I have a list that I made with my sister and my friend LaSheena. It has a good deal of random things on it: grow an herb garden, swim in bio-luminescent water, knit a hat. Stay for a longer time at Taizé. It’s a list I made after I graduated from college in order to remind myself of what was important to me, what I wanted to experience and grow through. While the point isn’t really to check things off, I can now put a date by the “stay for a longer time at Taizé” entry. That doesn’t mean I won’t go back again.
I lived in Taizé for 5 weeks. That’s a lot of time to summarize in one post. It’s impossible, actually. I can only give moments. Ask me about it sometime.
This is the small Roman Catholic church in Ameugny, a village 5 minutes down the road. I spent a lot of time in Ameugny – Taizé’s children and families program is located there, and I worked in that program for two weeks. I also spent a week in silence in Ameungy. This church is especially close to my heart as a quiet, vibrant place for prayer. It’s construction began in the 11th century. I loved to take off my shoes and press them against the cool, damp stone floor and thing about all the people who had stood there before me.
This was one of the views I had on my walk back and forth between Ameugny and Taizé. Classic Burgandy. This area, my friends, you are permitted to call quaint. They are very self-conscious of how delighfully old-fashioned everything looks. From the stone houses to the stone walls to the red shutters to …
…the chalk-white cows. This picture is especially for Delaney. She knows why.
Here is a view of Madras, a compound of barracks named for an Indian city where a Taizé meeting was held a number of years ago. Madras houses the women and girls who are living at Taize for between 2 weeks and two months. Most people who visit the community come for the week-long program, but there are many every year who, like me, are drawn to the life of prayer, work, peace, connections, and study and want to stay longer. At the height of the summer, there were over 50 girls in Madras. I shared a room with two Germans, two Lithuanians, and a Polish woman. I was the only person from the Western Hemisphere in Madras. There were others from my half of the world, mostly from South America, in other barracks.
The common language is English – or Taizé English, as it is affectionately called – so I definitely had an advantage. It made me feel guilty sometimes about the ease with which I could communicate.
Every week, I received new jobs to help keep the life of the community healthy. One week I cleaned the little rooms where Brothers and guests can meet; I ended up cleaning the room where the Arch-bishop of York had breakfast every morning. Who’d have thought? I coordinated children’s programs, I played the father in the story of the Lost Son, I sorted and repaired songbooks, I washed dishes. I slowly learned how to turn each of these tasks into a prayerful benediction to the people I was serving, even if I never saw them.
The weather is very dramatic here.
From my journal:
“The Burgandy countryside is at once like and unlike the Southern Indiana countryside. So much of it makes me think of home, but there are small things, things I can’t even put a finger on, that delight me in their new-ness and story-ness. […All] as it might be in the dream of a real place. […] The differences seem comforting rather than disturbing, and I think here’s why: hayfields should have buttercups in them, shutters should actually work, houses should be built out of the earth they stand on, there should be low, twisty trees and tall, stately lombardy poplars, there should be wild blackberries growing along the fence rows, and cows should have bells, and gardens should have stone walls that grow into houses walls. Things “should” be this way because this is the kind of countryside I have read about and dreamt about for as long as I can remember.”
During my week in silence, Autumn showed up. Here’s the picture to prove it.
Here’s another one.
I did a lot of walking during my week in silence. I’ve learned that walking is the perfect segue into prayer. For me, anyway.
This is a picture of Iycte and Duvile. I am not entirely certain I am spelling their names correctly. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty certain I’ve misspelled Iycte. But I never really saw them written down. These are my Lithuanian roommates, and they are beautiful people. I made friends with several Lithuanians, actually, and I have open invitation to visit the country. I intend to do so.
Taken on my way to evening prayers the last night of my stay in Taizé. Common prayers occured three times a day – before breakfast, before lunch, and after dinner. These prayers center the community and establish the pervasive sense of peace that intially drew me to return. We enter the church building in silence (theorhetically, anyway – I had to keep silence before evening prayers one week during the peak season … ugh). There are chairs for the elderly and injured, but everyone else sits on the floor. We all face the same direction, even the Brothers who lead us in song and spoken prayers. We pray in song, in spoken word, in scripture, in silence. The songs are simple, beautiful, and expressive. The great silence is a 10-minute miracle: up to 4000 people quietly waiting, all sitting together in expectation of the Incarnation.
There are no sermons in the prayers. Every day, there are Bible studies and workshops lead by Brothers and Sisters, and these lectures/discussions/ homilies provide the study aspect of our life together. They awoke in me such a thirst for God’s voice.
Every Thursday, we heard a list of all the countries represented. Every continent. A beautiful cacophony of translations. A redeemed Tower of Babel. A glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God is at hand.