In some ways, our arrival here today was something like liturgical culture shock – but in others, it was simply a profound illustration of the complexities and dynamism of this living thing we call the Christian faith.
Taizé was founded by Frère Roger in the midst of the Second World War. This man was completely motivated by love: at the outset of his community, his small, ecumenical band of brethren welcomed Jewish and Christian refugees who were fleeing from the hatred of the Nazis. Then, in the 60's and 70's, the young adults began to show up – first by dozens, then hundreds, now thousands. Whether refugees or young men and women seeking to find God in their lives, the brothers of Taizé have welcomed them all.
Frère Roger was honored by the University of Notre Dame about 15 years ago; he was awarded the prestigious Notre Dame medal, and when he visited, accompanied by a few of his brother monks, the Folk Choir sang an entire evening of music from their community. The night still lives on in my memory.
Several years ago, in the middle of a prayer service in their reconciliation chapel, Frère Roger was stabbed and killed by a mentally disturbed congregant, before an entire assembly. The entire Christian world mourned his death.
One of the signature aspects of Taizé is its music, a repertoire I have devoted myself to for more than twenty-five years. Their song, mostly composed over the last generation by Jacques Berthier, is entirely unique: mantra-like, simple yet compelling. Partly because of this style of song, I will be in dialog with some of the brethren musicians over the next few days.
But mostly, Michele and I are here to pray, to listen and to sing – what pilgrims are supposed to do!
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