Taizé, a little village on a hill in the Burgundy region of southern France, has, since 1940 shared its name with an international, ecumenical, Christian community. The Taizé community, originally founded by Roger Schütz (Br. Roger) is now home to over a hundred brothers from many different countries and Christian backgrounds. As with most religious communities the brothers there make a life-long commitment to communal living, celibacy, and simplicity of life. The brothers live by their own work, not accepting gifts or donations for themselves. Some of the brothers live alongside the poorest of the poor elsewhere in the world, in small fraternities in an attempt to continue the pilgrimage of trust on earth.
Three times a day, everything on the hill stops as the bells call all to the church for prayer. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of mainly young (17-29) people from all walks of life join with the brothers of the community in prayer and song. The unique form of prayer found at Taizé consists of short songs or chants that are repeated over and over again and a long period of silence. These short songs when repeated over and over take on a contemplative or meditative character. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith easily accessible to all. As the words are sung over many times, the reality they describe has time to sink in. The song becomes a focus that lets the worries of the day drift away and attention return to God. In this way the song becomes prayer, and, as they require little in the way of thought, a way of listening to God.
Surprisingly, when questioned about their Taizé experience, few people first speak about prayer or God. Their memories of Taizé are numb bum’s from spending a week without proper seats, instant lemon tea, Taizé English (the unique conglomerate of English spoken there) and being welcomed in their own language, to name a few. As they warm to the topic they reflect on the trust and friendship that quickly develops within the small sharing groups, their bible study, walks in the beautiful surrounding countryside, the incredible atmosphere, and the truly moving prayer.