You should trust God
Anna Artymiak talks to Brother Alois, the new superior of the Taizé community.
– The last European Young Adults Taizé Meeting was special. It was held in Geneva, the city connected with Brother Roger and the Taizé Community...
– Brother Roger left Geneva for France to look for some place where he could found a community. But France was under the German occupation and he had to live with his brothers in Geneva for two years. He returned to Taizé in 1944. So the Young Adults Meeting in Geneva was very important to us; it was a return to our thriving beginnings.
– Did Brother Roger recollect Geneva?
– Rather rarely. Brother Roger never spoke a lot about his past, about the history of the community. He always looked to the future. Naturally, it was not easy for him because he founded a monastic community. He was born in a Protestant family, and monastic life in Protestantism was seen as contrary to the Gospel. When he began his theological studies he wrote his master’s dissertation about the relationship between monasticism and the Gospel. However, such a theological topic was not well received in those days. Today we rejoice at the possibility of coming here and we are glad that we received invitations from various Churches. Many good things have happened here.
– The brothers continue the ‘Pilgrimage of trust on earth’ through other continents, often in countries inhabited by Christian minorities. What message do you take to such places?
– Such a situation happened in Calcutta, India, last year. For the local young adults it was very important to experience a large community since 7,000 people arrived in Calcutta. For many of them it was the first meeting of its kind. At the same time we aimed at encouraging Christians in India who think that confessing their faith is difficult. In Bolivia where we have also visited most people are Catholic. But there are very serious divisions, social and economic ones, in this country. And now we go to Kenya, Africa. During the meeting in Geneva we learnt that there had been many tensions in Kenya and many people had died. So we do not know whether we will be able to take our message there.
– The meetings are called ‘Pilgrimages of trust on earth.’ What does trust mean in the contemporary world? What does it mean for Christians?
– It means taking risk because trusting God is no an easy message. For Brother Roger it also meant inner struggle. We can see so much suffering and injustice around us. This is one of the reasons why many people question the existence of God. And we have no easy answers. But we must take the risk of trusting God’s goodness in spite of the difficulties. And we should use fewer words and make our lives give better witness. This is what trusting God is.
– Young people come to Taizé to pray, live and work together. What do the Brothers want to tell them?
– We want young people to follow their freedom. We do not have any special message. We want them to pursue the sources of the soul and faith, and we want them to experience the universality of the Church because we cannot understand Christ without the Church. But we do send these young adults to their homes saying, ‘Now go to your Churches, your parishes and continue this experience. Do not think only of Taizé but remain in your Churches, countries and environments.
– What are the unique elements in the Taizé Community? What made you enter this Community?
– I got to know Taizé; I got to know the brothers. I got to know Brother Roger and I thought that Lord God called me to that community. But we must be also thankful for the richness of all communities in the Church. Thanks to my travelling to the different continents I have appreciated the missionary character of all communities. So many European missionaries have reached other continents to do wonderful work: in Taiwan, Cambodia, and Bolivia. They have often lived with the poorest and undertaken the most difficult tasks. They have helped people find hope in their lives. We should appreciate these communities a lot. There are so many differences in these communities and let us thank God for this variety.
– What is the spirituality of the Brothers? What does your daily life look like?
– We are a small community. Twenty brothers live in small groups, in small fraternities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the rest live in Taizé. We come from 30 different nations. We come from different Churches and we want to live reconciled with one another although we realise that we are weak and imperfect. But we want to be a small sign of reconciliation through common prayer three times a day and earning our living – we do not live on donations but we do many jobs and sell our products. This is how we earn our living. This is what our lives look like.
– Could you share your memories from Poland? What struck you most?
– We can never forget our meetings that were held in Poland. The first meeting was in Wroclaw in 1989. It was the first meeting to which young people from the West and the East could come. The welcome was marvellous! We thought that it was important to people, especially those from Western Europe. They could discover a vivid tradition of faith, pilgriming, confidence in the communion of saints and dedication to Virgin Mary. We cannot only describe it but young people must experience it themselves. The three meetings, two in Wroclaw and one in Warsaw, were the occasions to get to know that tradition.
– What are your memories of the meeting with the Holy Father John Paul II?
– The fact that John Paul II visited Taizé reminds us of the event that is like the source for our community because that visit gave us a true place in the Church. And the Pope strengthened us so much.... In the 1970s Brother Roger was in Piekary, the site where mines make pilgrimages to and Cardinal Wojtyla used to go there every year, so Brother Roger met the future Pope there. And they understood each other very well. Cardinal Wojtyla had also visited Taizé before he became the Pope. And then Brother Roger visited the Pope in Rome. It was wonderful to see them sitting at the table. It was like an icon of reconciliation!
– Finally, could you say a few words to the Polish people who are looking forward to your visit in Poznan in April and to those who impatiently wait for the European Young Adults Meeting in Poznan.
– I am happy that I can go to Poznan! I would like to tell Polish young people that they should appreciate the richness of their tradition! Today it is very important to personally discover your faith. Although faith does not only mean following the tradition but you have so many valuable customs in Poland! You will develop your faith if you re-discover the deeper sense and value of the folk tradition in the Church, which is the communion of the Church that has always united the Polish nation. Together with your great dedication to Virgin Mary!
Dear young people, to bring to the world the joyful news of the Gospel, the Church needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. The Taizé Community is known for the trust always full of hope that it places in the young. It is above all because I share this trust and this hope that I have come here this morning.
(John Paul II, Taizé, 5 October 1986)