A Tribute of Love to Brother Roger

In the silence of the stars
In the quiet of the hills
In the heaving of the sea
Speak Lord
In the stillness of this room
In the calming of my mind
In the longing of my heart
Speak Lord

A number of pilgrims gathered in Taize on 16th of August 2008 to commemorate the third death anniversary of Brother Roger who was one of the most renowned and inspirational spiritual leaders of our present times who had similar intentions, motives, enthusiasm and a passionate commitment like Mother Teresa to the alleviation of human suffering, to love and serve all mankind, and also the use of prayer as a source of comfort, strength and communion with God.

Brother Roger of Taize

Brother Roger a distinctly undogmatic Protestant monk and theologian who started a commune and won a worldwide love, deep appreciation, respect, and honour was fatally stabbed on August 16, 2005 during evening prayers at his ecumenical Christian community in eastern France. It was with an overwhelming sadness that thousands grieved on that day the violent death of a man of gentleness and peace. With a deep sense of gratitude on every death anniversary pilgrims give thanks to God for the wonderful life of Brother Roger and a tribute of love to a man of great goodness and faith, who had been the founder of a community of reconciliation and was also one of the most significant ecumenical leaders of our times and an inspiration to millions across the world.

The youth of India of different religions, cultures and traditions received a very special place in the heart of Brother Roger of Taize who developed special bonds of love with them.  The pilgrimage of trust and reconciliation founded by him with his community of Taize never ceased to contribute to the renewal of youth apostolate in India.   Brother Roger had visited India several times and lived close to Mother Theresa but in late 1976 Brother Roger came with a group of brothers and a team of young adults representing all the continents and it was in Kolkota that he wrote the first of what was to become the yearly "letters of Brother Roger" addressed to the young people: – "Mingling with the lament that rises from the hurts of so many people, there is another melody, a song full of hope. That melody, still muted and hidden, is the song of a communion promised to all humankind."

Brother Roger with Mother Theresa

On Pilgrimage to Taize

The intense longing of the heart from its deepest recesses for God?s presence and His love in our daily life is already the beginning of faith, prayer and reconciliation!  Only a very few of us whose life filled with God?s presence, His love and His blessings may find enough satisfaction of fulfilment of our plans, dreams and aspirations in life.  But many of us amidst plenty of wealth, even with the advanced technology and improved means of entertainment for a better amusing life find ourselves unhappy, miserable and our hearts being empty.  This emptiness and the regrets for wrong decisions in life, lost opportunities and the right things we never bothered to do in life make us feel lost somewhere along our life journey.  So also the very painful experiences of all unjust differences that cause us in our social, moral, emotional and religious walks of life create a conflict and struggle within us. There is something often impelling us to cry out our agony and we always hear from the depth of our heart a voice constantly calling for help to touch the divine?.for God?s presence, His merciful unending love and for a reconciliation.

From the early spring until late autumn tens of thousands of people, teenagers, youth, adults, elderly and the old from different continents of the world set out on a pilgrimage to find the wellsprings of trust in God on the hill of Taize.  They are simply searching for meaning in their lives in communion with many others and also learn to build harmonious relationships of trust among our fellow brothers.  When they return home they take the wonderful experience of communion with God in prayer, a reflection on their personal life and an experience of communion and solidarity among people in the climate of openness and discovery of the roads that lead to unity amidst the diversity of cultures and traditions and create the trust and peace in the world which is wounded by divisions, destructions, violence and isolation.  So "The Pilgrimage to Taize" is known as "The Pilgrimage of trust on earth" to understand the greater awareness of the inner life within us as well as of our bonds with others who are often being divided, separated and isolated in our societies, so that we may make the world a better place to live in.

