Br. Roger of Taize – Rest in Peace

When I was young, at a time when Europe was torn apart by so many conflicts, I kept on asking myself: Why all these confrontations?  Why do so many people, even Christians, condemn one another out of hand?  And I wondered:  is there, on this earth, a way of reaching complete understanding of others?  Then came a day – I can still remember the date, and I could describe the place:  the subdued light of a late summer evening, darkness settling over the countryside — a day when I made a decision.  I said to myself, if this way does exist, begin with yourself and resolve to understand every person fully.  That day, I was certain the vow I had made was for life.  It involved nothing less than returning again and again, my whole life long, to this irrevocable decision:  seek to understand all, rather than to be understood.

Br. Roger of Taize 1915-2005
On August 16, during a prayer service at Taize,
Brother Roger is fatally wounded by a mentally unbalanced assailant.
  He dies at the age of ninety.

Patriarch Athenagoras

This day, Patriarch Athenagoras enters the life of eternity.  With him we lose a man of the same prophetic vein as John XXIII.  He had no lack of trials in his final years…  Nevertheless, he was always optimistic.  “In the evening, when I retire to my room,” he told me once, “I close the door on all my cares, and I say:  Tomorrow!”

Br. Roger of Taize, written July 7, 1972

Advent waiting

A brother brings into my room a reproduction of one of the most ancient pictures in the catacombs:  a man praying with both hands raised.  This gesture comes down to us from the dawn of time, from humankind’s first beginnings.  A symbol of expectant waiting.  Looking at it, I tell myself:  like every Christian, you are first and foremost a man who waits expectantly, and prayer is one of the clearest symbols of this.

Br. Roger of Taize

Leo Tolstoy (8-28-1828 to 11-20-1910)

I admit that I am guilty, and vile, and worthy of contempt for failing to carry out Christ’s teaching.  At the same time, not to justify myself, but simply to explain my lack of consistency, I say:  “Look at my life now and compare it to my former life.  You will see that I am trying to live out the truth I proclaim.  True, I have not fulfilled a fraction of Christ’s will, and I am ashamed of this, but I have failed to fulfill his Word not because I do not wish to, but because I have been unable to.  Teach me how to escape from the net of temptations that surrounds me, help me, and I will fulfill Christ’s teachings.  Even without help I wish and hope to fulfill them.  Attack me, I do this myself, but attach me rather than the path I follow, which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies.  If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way simply because I am staggering side to side?

“If it is not the right way, then show me another way.  But if I stagger and lose the way, you must help me and keep me on the true path, just as I am ready to support you.  Do not mislead me, do not be glad that I have gotten lost, do not gleefully shout, ‘Look at him!  He said he was going home, but there he is crawling into a bog!’  No, do not gloat, but give me your help and support.  For you are not devils in the swamp, but people like me who are seeking the way home.  For I am alone and it cannot be that I wish to go into the swamp.  Help me, my heart is breaking in despair that we have all lost our way.”

So this is my attitude to Christ’s teaching.  I try to fulfill it with all I’ve got.  I not only repent for each failure, but also beg for help in fulfilling it.  And I joyfully welcome anyone who, like me, is looking for the path; and I listen to him.