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Taizé, France’s Pilgrimage for All

- Elisa Shaw

A few years ago, with several friends I count as fellow spiritual sojourners, we made our way from the US to France. This was my first pilgrimage, and it was to Taizé in eastern France. In this village there is a profound and beautiful spiritual community. We knew about this community, run by an ecumenical monastic order, because of the music they produced.

The worship of Taizé is reflective and moody in the most heart-pleasing way. It embodies the ecumenical, interdenominational nature of this community, where people from all kinds of religious backgrounds come together for prayer and worship. Not quite chanting, not quite singing, not quite hymns, and not quite the evangelical “praise music.” Contemplative, reverent, and deeply emotional.

This video is a glimpse into the worship of the community.

It was in this village that I met teenagers and young adults from all over seeking inner-peace, seeking hope, seeking a vibrant faith, seeking justice in this world, seeking God. Hundreds of people travel to this community weekly from throughout Europe and the world. And the music is constant, making its way into the free time, into the moments without programming. Somebody would pop up with a guitar and strum “O Lord, hear my prayer”, a classic, and people around would just begin singing along.

Reverence made its way into every part of my life for that week in France.

I couldn’t stop thinking about God’s love, about the preciousness of every human in that village, and that followed me as I left France and this place where unity and love is nurtured, constantly. I’ve found myself changed. I cannot say the sanctification I’ve experienced is blatant and obvious outwardly at all times, but how I think and how I love has been stretched. I find my mind leaning into my heart, listening to whatever leadings of the Holy Spirit are in me, about how to be laid down for the sake of others, and how to walk in justice and humility in my daily life.

Often, I think about that beautiful village that manages to host hundreds, thousands, of pilgrims a week. I think about the Catholics, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, and the spiritual seekers without any brand of religion, that I met there. People felt so alive. It felt like a festival and yet also like a monastery. There was a simple holiness, a sweet devotion, that was in the air of Taizé. A well of deep joy was tapped into, for me and for many others, during that time.

The testimony of refugees in Taizé

Short documentary: “Life at Taizé”

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