Saturday, 10 March 2018

Brother Roger of Taizé

Brother Roger was born in Provence, Switzerland, in 1915.
       He was born Roger Louis Schütz-Marsauche, the ninth and youngest child of a Protestant pastor. His mother was French. He studied theology was a leader in the Swiss Student Christian Movement; and seemed fated for a glittering career in the Church. He nearly died of tuberculosis and, during a long convalescence, began to feel drawn to a monastic way of life.
Brother Roger at prayer
      In 1940, at the start of World War II, he felt called to help those suffering the conflict. He rode a bicycle from Geneva to Taizé, which was then a tiny town about 240 miles south-east of Paris. The town was then located within unoccupied France. He bought an empty house. There for two years he and his sister hid refugees, both Christian and Jewish. He fled the Gestapo but returned in 1944 to Taizé to create a new Christian Community.
      Brother Roger’s community was initially a small monastic community of men living together in poverty and obedience, but soon developed into a place of pilgrimage, of prayer and reflection. It was open to all Christians regardless of denomination.
      The influence of Taizé grew strongly and steadily. Towards the end of his life, the Community had become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage, with a focus on youth. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages there each year for prayer, Bible study, communal work and sharing. The Community encourage them to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
      Brother Roger always kept a low profile as Community leader, and refused to permit any cult to grow up around himself. Like all saintly people, he was a mixture: humble and stubborn, childlike and wise, mystical and realistic. He became a prized author and wrote widely on prayer, Christian spirituality and reflection, asking young people to be confident in God and committed to their local church community and to humanity. He was recognised as a pioneer in the ecumenical field and never wavered in his self-imposed lifelong mission: to work towards the reconciliation of Christians.
      Brother Roger was murdered during the evening prayer service in Taizé in 2005. He was 90. In the few minutes between the attack and his death, he forgave the mentally-ill woman who attacked him, and asked that she be forgiven.
      Perhaps his most important legacy is the music of Taizé, which is instantly recognisable, usually melodic and enormously powerful. Its songs are sung in many languages and commonly comprise chants and simple phrases—usually lines from Psalms or other pieces of Scripture — repeated almost endlessly, like the praise in Heaven, as described in Revelation.

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