Taizé Founder, Surprised by Youth

Brother Roger Schutz Sees Power of Prayer and Music

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TAIZÉ, France, JAN. 14, 2001 (ZENIT.org/Avvenire) .-
The Taizé Community is one of the most unexpected phenomena of Christianity in Europe.

For the past 23 years, the community has organized prayer meetings, which attract large numbers of Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran and Anglican youths, among others.

The last meeting, held at the end of 2000 in Barcelona, brought together 80,000 youths from the East and West. The initiative is based on the inspiration of Brother Roger Schutz, 85, who founded this ecumenical community. In the following interview, Brother Roger evaluates youth´s faith.

–Q: Many youths from all over the world arrive in Taizé, which is nestled in the Burgundy hills, to participate in European meetings. What are they seeking?

–Brother Roger: Today, many young people in the world are disheartened. They see their future as very uncertain. There are some who are marked by family wounds received during their infancy or adolescence.

Looking at all these young faces on our hill in Taizé, who not only come from Northern, Slavic and Mediterranean countries, but also from Africa, Latin America and Asia, we understand that they come with vital questions. What will my future be like? What is the meaning of my life? When we welcome them in our Taizé fraternities, located in the midst of the poorest in different parts of the world, as well as during the European meetings, we want to tap, above all, the sources of the confidence of faith.

–Q: Many come from Eastern Europe. Are they different from their Western friends?

–Brother Roger: Like all of us, those from the East also hope that they will be understood and appreciated. They know they come from countries that have suffered, that are still living with tensions and a fragile economy. They are all different among themselves: Some bring human treasures with them, and we must learn from them.

Among youths from the East, we try to pay attention to the Orthodox from Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Above all, the secret of an Orthodox soul is prayer open to contemplation.

–Q: There are those who judge this generation very severely, saying they are without values, responsibility or a future. What do you think?

–Brother Roger: Yes, it is true that youth are paralyzed because of discouragement and sometimes skepticism, but what is even more true is that in every corner of the earth, some abound with initiative; they are creative. They are capable of introducing other youths to the interior life and, at the same time, to solidarity with those experiencing economic difficulties.

When I hear harsh judgments, I think interiorly of Pope John
XXIII, and some of the words he expressed at the opening of Vatican Council II: “The prophets of doom only see ruin and calamities, in society´s present situation; they say our time has worsened profoundly, as if the world were about to come to an end.”

–Q: Is one of Taizé´s secrets the fact that youths ask for meetings to pray in simplicity and freedom, placing the Word of God at the center? What are the other secrets?

–Brother Roger: My brothers and I have been astounded for almost 40 years. Why do youths from Europe and other continents come to Taizé? Why does this endeavor continue to grow? Above all, we want to be men who listen, rather than spiritual masters.

We are helped in this initiative by incomparable nuns; the Sisters of St. Andrew have been in Taizé for the past 36 years. Trained in Ignatian spirituality, they are prepared to discern and listen. Polish Ursuline Sisters have also been here for four years. They are especially dedicated to welcoming those coming from Eastern European countries.

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