Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Taize? What'd I Say?

Consider this an open invitation for comments.

Is anyone familiar with Taize music? A (Protestant) friend is deeply committed to Taize services and recently loaned me a few CDs. Being a sport, I listened -- and I'm still not sure exactly what I heard. Some of it was similar to Byzantine chant. Some of the words came from historic Gregorian chants (Veni Sancte Spiritus). Some of it seemed like a less happy-clappy form of Praise and Worship music, literally repeating the same riffs and words over-and-over again for 10 minutes at a time. Occasionally, as I was about to slip into a coma, I would hear a Latin phrase or traditional liturgical chant that perked my ears up, only to see it changed in some way for its audience. Particularly unedifying was a track that was essentially the Byzantine litany translated into ecumenical-sounding ICEL English and chanted by a woman (!).

I'm told its practitioners are mostly Protestants, even evangelicals, who are considered conservatives or trad-trogs in their parishes (but not "trad" enough to know the litany is only chanted by a man in orders?).


It appears to be quite a mish-mash of materials from varying backgrounds. Musically, it is either a dumbing down of the High Church tradition or an attempt to dignify low church/evangelical worship.

IIRC, the founder of the monastery was murdered some time ago by a putatively insane Romanian woman (who was, in all likelihood, baptized Orthodox; Lord have mercy). I'm sorry to see anyone murdered, much less a man who has dedicated his life to prayer. (I'm given to understand, despite his monastic profession, that he was a Protestant.)

Does any one of my highly educated readers have anything that might be instructive?


Blogger Fr Matthew said...


I think you have the basic story of Br. Roger's death correct. The community's information can be found here:

I know it has become the hip thing here in the States for various denominations (including cooler ECUSA parishes) to offer special "Taize services" that employ this music.

8:51 PM  
Blogger gadflea said...

I will confirm that ECUSA is where I've heard of it domestically.

I believe I read that John Paul spoke sympathetically about the brothers. My understanding is that the founder was profoundly moved by the events of the 2nd World War, and that this was connected to his monastic profession (and ecumenism.) In addition, it is said that Taize is appealing to youth, so that would be another thing dear to JP's heart.

I believe the brothers have a Rule of Prayer that is a modernization / simplification of the Western Rite. That said, anything that introduces modern youth to the discipline of fixed prayer can't be all bad...

8:52 AM  
Blogger Jean-Michel said...

Seen from Europe, with some experience in Taize prayer scheme, what I read from "gadflea" is correct.
The mix of music can sound strange if you are used to some forms of eastern or western orthodox worship.
For the poor RC people here, they have the choice of extatic charisbiduls (I have been there, too), arianised hymns almost sold by force to French parishes by synods sold to business of post-christian companies, or Taize.
Choice is easy..

Fr. Roger Schutz was indeed monk, but it's not abnormal. Even if less known, they are monks and even nuns among protestants. I have pictures of covents in Switzerland, f.i.

Taize is so successfull that since years now, Vatican has done all its best to take them over. And now it can be considered as almost "uniatised", as the new head of the community is an RC man.

Memory eternal for the man of peace, fr. Roger, founder of a community of peace, helper of Jews during WWII.


1:22 PM  
Blogger Deacon Jim said...

As far as I know, it is a community of professed brothers. Their prayer style is meditative. They use a lot of candles, repeated phraseology in music, and the San Damiano cross as a point of reflection.

The brothers are from many different Christian backgrounds. They live a sort of ecumenical unity. None are asked to give up their individual Church, but are to live together in peace and prayer.

I think the music is particularly popular among the youth because of its meditative style, its ease of singing, and that it is easy to memorize the words/tunes. They draw on what people know and simplify. There are many youth pilgrimages to Taize from Central/Eastern Europe. In the U.S. it’s more popular among the ‘free love’ generation (look, we all get along, believe in the spirit, sing cool meditative songs, and eat fruit and nuts – none of which is really what Taize is about, but so many create gods in their own image).

5:56 PM  
Blogger Ille said...

The woman that killed Frere Roger although Romanian, was not Orthodox, but Roman-Catholic.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Huw Raphael said...

We used to do a Taize service at St Gregory's Church in SF. It was, of all the services of very many types, perhaps the one service I'd have expected most of my (o)rthodox and (O)rthodox friends to have the least issue with. It was very prayerful, very orthodox. We were one of several parishes in the Bay Area that did Taize services - plus several other services in other denominations. Since the services never vary and are all on the same ordo (as I understand it) it was also very wonderful to know that on any given weeknight everyone in the tradition, regardless of denomination or (o)rthodoxy was doing the same thing.

I could well imagine a WR parish also having Taize services - especially youth focused - although I can also well imagine the absolute HORROR that would generate among the ultras.

12:53 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Thanks, Ille. I was just playing the percentages. Lord have mercy on her.

I should have more on Taize momentarily. Thanks; and keep the comments coming.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Inquisitor Generalis said...

Apparently, before the disastrous Second Vatican Council, the monks of Taize wanted to convert to Catholicism, but the Catholic Church told them not to, b/c they thought it would "look bad." At least that's what Abp. Lefebvre said.

11:50 PM  

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