Brother Roger welcomes Pope John Paul II in Taize in 1986

So called "The Church of Reconciliation", an ecumenical religious community is founded by Roger Schutz, a Swiss protestant pastor during world war II in the region of Burgundy in south eastern France on the hill of Taize which is about 390 kilometres south east of Paris.  "Brother Roger", as widely known by this name, left his native Switzerland in 1940 at the age of 25 in order to live in France, the country of his mother.  For several years he carried within him unique desire in his heart to begin a community where reconciliation between Christian denominations, Catholics and various Protestant backgrounds in their daily life was necessary and his motto was "Love and express that love in your daily life".  On Easter day in 1949 just after the World War II the first brothers of the community who joined him in his mission made their commitment to a life of celibacy, to material and spiritual sharing and to a great simplicity of life.

Brother Roger with Children of Kolkota

The Taize church services are not based on dogma or any doctrinal system and are also purely non-authoritarian, but of a mystical approach to faith.  No orations on religion are given or confessions of faith made.  Congregational meetings three times a day are conducted and all those who are present on the hill of Taize gather for the prayer, worshiping God together in singing and silence.  Brothers of the community give Bible introductions that are followed by times of reflection and discussion.  One can spend the week in silence as a way of letting the word of God illuminate one?s life in greater depth.  The end of each week in Taize is like an Easter celebration.  The Saturday evening prayer is a festival of lights.  On Sunday morning those who have been taking part in the meeting leave home after the Eucharist.  The music of Taize appeals to the hearts of the young and the old, regardless of nationality, culture or religious tradition.  It is the word of God set to music and its constant gentle repetitive quality allows deep contemplation.  The beautiful songs are the prayer which can accompany us in our daily life opening ourselves to the unknown and makes us discover the precious gifts of God to mankind.

When Pope John Paul II visited Taize in 1986, he presented himself as a pilgrim saying "one passes through Taize as one passes close to spring water".

On 16th August 2005, at the age of 90, Brother Roger was stabbed to death during the evening prayer service in Taize by a schizophrenic woman cutting his throat and causing him to a profuse bleeding to death instantaneously.  His death has shocked not only about 2500 horrified young pilgrims on that day but also the whole world that deeply mourned and turned the pastor many already believed to be a saint into a martyr.  He departed like Mahatma Gandhi who while passing by the cordoned lane through the prayer congregation whispering God?s name on his lips?.was killed by a religious fanatic.   Similarly Brother Roger with his blood consecrated the sacred edifice and witnessed to forgiveness and love?.!

Saturday Evening Prayer – A festival of lights

Brother Roger was a humble man of God, full of love and great compassion for the children and the youth, with full of kindness, joy and life.  He had an enormously positive effect on the life of the church, influencing countless people on the path of reconciliation.  He spent his life living in peace and love, preaching reconciliation   between people of all nationalities.  The community he founded, the music and the distinctive chants associated with it have touched the lives of millions around the world.  He often said that faith is not a complicated reality.  It is like a surge of trust that is repeated throughout our life time and again.  We remember the precious moments with Brother Roger of Taize who blessed us and my daughter when she approached him personally along with other children at the end of the prayer meeting in September 1997 that promoted in us a spirit of reconciliation, love, strength and peace.   The most cherished part of our time in Taiz? was spent in quiet reflection, prayer and silence for 3 days.

If you can avail, please do not miss a chance, at least once in your life time, someday to go on a pilgrimage to Taize?.in any beautiful season of the year, spring, summer or autumn?. For the final part of your journey a narrow road leads its way through the rolling hills.  The villages are few and scattered far between.  The people are simple and friendly and you can surely feel their quiet and peaceful life behind the windows!  Then suddenly the hill of Taize appears where you can discover the wellsprings of faith to store in your life as an unusual experience of renewal for your soul, for your heart and mind and even for your body.  Faith can change any situation, no matter how dark it is, no matter what the trouble may be, a quick lifting of the heart to God in a true, real and actual faith in Him will alter the situation in a moment.  "Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God".

Evelyn & Michael Machado, Eppelheim, Germany

Author: Evelyn and Michael Machado- Germany