Recently we realised we were less than an hour away from Taizé and Paray-le- Monial. These are two great centre of prayer which many Irish people travel from Ireland to visit. So we decided we should also visit them.
Taizé is a small village in a remote area up in the hills south west of Chalon. Bro Rodgers Schutz, a Swiss theologian founded an ecumenical centre there in 1940 in the middle of the Second World War. He picked this location as his mother who was French came from the area and it was in the then Free French Zone (part of France that the Nazis allowed the French to run themselves for three years).
He founded a community where Christians could come before the same God and live in peace and love. (Set up against the backdrop of the Second World War) Today it’s a large centre of prayer which attracts many young people to come to visit and pray. You can see that it developed over time and maybe as money became available as, except for the large church building, all the other buildings are low level timber framed structures spread ove r a large area. Taizé is a Christian ecumenical centre which attracts Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans but is seems quite closely aligned to the Catholic Church. (I had a look at the bible used in the church and it was an American Catholic authorised version) Taizé masses are now celebrated throughout the world. It is ironic that Bro Roger at 90 was killed at a service on 16th August 2005 in a knife attack by a disturbed young woman.
We arrived in Taizé as planned in time for midday prayers at 12.30 pm. It was a very simple ceremony with songs, some prayers and 10 minutes meditation. Nuala found the prayer service moving which was conducted in three languages French, English and German. There were about 40 Taizé Brothers and around 100 people, mostly young, present. A lot, considering it is wintertime.
We then drove on to Paray-le- Monial, stopping on the roadside for lunch. Paray-le- Monial is a holy town where devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus started as Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque a Visitation nun saw visions of the Heart of Jesus on the wall of the Convent Church between 1673 and 1676. In 1920 Margaret Mary was made a Saint. People have being coming on pilgrimage to Paray –le-Monial since the 1800’s. Pope John Paul 11 visited in 1986. The body of Margaret is preserved in a glass fronted coffin in the small convent church and people come here daily to pray to her.
An interesting quote from Wikipedia is that “In James Joyce’s short story Evelyn, part of his Dubliners a coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque is mentioned as part of the decorations of an Irish home at the turn of the 20th Century, testifying to her enduring popularity among Irish Catholics.
The town itself is well set up to cater for many tourists and is very pretty. As it is now December, there were few people around, which make it better for us.
We enjoyed our visit to both centres and it struck me that people go to great lengths so try to come in contact God, travelling hugh distances to get to places of prayer like Taizé or Paray –le-Monial and praying to God through intermediaries including Sister Margaret Mary, yet if they looked around they could find God right beside them.