One week in Taizé
I decided to stay for 4 weeks in an ecumenical community cum center called Taizé. I finished my first week and I am working in the next three weeks as a volunteer here. I participated in the normal Sunday to Sunday program which is attended by the majority (mostly young) visiting Taizé. I have an experience of Taizé, and I want to write this article based on my experience. I didn’t read anything specially for this piece.
Because of COVID-19, this summer is different. We have around 200–300 participants, which is much less than the normal count of 3000–4000 in the summers. Interestingly the majority are youngsters and it happens in a Christian center and in a continent that has a large percentage of non-practicing Christians. I had an opportunity to interact with a lot of youngsters from extremely diverse backgrounds (faith, country, language, culture, age, etc) and I want to share some of the experiences without making any judgments.
- Many youngsters told me that they are searching for happiness, meaning, or something like that. It is not exactly clear for them what they are searching for; it is an open-ended question. Some are interested in discovering their vocation.
- Someone told me, “I am not a believer, but I respect the importance and beauty of religions.”
- Somebody shared with me, “I am looking for deeper emotions/feelings in life.”
- Many of them share the pain in the current world situation with huge struggles for refugees and migrants.
- Some are looking for growth in spiritual life.
- I also see many of them creating deep friendships by way of their interactions here. The youngsters do enjoy a lot; meet people from different continents; sing and dance too. It is not just prayer and prayer.
- People share very freely about their vulnerabilities, joys, and sorrows.
- I met many youngsters who want to work for one year in social/charity related works at the end of the school.
- There are three sections of prayers in Taizé, which includes a lot of singing and a short period (10 min) of silence. The morning and afternoon prayers last for 30 min and the evening prayer for around 45 min. The church is always full for the prayers. Nobody tells the youngsters to come to the church. But many of them do spend a lot of time in the church, much beyond the normal time.
- I never heard a sermon in the last few days, not even during the eucharist. There is one Bible session on each day which is the only input.
- There are no donations. For stay and accommodation, a minimal fee is collected. Food is extremely simple.
- A good number of youngsters (at least those I met) are vegetarians (or even vegans).
- Brothers do live a simple life and do earn their living by making potteries.
Taizé invites people from diverse conditions into their community life and to live as a community. This is an invitation open to all, without any barriers of religion, culture, or nationality. One of the images that can sum up Taizé for me, is an image of God waiting with open arms, just wanting to embrace you without asking any questions and without making any judgments. It is an invitation to experience love and to be love. Youngsters are looking for such non-judgemental encounters with divine or a higher reality. Jesus would like to give the same and Taizé just does it. For me, it is a model par excellence in the contemporary religion and spirituality.
Some other stories from me which may interest you,
Widow’s Mite in the Gospel of Mark
Anonymous, marginal characters can be extremely significant