Taizé, always

By Bruno Frappat
(Published in French in La Croix newspaper)


Taizé : two very short syllables, curt almost, that snap out without lingering. Like a punctuation in sound. A name to condense things essential, to draw together the inexpressible. Taizé to be silent in, Taizé to speak yourself in. Taize to come to, by thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, over nearly two thirds of a century. Taizé to set out from, charged with the invisible. Taizé for the generations. Away from Taizé there is always some trace of Taizé left in those who once passed there. Moments of light ; silences you thought yourself incapable of ; traces of nameless friendships ; eyes you would consider almost too bright to be human ; innumerable faces, often youthful ; and regret at having to such a degree and so often neglected the meaning of life. Traces of others and of yourself. We all have some Taizé deep in our hearts. All of us have, in the tortuous registers of our memories, stages spent at Taizé, at varying dates, that overlap in the recalling mind. Winding roads of Burgundy, beautiful, golden light on the hills in late summer when nature is longing for the rains that postpone their coming, stone-built houses you would say had stood here from all eternity, bells that, far from breaking the silence, underline it without undue emphasis. Welcome, service, songs familiar and recognized, icons, colored peace in the church of Reconciliation. Anyone who has one day passed through Taizé always says they should go back again. And everyone, saying that to themselves and neglecting to do so, knows, never forgets, that Taizé exists, that Taizé is out there, aside from the great furies of the age, available, as if it were on duty here below. Perpetual lantern on the ocean of an agitated, troubling humanity. Watch in the night of news, of tragedies both collective and personal. Stress, ambitions, squabbles, battles over this and that, obsessions with money and power, risks of emotions, oscillations of attachments, vacuity of the fashions and the trifles chattered about in the media : all the things that play out far from Taizé, that roar and create a furore far from this now sacred hill, are cancelled out here. Reconciliation? Yes, but first of all reconciliation with yourself. At least with that part of yourself that, at just the right moment, when the storms threaten lives, tells you : that’s enough, a little silence now, listen to what is speaking to you in the silence. Listen to who is speaking to you.


It was a coffin of pale wood, simple as could be : why be complicated and pretentious when evrything is over, everything is beginning? Wood of the poor. Wood of the cross. Carried by Brothers of Taizé in the silence of Taizé, between thousands of silent watchers, twice he passed through the church of Reconciliation on Tuesday. Brother Roger, Roger Schutz, killed at the age of ninety with a knife, one week before, was here in this coffin making his last procession. In the same spot where he had perished during an evening office. Was it the age of the victim? Was it the final fullstop of martyrdom that this incident set to his long life on earth? The fact of the matter is that you could neither feel nor detect, at Taizé, any sense of anger, or of revolt, nor of injustice toward the crime, toward the absurdity of an action. Simply, Taizé had already reconciled itself with the author of the murder. To such a point as to associate her by name with their prayers, in a manner that was strong, sober, explicit. And to tell the young Romanians, always numerous here, that they loved Romania as they do all the whole earth. Even more. As if Taizé had found in this crime and its immediate forgiveness a prolongation stressing the clear nature of its foundation. As if Taizé had been created, sixty-four years previously, to lead to this event indicating that hope is stronger than evil and more solid than death. As if to say that Taizé was right.


Brother Roger was not a thinker in the sense in which certain people are able to create schools of thought. He was not a conceiver in the sense in which people create concepts that make you reflect ponderously. He was someone who accompanies you, the kind of guide who takes your hand and leads you along paths of which you do not know the length, nor the goal. He would say things that were simple and clear. His books, his meditations, were written in a simple, translucid language, without pretention, never mannered. He meditated modestly. And that must be why some people felt that it all lacked substance : the fact that there was kindness, gentleness, moral and personal values in what he wrote, but little learning, little scholarly substance or depth. Such nonsense! He spoke to the whole of humanity, especially to that portion of humanity that is ever and again being renewed, the young people, in whom he had infinite trust. And the young, you don’t douse them in rigid dogmas, or complicated considerations. And the plain gospel truth, deprived of the taste and form of plainness, looks heavy, burdensome, more a duty than an enthusiasm. Brother, master, father, even grandfather, guide? Certainly all of those, but above all the modest role of one who at the head of the flock holds high the lamp lighting up the way ahead. Who says : Look carefully, go that way, follow me. No doubt about it, that is what being a prophet is. Not a body of learning. The prophet is not weighed down with a whole library, he has no jurisdiction, he does not advance on a throne of jurisprudence, he has no accounts, he is not all the time checking the state of his power, he does not run from one TV studio to the next, he limits himself to the essential : that, I reckon, can give a life meaning. He says the meaning. He gives the direction. After that, each one has to choose, choose himself. Brother Roger will prove to have been, undoubtedly, one of the most outstanding of our contemporaries. For three generations, those three generations who crowded together on Tuesday in the misty Taizé rain, to follow him once more. Not a founder of an empire. Not a potentate of industry or of business. Not someone basking in media-fed notoriety. Not a well-to-do owner of estates and transitory possessions. He left behind nothing concrete, material, palpable, negotiable. He founded a scrap of humanity. So to speak, reinvented a way of being human. With the words of everyone. “Santo subito!” one placard demanded, in the crowd, Tuesday. Just as in Rome for John Paul II. A smiling placard, surely as much ironic as sincere. If he had been there, standing instead of in his coffin of white wood, he would have smiled and asked for it to be put away. No matter : if there was not holiness to be found in that man, where is it to be found?


Bruno Frappat