal reflection on the one hand, and an experience of communion and solidarity among peoples on the other.'
Romanesque church at Taizé
Taizé is a Christian community which was founded in 1940 by Pastor Schutz, known as Brother Roger. He came to the village when he was 25 years old and began helping refugees during the Second World War. After the war, other brothers joined him and the community was formed. Now there are over 100 brothers from 25 nations and Catholics and Protestants alike come to participate there. In 1986 the late Pope John Paul II paid a visit to this tiny village.
On 16th August 2005 Brother Roger was stabbed to death during a service in his church, aged 90. Ten thousand people attended his funeral. His contribution to the world has been compared to that of Mother Theresa.
The Taizé community now reaches out all around the world. Each year over the New Year, a Young Adult European Meeting is held. The Brothers continue their work and visits in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe.
So what is so special about Taize?
Kathryn & her sister take to the kitchen
We asked Kathryn Lacerte from Victoria British Columbia who visited the centre last year to tell us about her experience there.
'It is a privilege to share a few words about my experience of Taizé as my connection with this Community has impacted my life far more than I could have ever imagined.
As a young Canadian in my first year of university I regularly attended prayers in the style of Taizé in my local church. The beauty and simplicity of the prayers touched me deeply, and when I had the opportunity to travel to Europe, I was drawn to visit Taizé, and to learn what was at the heart of that which I had glimpsed back home.
I was surprised and excited to be able to register to visit the Community online! Upon arrival, I was welcomed by a friendly, young Polish man who I later discovered had only just arrived the previous day. This greeting was for me a perfect illustration of the spirit of welcome and sense of connectedness felt in Taizé. As each person arrived, all were invited to share of themselves in a way that could build solidarity, trust and responsibility for the experience of the time together. For example, I was asked to help in the kitchen preparing the evening meal for the approximately 5,000 young people gathered that week. Not only was this completely new for me, but it helped me make personal connections and build friendships with some of the other young people sharing in this week-long experience. One of the highlights of each day, and where the real relationship building took place, was the small discussion and sharing group I met in the mornings. We would discuss the words and writings that the Brothers shared, as well as exploring our similarities and differences; both culturally and spiritually. From my previous life experience I may have seen such a discussion as impossible. My group included people from various religions, speaking several different languages, and at varying stages of their spiritual journey. There was such a variety of perspectives within that one circle, and yet everyone shared of their true selves in a safe and accepting atmosphere. I learned to see great beauty in diversity. Taizé helps make the ideals of peace and unity very tangible in the simple, yet meaningful, human interactions that create a true sense of human connectedness and hope.
At the heart of daily life in Taizé is the common prayer when all activity stops and everyone gathers in the church for morning, midday and evening prayers. This is where I found that faith and peace are sustained. All join in beautiful yet simple chants, where there is a powerful feeling of being carried by the assembly, yet a unique sense of a completely personal prayer. The Brothers of Taizé have built their lives around these three prayers each day and it seemed to come as second nature for me to fall into this daily rhythm.
The seeds of hope and peace that were planted in me on that first visit to the Community have continued to bear fruit and to this day compel me to live what I learned about unity in diversity. I came to understand Taizé to be a place of passage, where young people are invited to carry the experience lived while in Burgundy back to their homes. The hope that is found in sharing stories, world views, and common prayer offers a new perspective on what can be possible when people focus on acceptance and understanding. Taizé is an exciting, enjoyable and life changing place to visit. I hope to return again very soon.'
There's a large selection of books and music available
from Taizé including the following popular titles, all from: www.amazon.co.uk
'Jubilate' - Taizé