Monday, August 22, 2005


Tomorrow, tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world will stream to Burgundy, France, for the funeral of Roger Schutz. Don’t know the name? “Brother Roger” founded the Taizé community in Burgundy in 1940 as a place for Christians of all denominations to be reconciled and as a focus for a ministry of peacemaking and service that eventually spanned the globe. One week ago, Brother Roger, age 90, was stabbed to death by a deranged woman during the regular evening prayer service.

I was horrified to learn of his murder – as all must have been who heard the news, for this was a good man, one who had given his entire adult life in service to God and his fellow human beings. At the outbreak of World War II, he could have remained safely in Switzerland where he was born – he was after all a sickly young man who had barely survived tuberculosis. But Roger, then 25, felt a calling to go to his mother’s country to minister to refugees. This he did for two years, with the help of his sister Genevieve, before they were warned by villagers that the Nazis had found them out and they themselves had to flee. Brother Roger returned in 1944, bringing more monks with him, and the brothers established Taizé as a community where simplicity and charity would be lived daily as a proclamation of the Gospel. Following the war, Taizé became a favorite pilgrimage destination for the world’s young people. They seemed drawn there in large part because of the music – Roger was convinced that shared music had the power to unite people from many walks of life, and the community developed a canon of simple chant, sung in many languages, designed to be accessible to all.

It was through the music that I first learned of Taizé and Brother Roger. My church is one of thousands worldwide that offer “Taizé services” of music and simple prayer in an intimate setting. Whereas all the trappings and peculiarities of denomination tend to divide and make us more aware of our differences, Taizé services unite: there are no barriers of prayer books, hymnals, traditions solidified like stained glass. Many who have felt wounded by the Church have found healing through Taizé.

Brother Roger's murderer is assumed to be insane. How else could anyone think that the world would be a better place without his influence? How could they, we ask? Earlier today, a friendly blogger posted her complaint about people who wantonly and randomly destroy property, seemingly for its own sake. What's the difference? Perhaps the same destructive force lies in each of us, to greater or lesser degree. Brother Roger had an answer, an antidote for violence - the daily practice of peace. The day after his death, one of the eldest brothers left at the community offered this commentary:

In the face of violence, we can respond only by peace. Brother Roger never stopped insisting on this. Peace requires a commitment of our whole being, inwardly and outwardly. It demands our whole person. So this evening, let us communicate peace to one another, and do everything we can so that each person stays in hope.
Each of us, in our own place, must do this work. There is no way to peace; peace IS the way.


Blogger Laura said...

I missed this tragic news entirely. How very horrible. Thank you for posting, D. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

4:04 PM  
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4:42 PM  
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4:57 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

Amazingly that there wasn't much in the news about it, isn't it?

Thanks for visiting, sweetie :>)

9:00 PM  
Blogger Bela said...

Oh, I didn't know about that. What a terrible thing! I've heard of the Taizé community, of course. It's a shameful act. Who would want to kill someone like that?

11:48 AM  

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