We recently received the tragic news of the death of Brother Roger, founder of the famous Taizé Community in France. In the midst of a crowd celebrating evening prayer at Taizé on August 16th, a woman stabbed Brother Roger a number of times. Moments later he was dead.
Naturally we are all deeply saddened by his untimely death. Taizé singing is a mainstay of Findhorn community spiritual practice – occurring on a near daily basis at both The Park and Cluny. Many thousands of our guests and residents have participated during the 10 years or so of its practice since long-term Findhorn Foundation and Community member, Barbara Swetina, introduced it here. Barbara was also involved in the creation of a number of CDs and tapes of Taizé-style devotional singing.
For those who participate, Taizé singing can be an intensely joyful and moving experience. At its best it brings peace and unity to the singers and a strong internal connection to the divine. Also you don’t need to be a singer to participate; many just turn up to listen and absorb the atmosphere, finding that the melodies are easy to pick up. Soon, even those who think they have no voice are encouraged to add to the simple harmonies. Many are reduced to tears by the transcendent energy generated by the group. And of course, some attend every session, and make it part of their life.
The stabbing of a 90-year-old monk would be extraordinary at any time. But Brother Roger, the founder of Taizé, leaves a legacy which is felt all over the world. The influence of this monastic community in a small village in Burgundy has been pretty remarkable. It has never advertised, or recruited, or marketed its style of worship. But all over the world there are churches running weekly Taizé services, or groups, like those at Findhorn, who incorporate its devotional singing or praying style into their own spiritual practice. Brother Roger made reconciliation his life work, mainly concentrating on reconciling Catholic and Protestant Christians. At Findhorn this energy of reconciliation is continued for all faiths and beliefs.
Brother Roger first started the Taizé community in 1940 as a sanctuary for wartime refugees, including Jews and later German POWs. He only prayed alone in his room or the nearby woods, not wanting to pressurise non-Christian guests. Roger and some Christian friends took monastic vows in 1949, and within years Taizé had become a magnet for young travellers and still hosts thousands of young people.
Today, the Taizé Community is made up of over 100 brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from more than 25 nations. By its very existence, the community is thus a concrete sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and separated peoples. The brothers earn their living by their work. They do not accept donations. In the same way, if a brother inherits something from his family, it is given by the community to the very poor.
Our thoughts, condolences and prayers go to all in the Taizé community at this time of their loss. Brother Roger was, by all accounts, a remarkable man and his memory will live on with every Taizé group that meets to sing together.