The Taizé Community was begun after World War II by a young Reformed minister by the name of Frère Roger, or Brother Roger as we know his name in English. Roger Louis Schütz-Marsauche (1915-2005) was the ninth and youngest child of Karl Ulrich Schütz, a Reformed pastor from Bachs in the Swiss Lowlands. His mother was Amélie Henriette, a French Protestant from Burgundy (France).
From 1937 to 1940, Roger studied Reformed theology in Strasbourg and Lausanne. He was a leader in the Swiss Student Christian Movement, part of the World Student Christian Federation.
In 1940, Roger rode a bicycle from Geneva to Taizé, a very small town about 240 miles southeast of Paris. Taizé was just beyond the line of demarcation to the zone occupied by German troops. For two years Brother Roger hid Jewish refugees before being forced to leave Taizé. In 1944, he returned to Taizé to found a Christian monastic community which was initially a group of young men living together in poverty and obedience. Today Taizé is an ecumenical order composed of about one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions. These bothers originate from thirty countries across the world. The order has a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation.
In 1945, a young lawyer from the region set up an association to take charge of children who had lost their parents in the war. He suggested to the brothers that they welcome a certain number of them in Taizé. A men’s community could not receive children. So Brother Roger asked his sister Genevieve to come back to take care of them and become their mother. On Sundays, the brothers also welcomed German prisoners-of-war interned in a camp nearby Taizé.
On Easter Day 1949, seven brothers committed themselves together for their whole life in celibacy and to live a life together in great simplicity. Thus began this now famous mission in a small town in France.
Today the community has become one of the world's most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community's ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation. Some of you know about Taizé because of hymns and simple songs that you use in worship or you have attended a unique Taizé service.
I tell this short account of Brother Roger’s life, and of the work of the Taizé community, because there is a Taizé mission coming to America in May of this year. This is, so far as I can tell, a first. The brothers of Taizé have quietly served in a few urban centers among the poor but today they have no regular presence in the U.S. Consistent with their desire to reach young adults they have now planned a Memorial Day weekend gathering for Chicago, May 25-28. Because of my deep interest in missional-ecumenism among young adults I met with two Taizé brothers on Friday, March 23. My purpose was to learn how I could actively support their work. Here is the most recent email they have sent to those who are supporting their May mission.
We are now in Chicago and, since we last wrote to you two months ago, a great deal has happened. Three Taizé brothers are now living in a house near DePaul University, just a minute away from the student chapel where, from Monday to Saturday, we have our midday prayer at 12.30 pm. Stopping for twenty-five minutes of prayer and silence in the middle of the day is unusual for busy people, but little by little some of our friends are realizing that such moments of silence and prayer are important.
We have been in contact with a number of parishes and congregations in Chicagoland. Many of them have dynamic young adult groups. We will be meeting many more in April. It is still too early to tell how many host families will open their doors to participants , but the positive response that we have encountered so far is encouraging.
Invitations from various places outside Chicago have also led us to travel: Canada, Indiana, Tennessee are some of the places we have been so far. Soon we will be in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and further away. People are planning to come to Chicago from all of these places and some have already registered from as far away as California and western Canada.
Each Friday during Lent we go to a different church for prayer around the cross: http://www.taize.fr/en_article13514.html We plan to continue these kinds of prayers after Easter.
A number of new resources are available on www.taize.fr/Chicago, among them an 11 x 17 poster: http://www.taize.fr/IMG/pdf/poster_chicago.pdf
and a flyer: http://www.taize.fr/IMG/pdf/half-sheet_postcard_wfb2902.pdf These resources can be downloaded and printed and could be useful to invite others to the gathering.
To help spread word about the Pilgrimage of Trust in Chicago some have also been active on Facebook, telling their friends about it, sending them the link to the video http://www.taize.fr/en_article13195.html (often very effective to generate interest).
It is now possible to register online: http://taizechicago2012.eventbrite.com Each participant will be asked to contribute just over 52 dollars for the entire weekend.You should plan on an additional 20 dollars for public transportation in Chicago.
Don't forget that registration closes on April 30th.
We very much look forward to seeing you in Chicago in May!
Br John Br Emile
I profoundly enjoyed my 90 minute conversation and prayer time with Brother John and Brother Emile last Friday. I invited Brother Emile to lead the benediction at our Conversation on Unity in Christ’s Mission on Monday evening, March 26, at Wheaton College. I invited him to specifically promote this event to Wheaton College students and scores of Catholic young adults who joined us for our large event. I will say more about Taizé, and Brother Roger, tomorrow. I believe this is one of God’s greatest living models of missional-ecumenism, which is why I wrote about Taizé on page 187 of my book, Your Church Is Too Small.