God speaks in the silence

Taize prayer unites Christians seeking to deepen their devotion to Christ

Taize-style prayer involves long periods of silence between pslams, songs and prayer said Daniel Grieg, who led a Taize session Dec. 12 at St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Rochester Hills. Rather than using silence as a means of “emptying” or “centering” oneself, the silence in Taize prayer is used to meditate and pray for openness to God’s presence.

Taize-style prayer involves long periods of silence between pslams, songs and prayer said Daniel Grieg, who led a Taize session Dec. 12 at St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Rochester Hills. Rather than using silence as a means of “emptying” or “centering” oneself, the silence in Taize prayer is used to meditate and pray for openness to God’s presence.

Metro Detroit — Settling down into the “rhythm of the monastery” is how Fr. Joseph Dailey, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Lake Orion, describes Taize prayer.

“You need to slow people down in order to hear the word of God,” said Fr. Dailey of the monastic style of prayer, which is named after the village of Taize near Lyon, France, and is pronounced “teh-zay.”

Taize prayer was brought about by an ecumenical brotherhood of Catholics and Protestants founded during World War II by a monk called Brother Roger, who died in 2005. They established their community in the village of Taize, thereby receiving their name.

“Brother Roger felt that in World War II there had been so much alienation that he wanted to have a place of reconciliation,” said Fr. Dailey. “If we could form a community of Catholics and Protestants, this could be a parable of communion.”

Fr. Dailey said that as in all monastic traditions, the Taize community created a certain style of chanting their prayers. He explained that Taize style is a blend between traditional Catholic and Protestant musical structures, with Catholic plainsong chant, and Protestant four-part harmony.

“The refrain ‘Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,’ is a Taize chant,” Fr. Dailey said.

 

Scripture, song and silence

Daniel Greig, director of music ministry at St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Rochester Hills, described a Taize prayer service as being an “ecumenical prayer service incorporating Scripture, song and silence.”

He said the structure of the prayer services vary according to those who lead it, but, “they contain one very long period of silence — sometimes 10 minutes or more.”

“An extended period of silence is also a major feature of the prayer service, and following the silence, there are petitions offered, more singing, and usually the Lord’s Prayer is received,” said Greig, who leads Taize prayer at St. Mary’s.

Rob Abbott, director of liturgical music at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish in Royal Oak, said he first learned about Taize prayer while taking a church music survey class as an undergraduate student.

From that point on, he has regularly employed it in liturgical services.

When leading monthly Taize prayer at Shrine, Abbott sees regulars who live locally as well as people who might drive more than 30 minutes to attend.

“This number includes a significant portion of people from other Catholic communities and even other non-Catholic faith communities,” Abbott said. “Our religious formation office has notified us that some of their new initiates have cited our Taize services as their first meaningful contact with our church, so these services are both ecumenical and evangelistic.”

 

Candes burn along the walls of the St. Mary of the Hills Chapel as music director Daniel Grieg leads the congregation in song.

Candes burn along the walls of the St. Mary of the Hills Chapel as music director Daniel Grieg leads the congregation in song.

Addressing the questions

While it is rare for a religious community to have both Protestants and Catholics, Fr. Dailey noted that a number of popes — including Pope Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II — have visited Taize and spoken favorably of their presence, and encouraged the brothers in their mission.

In fact, he said, when the Taize community was first starting out and requested the use of an empty church for prayer, the bishop of Lyon didn’t think highly of the idea.

“The apostolic nuncio heard about this and gave them permission,” he said. “His name was Angelo Roncalli, and he later became Pope John XXIII.”

Pope Benedict XVI, upon the community’s 70th anniversary, sent a letter of congratulation to the current leader of the community, Brother Alois, and encouraged the Taize brothers to follow their founder’s mission “in our march towards unity.”

Greig acknowledged that some might worry Taize prayer sounds “New Age.”

“Silent meditation is a big part of this type of prayer, and there are parallels in other non-Christian religions such as Buddhism,” he said. “However, the difference lies in the intention of the prayer. Taize prayer is not about totally emptying yourself, but it is about being open to the presence of God.”

He explained that in singing and reading the Scriptures and reflecting on one’s life, “we are working to deepen our relationship with God.”

 

Peace amid life’s turmoil

Abbott said any time people gather to pray and sing, it is “an opportunity to practice the complete faith in God that comes from being rooted in the present moment and united with one another in common intention as children of God.”

He added that the physical act of singing also has therapeutic benefits that refresh participants to be able to go out into the world and live the Gospel.

“Our culture seems to be infused with anxiety,” he said. “Taking an hour to simply pray and sing together in peace, stillness and simplicity can be a powerful antidote to that fearfulness, and a hopeful reminder that the perfect love of God about which we sing is what casts out all fear.”

 

Taize prayer near you

There are several Taize prayer opportunities around the Archdiocese of Detroit:

•Taize at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish, Royal Oak, is held each third Monday at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Rob Abbott, director of liturgical music at (248) 541-4122 or [email protected]

•Taize at Christ the Redeemer Parish, Lake Orion, is held at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month, as well as every Tuesday of Lent and Holy Week. Visit CtRedeemer.org for more information.

•Taize at St. Mary of the Hills Parish is offered once during Advent, once during wintertime, and on Holy Thursday during eucharistic adoration at 10 p.m. St. Mary’s also offers Taize-style Stations of the Cross during Lent, going through the scriptural stations, but incorporating the music and silence of Taize prayer. The parish’s next Taize service is Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the chapel.