I know this is long for my first post, but please bear with me. I want to thank 42 and Infission for the opportunity to guest post.
He wanted to help refugees of the war, just like his grandmother had done some 25 years earlier. So he moved from Switzerland to France to a little village known as Taizé in the south of Burgandy. Along with his sister, he offered a place of food, shelter, safety and compassion for those who managed to escape the reach of Nazi Germany. This conviction to help the needy grew out of his strong faith.
Understanding that many who sought refuge in Taizé were Jews or agnostics, he never prayed or worshipped in front of his guests. Instead he opted to go into the woods alone to pray and sing.
In the autumn of 1942, his little refugee community was discovered and all involved were advised to flee. However, he was able to return to his community in 1944 – this time with companions.
After the war, a local man created an association to care for young boys orphaned by the war. The long-term mission of Taizé had begun to take shape. The community was committed to serving the “least of these” in whatever way possible.
On Easter Sunday, 1949, the first brothers took the vows of celibacy, material and spiritual sharing and to a great simplicity of life. The monastic community of Taizé was born. And Brother Roger led them.
Since then, the Taizé monastic community – along with the Sisters of Saint Andrew – has welcomed and served all who traveled to the countryside of France to connect with God and with other pilgrims from all over the world. Thousands of people between the ages of 17-30 travel to Taizé each year.
As an ecumenical community, Taizé (with Catholic brothers, some Protestant brothers and actively seeking Orthodox brothers) has sought to assist the Church Universal in reconnecting with itself. This is evidenced not only in the mission work done all over the world (specifically Africa, Asia and South America), but even in its church building – the Church of Reconciliation.
I visited Taizé in July of 2001 with a group of youth and young adults from the north Texas area. My time there changed me forever. Not only have I learned the importance of contemplative study and solitary prayer – I have a better view of global Christianity.
During each evening prayer, Brother Roger would pray over those sitting around him (he would move around the large sanctuary throughout the week). I could feel the love of Christ emanating from his face as he prayed over me. I never knew him, but I know he was a great man.
Brother Roger was a close friend of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, the latter of which he co-authored a handful of books. Brother Roger was a man of peace fighting for peace.
Brother Roger died last night in a place he loved dearly – the sanctuary of the Church of Reconciliation. He died surrounded by the Community of Brothers and many pilgrims to Taizé. Despite his recent illnesses, he did not die peacefully.
Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a woman described as “probably mentally disturbed” during evening prayer on August 16, 2005.
This prayer was offered at morning prayer on August 17th:
“Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who have gone before us, and who can remain so close to us. We confide into your hands our Brother Roger. He already contemplates the invisible. In his footsteps, you are preparing us to welcome a radiance of your brightness.”
The global Church has lost a great hero of the Faith. The global poor have lost an important advocate. The community of Taizé lost its founding leader. Heaven has gained a favorite son.
We should be in prayer of thanks for the life that Brother Roger led. We should be in prayer for strength and understanding for the Brothers and Sisters of Taizé. We should be in prayer for healing for those who witnessed such a tragedy. We should be in prayer for the woman who allegedly murdered Brother Roger for healing, forgiveness and salvation.
I leave you with a prayer by Frère Roger:
“God of peace, through the Gospel we understand that it is merciful love that counts above all. Give us therefore hearts that are filled with goodness.”
Brother Roger will be missed...