Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Roger at Rest

Lest we forget, Frere Roger's funeral was held earlier today. A crowd estimated by the community at Taize of between 10 and 12,000 people attended, with the overflow standing outside the Church of the Reconciliation and following the liturgy via jumbotron.

In the name of Benedict XVI, Kasper presided, and the four other Taize members who are priests concelebrated with him. Another cardinal, the impressive Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, was present, as were several prelates of every denomination, the French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and the German President Horst Kohler, who greeted the Pope in memorably moving words last week.

Frere Alois, the German Catholic who is the new superior at Taize, gave a succinct, moving introduction to the liturgy.

Often Brother Roger repeated these words: “God is united to every human being without exception.” This confidence carried and will carry the ecumenical vocation of our little community. With the whole Church we want to believe this reality and to do everything to express it with our life. Brother Roger had all human beings in his heart, from every nation, in particular young people and children. We want to continue in his steps.

And the other conviction: Brother Roger constantly returned to that Gospel value which is kind-heartedness. It is not an empty word, but a force able to transform the world, because, through it, God is at work. In the face of evil, kind-heartedness is a vulnerable reality. But the life which Brother Roger gave is a pledge that God’s peace will have the last word for each person on our earth.

Since Brother Roger did not want many words to be spoken in churches, I would like to conclude by praying:

God of goodness, we entrust to your forgiveness Luminita Solcan who, in an act of sickness, put an end to the life of Brother Roger. With Christ on the cross we say to you: Father, forgive her, she does not know what she did.

Holy Spirit, we pray for the people of Romania and for the young Romanians whom we love so much in Taizé.

Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who went before us, and who can remain so close to us. We entrust into your hands our brother Roger. Already he is contemplating the invisible. In his steps, you prepare us to welcome a ray of your brightness.

Kasper himself, in words which carried the authority of the Pope's personal representative not just for reasons of protocol but toto corde as well, referred to Roger as "one of the great... spiritual fathers of our time."

The first split that hurt Brother Roger concerned the division between Christians. From his youth he united himself to Christ’s prayer “that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21). He wanted to live the faith of the undivided Church, without breaking with anybody, in a great brotherhood. He believed above all in the ecumenism of holiness, that holiness which changes the depths of the soul and which alone leads towards full communion. Yes, the springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taizé, in this Church of Reconciliation, where members of different Christian traditions meet in respect and dialogue, in prayer and fraternal sharing, inspired by the presence and the example of Brother Roger.

The second split that hurt Brother Roger concerned the division between peoples and nations, between rich and poor countries. Every form of injustice or neglect made him very sad. He wanted some Brothers of the community to go and live in several countries with the poorest of the poor, in small groups, as a simple sign of love and communion. This simple witness was very dear to him, like a prophecy in miniature of the Kingdom of God, like a seed of friendship and reconciliation in a world plagued by indifference. For Brother Roger, there was complete continuity between the love of God and the love of human beings, between prayer and commitment, between action and contemplation.

Brother Roger was a contemplative, a man of prayer, whom the Lord had called to the silence and solitude of the monastic life. And yet he wanted to open his monk’s heart and the Taizé Community to young people from throughout the world, to their searching and their hope, to their joy and their suffering, to their faith- and life-journeys. Here are the final lines of his last book, published one month ago: “For my part, I would go to the ends of the earth, if I could, to tell again and again of my trust in the younger generations.” More than a guide or a spiritual master, Brother Roger was for many a kind of father, a reflection of the eternal Father and of the universality of his love.

All in all, the words exude more love than I've seen from anything in a good while. No condemnation, no judgment, but wholehearted affection, fraternity, and forgiveness.

Like nearby Cluny, there's something at Taize that sure needs spreading.... To read these meditations is a good way to start.




Blogger Matthew Lickona said...

I don't wish to upset the sweetness of the tone here overmuch, but I'm curious - is the post title a play on Updike's Rabbit at Rest? If so - very clever, opposing Brother Roger's peace with the unrest of Rabbit Angstrom.

24/8/05 12:33  

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