Peaceful Taize prayer delights the spirit and senses, welcomes and soothes restless souls of all denominations. It also traces its roots to France's Burgundy region, which produced Saint Michael's founding priests.
Named for the Burgundy town where an ecumenical religious community developed and flourished starting in World War II, Taize (pronounced Tay-Zay) is a community centered style of prayer evocative of Catholic monastic traditions. With its identifying themes of peace, justice, unity and reconciliation, Taize prayer, founded by a Protestant religious brother named Roger Schutz, is popular the world over with both Catholics and Protestants, especially among youth, and has found a welcome home at Saint Michael's.
Beautiful harp music and 100-plus lighted votive candles set the desired mood at a March service at Saint Michael's, the fifth of the academic year. Taize participants hear Scripture readings, chant soothing repetitive sung prayers with familiar Rosary-like cadences and enter prolonged periods of silence in a purposely meditative atmosphere.
"I think people are looking for creative movements," says Jason Moore '01, assistant director of Edmundite Campus Ministry. "There's such divisiveness in our world, in politics, in our churches, and I think Taize is prophetic. It cuts through all that and reminds us that we can have differences, and recognize them and talk about them, but still be kind to each other. There's something about the authenticity of this prayer style that resonates with the young in particular, and I think students are looking for authentic expressions of what it means to be Christian."
The services this past academic year were in the chapel's back altar space, part of well planned and varied programming by Edmundite Campus Ministry over the entire academic year but particularly in Lent. Other Lenten offerings this year included retreats, guest speakers, Stations of the Cross, reconciliation services, Vespers and special liturgies.
Students are looking for authentic expressions of what it means to be Christian.
Taize services have been offered sporadically at Saint Michael's for decades, Moore says, including when he was a student. He first encountered Taize's huge popularity among youth overseas when he studied abroad in Ireland, and is not all surprised that the young continue to be drawn to it.
"When they hear one tradition putting down another these days, it doesn't resonate and this movement does." he says, "I think the emphasis on simplicity in a materialistic culture is attractive to young people. The worship style is very simple but also very moving and it almost can transport you to a different realm. Also, Taize builds in times of silence, and I think people are hungering for that sort of silence in their lives."