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Taizé prayer filled with silence

Posted By December 27, 2012 | 12:53 pm | Lead Story #3
web-MaryMullaney

Photo by Tanya Connor

Mary Mullaney lights candle on Advent wreath at Dec. 7 service.

 

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – “I just thought it was beautiful. I think the simplicity of the music – it had an ancient quality to it that felt comforting for me. I also found that the music with the silence between it gave a nice opportunity to reflect and pray. So I really recommend it. It’s a nice respite.”
Mauro DePasquale, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish, was talking about the Advent Taizé prayer service in the Ascension church building on Vernon Street, now part of St. John Parish.
Held Dec. 7, this was the fourth of such services there. They are scheduled for 8-9 p.m. the first Friday of each month. Christmastide evening prayer is Jan. 4.
The service, with the reading of Scripture and the repeated singing of simple phrases, interspersed with silence, is modeled on services of the ecumenical community in Taizé, France.
The community was founded by Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, in 1940. After World War II, his vision was for the monastery to be a place of welcome and reconciliation, especially between Christians of different denominations. The community now has about 100 monks from 25 different countries; about half are Catholic and half are Protestant.
Mary Mullaney, who is involved at St. John’s, said she and Richard Monroe, music coordinator and choir director at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, came up with the idea of holding the services at Ascension.
“We were both looking for something to supplement usual Catholic worship,” she said.
She said she attended a Taizé service with her sister near Chicago last March, and in May went to one at DePaul University.
The latter was modeled on “the pilgrimage of trust,” which, since 1978, has brought people 16-35 years old together throughout Europe Dec. 28-Jan. 2  for sharing, discussions and prayer.
In late May, at DePaul University, the Taizé brothers began a similar prayer experience for young adults in the United States. In 2013 the Memorial Day weekend pilgrimage will be held in Red Shirt, South Dakota, near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The European pilgrimage, expected to draw some 30,000 young adults, begins today in Rome. Pope Benedict XVI is to join them for Taizé prayer tomorrow in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Ms. Mullaney’s daughter Flannery Kearney, who helps with the music at the services at Ascension, said she stayed at the Taizé community in France in 2008.
“They have a program that’s pretty simple,” she said. “Normally in the summer they have thousands of young people, mostly Europeans.” As she was there at Christmas time, there were only about 15 people in her group, she said.
“We shared breakfast, lunch and dinner together,” she said. “We did work around the community, cleaning bathrooms” and washing up after meals.They prayed together a few times a day and a Taizé brother led a daily Bible study. The chapel was always open for private prayer.
“I was studying abroad,” Ms. Kearney said. “I wasn’t coming home for Christmas.” She said at first she found it intimidating as a 19-year-old to go to a place “in the middle of nowhere.”
“But when I got there, there was so much warmth, such a calm, peaceful time with simple prayer,” she said. She said it was the first time she got to experience herself in prayer not surrounded by people her age.
“I think seeing all these people from all over the world, eating with them, doing basic tasks with them, praying, brought me to a new sense of independence in my own faith, sharing it with other people from different backgrounds,” she said.
James McCluskey, another musician helping with the Dec. 7 service, said he was in Europe in the 1980s and played in the band at a Taizé gathering in London.
“You get on the subway and the kids would start singing,” , he said. He said the service here brought back wonderful memories.
– Catholic News Service contributed to this report.