Easter at Taize

Eucharist at Taize
Eucharist at Taize

Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy took a group of 30 young pilgrims to Taize for Easter week.  Stopping in Birmingham and London to pick up more pilgrims, the group was made of young Christians of different denominations. Their destination was the ecumenical community in France founded in the 1940s by Brother Roger Schutz. Joining around 4000 pilgrims arriving over Holy Week, from all over the world, they took part in the common prayers of the community, Bible studies and sharing in manual work.  Peter Wilson, one of the British Pilgrims said, ‘It is amazing to think how God works to bring so many people together, especially young people, at a time when churches are aging so quickly! Taizé is a fantastic and unique place to experience”

Travelling to Taizé from England does require lengthy journeys by coach or train. In the summer there are regular coach services from London, however nothing at Easter, which lead to the Jesuits in Britain supporting the cost of the coach, making this unique experience accessible to more young people.  Another grateful pilgrim said after arriving for the first time “I would take a hundred train journeys if it was necessary, just for the experience upon my arrival. After a 20+ hours journey I was extremely relieved when I caught sight of the grand Church of Reconciliation where the community’s services take place. I was also very excited to begin my week ahead”

Many in the group really valued the evening workshops that took place. Centred around talks or discussions led by one of the brothers they appreciated a talk entitled “God is at work in us: How can we discover his call?”  This was reinforced by what would become a lasting memory of the visit, witnessing a brother make his final commitment to join the community. After a time of preparation, the brother vowed to “live out his call from God within our community, in communion with [his] brothers”. It was very emotional to watch him hug and greet each of his new brothers. This brother had lived in the community for two years and discovered his vocation, which was community life.

The climax and highpoint of the week was the Easter vigil. The evening prayers took place in a meadow near to the church. A large fire was lit and prayers were held all nightlong near to the fire, with chants and hourly Bible readings until dawn. At 6:30am a sunrise Eucharist was held in the church and each person was given a candle to be lit with a flame from the fire. One particularly inspiring moment was hearing the Paschal greeting, “He is risen indeed!”, proclaimed in over a dozen languages, including Zulu, Finnish and Hindi, and even communicated in Sign Language! It is a reminder that Christianity is a global religion which transcends culture and language.