Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Requiem in pace

I sat next to him one evening after the service was over. His wispy white hair showed the life of service to God's people; his face was etched with the stories of pilgrims; his hands reflected the years of prayer. As a brother translated, I told Brother Roger of Taize of Teddy's pilgrimage through a life of struggle and pain, and heard this gentle man's whispered prayers on behalf of my son.

Brother Roger should have died, with his beloved community surrounding him, singing Nunc dimittis and Ubi caritas. He should have died in his sleep. He should have died in peace.

But he was stabbed to death today during one of the services held in the Church of Reconciliation, surrounded by the community he had called together, and, no doubt, several thousand young people from all over the world. I grieve for the young people, who came to Taize seeking peace and hope in a violent world. I pray for Brother John, Brother Jean-Marie, and all the other brothers who seek to find meaning in their living response to God's call. I think of the father from Holland I met four years ago who, with his now adult daughter, had been going to Taize each year for over 40 years.

All these people responded to Brother Roger's vision of a world that could be healed of its brokenness and warring ways; of communities that could make journeys of reconciliation, Protestants visiting Catholics and so forth, in efforts to understand one another better; of a Church that could set aside its differences and doctrines to live out its common belief in Jesus as Lord.

His voice is gone but lives on in the meditative songs, the prayers, the writings, the silence.

His heart is stilled, but beats on in the thousands and thousands of people throughout the world who seek to bring peace, healing and reconciliation to their neighborhoods, their churches, their families.

His gentle spirit is with God and has been passed on to all the young people who have journeyed to Taize, and will continue to make pilgrimages there, in the simple, yet radical, belief that barriers can be broken down, that unity can be found, that goodness is better than evil, that love is stronger than hate, that peace is the way of all of God's people.

Requiem in pace, Brother Roger.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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