Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 5, 2007
The mystery of Christ guided Bro. Emile to the Taizé path
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Curiosity about Christ led a young Ontario man to join the Taiz‚ community 31 years ago.
Since then, Brother Emile, 50, has been leading hundreds of young people from around the world to Christ. In Edmonton Feb. 23-25 he led a Taize weekend for about 60 people, most of them young adults from 18-35, at St. Matthias Anglican Church in the city's Westend.
Born the 12th of 13 children in Timmins, Ont. Emile grew up in a devout Catholic family. But as a young teenager Emile didn't see the relevance of faith anymore and stopped going to Church.
The mysterious call
He kept away from his faith until age 17, when he received a mysterious call to join a Taiz‚ weekend in his hometown.
"I went out of curiosity, to see what it was," he recalled. Something very important happened that weekend that kept Emile's attention. "I discovered that Christ had risen from the dead and I wanted to know more about it."
He attended other Taiz‚ gatherings in North America, including one in New York. And with a group of Canadians, he travelled to the tiny community of Taiz‚ in France in 1974 and spent a week with the Taiz‚ brothers, an international, ecumenical community founded by Brother Roger Schutz in 1940.
He liked the experience so much that the following year, after completing high school, he went back to Taize for a year to discern whether he had what it takes to be a religious person.
"I wanted to take one year to think about what it means to live the Gospel reading," he explained. "We read in the Gospel, 'Come, follow me.' They left everything - it seems so easy. So I wanted to know what that meant concretely in everyday life."
After three months, Emile began to realize that there was more at Taiz‚ than just a place to think about what to do. "I thought there was an answer to my question (right) under my eyes and so I started to be open to the idea of a call."
After a year, Emile became a brother in the community and three years later, at age 20, he made his final vows as a Taiz‚ brother. He completed all his studies at Taiz‚ and the Catholic University of Lyons.
Today, he is one of more than 100 Taiz‚ brothers, Catholics and Protestants, from more than 25 nations. The brothers are committed for life to material and spiritual sharing, to celibacy and to a great simplicity of life.
About 70 of the brothers live in Taize and the rest live among the poor in different parts of the world, including Brazil, Senegal, Bangladesh.
Emile lives in Taiz‚ where he shares the Gospel with some of the 100,000 pilgrims who come there for a week every year to deepen their faith, search for Christ and learn how to live the Gospel concretely in today's world. Most of the visitors are young adults from 18 to 35.
Starting in March, there will be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people at Taiz‚ spending the week with the brothers. During Easter that number increases to 5,000 or 6,000, all of whom are housed in guesthouses and tents. The brothers cook for them and feed them three times a day.
"We, as brothers, try to welcome (these visitors), to create a space where they can search in prayer, talking with one another, talking with some of the brothers," Emile said. "My work is often to talk about the Bible, to listen to young people, to help them discover a deeper personal faith."
Taize is not a movement. "We don't have members other than the brothers, so once visitors finish their week we encourage them to go back to their church, to go back to their parish," Emile explained.
Deepen their faith
The brothers also pray with the visitors in the Taiz‚ church that can hold 6,000 people. "We help them deepen their life of faith and prayer so prayer is three times each day."
Emile said a desire to share their prayer life with the visitors has led the Taiz‚ brothers to develop chants and songs that are short and easy to learn.
"The second thing we like to do is to try to help our visitors to learn to live their faith in society, not to run away from the challenges, not to run away from the difficulties of our world but to try to find in faith something that gives them hope and energy to tackle the problems that exist," Emile explained.
"So many young people studying medicine or economics realize that their studies, what they learn (in university), can help and can be a part of their Christian life. We help them realize they don't have to escape from reality. They can find in faith the hope that gives them the strength to be present in a creative way where there are problems."
What keeps Emile going? "The same, I think - the possibility to grow in a life as a follower of Christ."