Friday, July 12, 2013

The Teaching of Taizé

Why are the young people leaving the churches? is a question many are now beginning to ask. The problem being addressed is not solely a Catholic or a Protestant concern but one common to all beliefs. The young are obviously not finding what they are looking for among the present religious establishments. The desk column of the Catholic Times attempts to find an answer by introducing us to the Taizé Movement.

Taizé, a little village in France, is home to a community of brothers who hold everything in common and live a simple life as celibates. Brother Roger, born in Switzerland, founded the community in 1940. Three times a day they gather together for prayer, which is the center of their communal life. Each Sunday thousands of young people come for prayer, reflection and sharing; and each year over 100 thousand visitors, mostly young people, make the trip to Taizé from all over the world.

When the young join the community for short periods of time, they do what the brothers do: pray three times a day and join in the work of the community. It's a very simple life and yet visitors from all over the world are motivated to leave home and share this simple lifestyle. 

To those who leave the churches in Korea  this kind of thinking is foreign to them, says columnist, and she wonders why this is the  case. She found the reason by reading the book The Community Called Taizé. The author asked many of those at Taizé why they came. Most said they had the feeling of being accepted by the community of brothers. Race and religion had nothing to do with being accepted; it was the first time they had experienced this kind of acceptance. Moreover, the brothers of the community showed great trust in them, they said, allowing them to make their own plans for service and work, which gave them an unexpected sense of freedom.

The columnist quotes from a news account from a State-side newspaper on the results of a questionnaire that asked the young why they had left their churches. The answers were not what we would have expected. Many of them explained that it was the inability of the churches to satisfy their thirst for the spiritual. The messages given by the churches were not clear, they said, and their answers to the problems of life were superficial. "The young are looking for faith and are offered only entertainment" was a typical view of the problem. Another put it this way, "If you really believe that the church can change for the better the behavior of others, why is this not more readily seen in the behavior of Christians?"

She concludes with the observation that the questionnaire was for the young in the United States, but that it also had a great deal to teach us. Those who have authority in the Church and the older generation should take a hint from what has been accomplished at Taizé, she advised, and from the thinking of many of the young who have left the churches.

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