June 3, 2012
Taizé spirit turns on youth
Participants venerate a cross during the first night. DePaul hosted the international gathering of young adults over Memorial Day weekend for the Taizé's "Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth." Founded in 1940 by Brother Roger, the community of Taizé has developed a form of prayer that is now used by Christians of all denominations. It is made up of songs, prayer melodies that can be repeated multiple times, silence and meditation.This was the first such gathering in North America since the one held in Dayton, Ohio, in 1992. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
Sally Cocjin, a senior at DePaul University, holds a sign at the beginning of a three-day ecumenical Taizé pilgrimage in DePaul's Sullivan Athletic Center in Chicago on May 25. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
Taize Brothers gather for prayer with over 700 participants during the first night.Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
Echo Xu and Josh Lucas carry in a cross for participants to venerate during the first night. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
Brother Alois, the Prior of Taizé, gives a meditation during the prayer service. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
Participants venerate a cross during the first night. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World
The Sullivan Athletic Center at DePaul University turned into a space of quiet and prayer Memorial Day weekend when the Taizé brothers brought their community’s ecumenical “Pilgrimage of Trust” to Chicago.
On Friday night, beneath dim lights, hundreds of young adults sat on the carpeted gym floor and hundreds of adults, young and old, filled the stands. They all sang simple, meditative songs and prayed before a dais with burning candles and images of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus and Mary. They listened to Scripture, prayed in silence and venerated a cross, all during the opening service of the weekend pilgrimage.
The rest of the weekend was filled with similar services of morning, midday and evening prayer, workshops and time for fellowship. Young people from around the Midwest were invited to participate. Many stayed in the homes of Catholic and Protestant families who volunteered to host them.
Taizé-style prayer is named after the town in France where Brother Roger founded an ecumenical community around the time of World War II. The community of brothers is still based there and offers weeklong experiences. Some of the brothers also go out to organize events like the one at DePaul.
Three brothers came to Chicago earlier this year to begin planning the event. According to the group’s website, Chicago has long had a relationship with Taizé — De- Paul and Loyola universities specifically. These two universities have active prayer groups and students often travel to Taizé.
The pilgrimages of trust are designed to give young people an experience with church and community. A recent one in Berlin, Germany, attracted 30,000 people, according to Brother Emile, one of the organizers of the DePaul event.
Taizé prayer has long drawn young people, Brother Emile said.
“The focus on young people came because we felt that they are the ones who have the hardest time finding their place in the church,” Brother Emile said.
Seven hundred young adults registered for the weekend and more than twice that number was expected for the prayer time.
“I think a pilgrimage of trust is like sowing seeds,” Brother Emile said. It could be in prayer or finding peace to get involved in social justice issues or to open up to the church.
“Probably the vocation to Taizé is not to harvest and to see what has happened at the end of the week or weekend, but it’s to sow those seeds and to believe that the spirit of God will work in their hearts,” Brother Emile said.
The young adults seem to notice the sense of peace they feel most.
“It’s very meditative so it’s a nice break through the week,” said Loyola University student Erin Clark. The sophomore began attending the Taizé prayer services at Loyola as part of a class assignment freshman year.
“And I’ve gone every week since,” she said. Clark and eight other students went to Taizé, France, over spring break this year.
DePaul University senior Joe Mannarelli said he has attended Taizé services at his school on and off throughout his time there.
“It’s different but it has a very similar feel as eucharistic adoration,” he said.
Like Clark, Mannarelli said he enjoys the sense of peace and the time helps him feel God’s presence more.
“You can talk in the noise,” he said, “but you can only hear in the silence.”