TAIZÉ, France, AUG. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The legacy left by Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Community of Taizé, is illustrated in this testimony sent to ZENIT by Brother Emile, a spokesman for the ecumenical group.
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It all began in great solitude, when in August of 1940, at 25 years of age, Brother Roger left Switzerland, the country of his birth, and went to live in France, his mother’s country. For years, he felt the call to create a community in which reconciliation between Christians would be concretized every day, “in which the benevolence of heart would be lived very concretely, and where love would be in everyone’s heart.”
He wanted to realize that creation in the anguish of that moment, and in this way, at the height of the World War, he established himself in the small village of Taizé in Burgundy, a few kilometers from the line of demarcation that divided France in two parts. He then hid refugees (in particular Jews), who when fleeing from the occupied zone knew that they could find refuge in his home.
Later, other Brothers joined him and on Easter Sunday of 1949 the first Brothers committed themselves for life to celibacy, life in common, and great simplicity of life.
In the silence of a long retreat, in the winter of 1952-1953, the founder of the Community of Taizé wrote the Rule of Taizé, in which he pointed out to his Brothers “the essential that would allow for life in common.”
Beginning in the ’50s, some Brothers went to live in underprivileged areas to be near to people who suffer.
Since the end of the ’50s, the number of young people who come to Taizé has increased markedly. Beginning in 1962, Brothers and youths sent by Taizé did not cease to come and go to countries of Eastern Europe, with great discretion, so as not to compromise those they were supporting.
Between 1962 and 1989 Brother Roger himself visited the majority of the countries of Eastern Europe, at times on the occasion of meetings with youths, permitted but watched, or of simple visits, without the possibility of speaking in public. “I will be silent with you,” he would say to Christians of those countries.
In 1966, the Saint Andrew Sisters, an international Catholic community founded more than seven centuries ago, came to live in the neighboring village and began to help with some of the welcome endeavor. More recently, some Polish Ursuline nuns have also come to offer their collaboration.
Today the Community of Taizé includes some 100 Brothers, Catholics and of different evangelical origins, from more than 25 countries. Because of their own experience, they are a concrete sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and separated peoples.
In one of his last books, entitled “God Can Only Love” (“Dieu Ne Peut Qu’Aimer,” Taizé Press), Brother Roger described his ecumenical itinerary thus: “I can remember that my maternal grandmother discovered intuitively a sort of key of the ecumenical vocation and opened the way for me to its concretization. Marked by the testimony of her life, while I was still very young, I later found my own Christian identity when reconciling within me the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without any rupture of communion.”
The Brothers don’t accept any gifts or presents. They do not even accept personal inheritances, but give them to the poorest. They sustain community life with their work and share it with others.
Now there are small fraternities in the underprivileged neighborhoods of Asia, Africa, South and North America. The Brothers try to share the conditions of life of those around them, making efforts to be a presence of love among the poorest, street children, prisoners, the dying, those who are wounded in their deepest being by emotional ruptures and human abandonment.
Coming from all over the world, young people meet in Taizé every week of the year to attend meetings that can gather between two Sundays up to 6,000 people, representing more than 70 nations. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of young people have come to Taizé to reflect on the topic “interior life and human solidarities.” In the sources of faith, they try to give their life meaning and they prepare to take on responsibilities in the areas where they live.
Men of the Church also come to Taizé. Thus, the Community welcomed Pope John Paul II, three Archbishops of Canterbury, Orthodox Metropolitans, 14 Swedish Lutheran Bishops, and numerous pastors from all over the world.
To support the young generations, the Community of Taizé animates a “pilgrimage of confidence on earth.” This pilgrimage does not organize youths in a movement that is centered on the Community, but stimulates them to take peace, reconciliation and confidence to their cities, their universities, their workplaces and their parishes, in communion with all generations. As a stage of this “pilgrimage of confidence on earth,” a five-day European meeting is organized at the end of every year in a large European city, of the East or West, attended by tens of thousands of young people.
On the occasion of a European meeting, Brother Roger would publish a “letter,” translated into more than 50 languages, which was then meditated [on] throughout the year by young people in their homes or during Taizé meetings. The founder of Taizé often wrote this letter from a place of poverty where he lived for a time (Calcutta, Chile, Haiti, Ethiopia, the Philippines, South Africa).
Today, throughout the world, the name Taizé evokes peace, reconciliation, communion and the expectation of a springtime in the Church. “When the Church listens, heals, reconciles she realizes what is most luminous in herself, limpid reflection of a love” (Brother Roger).