Young pilgrims find the simple life in France

DEEP in the heart of rural France lies an extraordinary monastic community which has become a place of pilgrimage for young people from all over the world.

At Easter and in the height of summer, thousands of young people descend on the Taizé Community to join the 100-odd brothers from Catholic and Protestant traditions who are based in this picturesque corner of Burgundy, themselves originating from some 30 countries around the world.

Young pilgrims are encouraged to seek communion with God through community prayer, song, silence, personal reflection and sharing, living in a spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation, with the distinctive music of Taizé providing a backdrop to their prayers.

At Christmas time, there are far fewer guests, but those still on site regularly gather in the community’s church – designed by Taizé member and architect Brother Denis and inaugurated in 1962 – for services featuring songs, psalms and chants in many languages, emphasising simple repeated scriptural phrases.

Founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, a reformed protestant, Taizé is best known for its youth work and year-round programme of small group discussions and simple life of prayer, song and communal living.

However over the years the brothers have lived in small fraternities among the poor in different parts of the world from India to Brazil, Kenya and Senegal. Young pilgrims are also encouraged to spread the word when they return to their local churches – and the community has also mounted a series of international gatherings of young adults.

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