A week in Taizé with a group of friends was an unforgettable experience of spiritual growth, meaningful connections, and profound serenity. Nestled in the heart of the Burgundy region in France, Taizé is a small village known for its ecumenical Christian community and its commitment to peace and reconciliation. Founded by Brother Roger Schutz in 1940, it is home to the Brothers of Taizé, an ecumenical Christian monastic order. Taizé is renowned for its distinctive style of prayer and worship, characterized by repetitive chants and simple, contemplative melodies.
The Journey Begins
Our journey began with a flight trip and train ride through the picturesque French countryside, as anticipation filled the air. As we arrived in Macon and then in Taizé, the serene atmosphere immediately embraced us. The simple yet welcoming accommodations, consisting of dormitory-style rooms and communal meals, reinforced the idea of living in harmony with others.
Communion with God
Taizé’s invitation to search for communion with God through community prayer, song, silence, personal reflection, and sharing became a living reality during our stay. Each day followed a structured routine.
Our group celebrated daily Holy Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the crypt chapel. The practice of having Holy Mass in a different language each day added a unique and enriching aspect to our spiritual journey. This helped our group to strengthen our shared faith and appreciate the universality of the Catholic Church.
The highlight of our days was the daily prayers in the iconic Church of Reconciliation, with Morning Prayer at 8:15 a.m., Midday Prayer at 12:20 p.m., and Evening Prayer at 8:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Hundreds of people from around the world gathered there to sing Taizé chants, meditate in silence, and reflect on the messages of love and unity found in the Bible. The music and repetitive chants created a soothing, meditative ambience that resonated deep within our souls.
On Friday evening, we came together for the Evening Prayer, which was followed by a unique prayer ceremony centred around the cross. The joyous celebration of the light of the resurrection marked Saturday evening. Sundays commenced with the Eucharist at 10:00 am and came to a peaceful close with the Evening Prayer at 8:30 pm.
The Bells of Taizé
The use of the bells at the entrance of Taizé to mark the various prayer times throughout the day is a lovely tradition. The chiming of the bells at dawn, noon, and evening signalled us and the community to come together in prayer, fostering a sense of unity and reflection throughout the day.
The Heart of Taizé’s Community Life
We engaged in all aspects of community life throughout the week, which included three Taizé services, biblical lessons, reflective sessions, small group discussions, community service activities, and afternoon electives.
In the mornings, Bible introductions were led by a brother of the community, followed by small group discussions with the same groups maintained throughout the week. We could choose from various themed activities and workshops in the afternoons, covering subjects like art, poetry, music, justice and peace commitment, ecology, and more.
Contemplation and Walks
At Taizé, silence has a central place, and places are intended for spending a long time in silence, like the village church, the church of Reconciliation, or the St Stephen Spring. In the afternoons, we often ventured out for walks in the picturesque surroundings of St. Etienne Source. The lush, rolling hills, vineyards, and quaint French villages provided the perfect backdrop for contemplation and conversations with friends. These walks allowed us to process our spiritual experiences further and connect with the beauty of the natural world.
Throughout the week, between prayers and Bible introductions, we also engaged in practical community work as part of a team doing community chores, like serving meals, washing dishes, collecting trash, sweeping the common areas, cleaning the bathrooms, or helping with communication/translation. These activities allowed us to contribute to the communal life of Taizé and connect with the principles of simplicity and service.
Connections at the Oyak
We had the opportunity to relax and connect at Oyak, a non-profit café offering a variety of snacks and drinks and the only place at Taizé that opens daily in the early afternoon and after the evening prayer until 11 pm. It was a wonderful space where we met new people, shared our stories, cultures, traditions, and faith, discussed our areas of work, and exchanged ideas and contact information. The experience was beautiful and enriching.
Free from Distractions
Sitting quietly in the outdoor areas during the day or spending moments under the starlit sky in the absence of distractions like smartphones and the internet made these moments at Taizé even more precious, reinforcing our connection with one another and with the present moment which can be hard to achieve in our digitally connected world.
Gratitude and Memories
Leaving Taizé was bittersweet, but we departed with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to spend a week in this haven of tranquillity, surrounded by friends who had become like family.
The memories of Taizé continue to inspire us to live more intentionally and to cherish the beauty of simplicity, community, and spiritual connection in our lives. Taizé had indeed provided us with the opportunity to step back from daily life, meet a wide variety of people, and consider our commitments to the Church and to society.
Our participation in community life and the daily programme had been a transformative experience, instilling a sense of peace, compassion, and open-mindedness that we carried back into our everyday lives as we continued our spiritual growth and self-discovery journey.
This post was written by Ms Silvana Cardona, pastoral worker at SDS