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Finding peace of mind through the spirit of Taize

THE spirit of Taize, the meditative style of prayer which has touched the hearts of Christians around the world, is set to be revived in Brisbane.

Br Ghislain, who inspired many with Taize prayer when he visited Brisbane three years ago, is returning this week.

He will lead an evening of Taize prayer in St Stephen’s Cathedral on September 25.

Co-ordinator of Brisbane archdiocese’s Office for Spiritual Renewal, Mike Humphrys, said the evening would be an opportunity for those unfamiliar with this style of meditation to experience the gentle rhythms of the chants leading them into quietness and reflection.

‘It is a form of prayer based upon the Scriptures that seeks to promote reconciliation, healing and peace and is open to all,’ he said.

‘Youth, in particular, value its simplicity and stillness. This is an ecumenical activity where together Christians can pray and intercede for the needs of the world.’

During Br Ghislain’s last Brisbane visit, more than 300 people attended an ecumenical evening of prayer with him at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, singing the meditative chants, reflecting on the Scriptures and praying for the needs of the world.

Br Ghislain, a member of the ecumenical community based in Taize in south-eastern France, is responsible for spreading the Taize message in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Taize community has more than 100 brothers, both Catholic and Protestant, from more than 25 countries, who live vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience. They live with the poor, and have spread to Asia, Africa and South America.

Taize draws young pilgrims from around the world.

Its Web site says people aged from 17 to 30 started visiting the community from the end of the 1950s.

Some months, more than 5000 people arrive from 75 different countries.

‘They are searching for meaning in their lives, in communion with many others,’ the Web site says. ‘By going to the wellsprings of trust in God, they set out on an inner pilgrimage that encourages them to build relationships of trust among human beings.’

They continue their spiritual adventure when they return home ‘in their concern to deepen an inner life and by their readiness to take on responsibilities in order to make the world a better place to live in’.

Taize has also become important to thousands of people who have never even been there. They are drawn spiritually through its style of prayer, including its simple chants.

And what is it about Taize prayer that attracts young people in particular?

Co-ordinator of the archdiocese’s Parish Youth Ministry Services, Michael Hart said: ‘It’s a contemplative style of prayer, and many young people find the simplicity of it is the thing that appeals to them.

‘And it’s getting them in touch with the tradition in terms of the richness of the chants.

‘It provides an opportunity to step out of the hectic pace of life.’

Oblate Father Bill Ousley of Burpengary parish, who leads Taize prayer in his parish, says it is a great prayer of peace.

‘Taize is very gentle. It helps people to quieten down and unplug from everything else they’re tied up in.

‘You just unplug your mind from all types of preoccupations and you just focus on Christ. You open your heart to Christ.

‘It gives people a chance to pray from the heart.’

Fr Ousley, with parish priest Oblate Father Lewy Keelty, introduced Taize prayer to Burpengary last year and they incorporate adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

‘We follow a simple format, with chant at the start when I am exposing the Blessed Sacrament. And we have long periods of silent prayer, then intercessions.’

Taize is not just for the young, as 75 year-old Andy Thomson testifies.

He was hooked on Taize prayer after hearing the beauty of the chants on tape, and after attending an ecumenical Taize prayer evening with Br Ghislain in Toowoomba.

For the past 14 months, Andy and his wife Patricia have been hosting a Taize prayer group in their home at Margate on the Redcliffe Peninsula.

Among the 12 people who regularly attend, most are aged over 60, but the Thomsons are keen to introduce young people to Taize, so they have started a lunchtime group at Southern Cross College.

Andy said Taize prayer offered a quiet, contemplative way of bringing people closer to God.

Gathered in a candlelit room, they follow the format of having Scripture readings interspersed with chants, a period of silence, then prayers of petition.

The evening of Taize prayer with Br Ghislain is being sponsored by the Christian Meditation Community, the Office for Spiritual Renewal and the Vocation Office of Brisbane archdiocese.

He will also conduct a similar evening at New Farm Uniting Church on September 24 from 7pm-8.30pm.

For more details about the Taize evening at the cathedral, phone Mike Humphrys on (07) 3224 3340 or Luke Plant on (0405) 820 023.

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