Taizé Prayer is a distinctive style of meditative prayer developed by an ecumenical community of monks in rural France. This quiet, moving reflective prayer combines elements of the Church's traditional Liturgy of the Hours with elements of contemplative meditation. A typical Taizé prayer service incorporates periods of silence with meditative readings from Scripture, prayers of praise and intercession, and the frequent repetition of simple, contemporary chants based on the Psalms or other parts of Scripture. Short songs or chants, repeated over and over, create a meditative environment and express basic realities of faith which can be easily grasped by the mind and the heart. The result is to gradually move prayer from the head to the heart.
Although the original Taizé format borrowed much from a wide variety of international languages and traditions, much of its music was created particularly for the community by noted liturgical musicians like Jacques Berthier and Joseph Gelineau.
Taizé Prayer is widely practiced today in student centers and retreat houses, but is also growing in popularity in parish churches and local congregations throughout the world.
The Taizé Community describes the power of its unique musical style in this way:
As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together and to remain together in attentive waiting on God, without having to fix the length of time too exactly....
These songs also sustain personal prayer. Through them, little by little, our being finds an inner unity in God. They can continue in the silence of our hearts when we are at work, speaking with others or resting. In this way prayer and daily life are united. They allow us to keep on praying even when we are unaware of it, in the silence of our hearts.
Taizé is an ecumenical monastic community located in the Burgundy region of east-central France.
It was founded in 1940 by Roger Schutz a 25 year old Swiss layman from the Reformed tradition, who was inspired by the Gospel ideals of reconciliation and fraternity. Schultz's goal was to create what he called "a parable of community," where kindness of heart and simplicity would be at the center of daily living and an example of unity bridging religious, social and political divisions.
Brother Roger's vision for the community combined the traditional monastic order of prayer, work and poverty with an explicit commitment to peace and justice. Members of the community take vows of poverty and celibacy. The community is totally self-supporting and accepts no donations. The money which members occasionally inherit from family members is turned over the the poor. Since 1951, small "fraternities" of brothers have lived among the poor in India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Algeria, Brazil, Kenya, Senegal, and New York City.
Today this small group of brothers living in a remote French village has over 100 Catholic and Protestant monks drawn from 30 countries around the world. It is led today by Brother Alois, a German-born Catholic, who was appointed by Brother Roger before his death in 2005.
Over the years the community has become a popular destination for spiritual seekers. It is estimated that over 100,000 young pilgrims from around the world visit Taizé each year.
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