Kolkata

Meditations by Brother Alois


The pilgrimage of trust meeting in Kolkata took place from 5 to 9 October 2006.

Each day of the meeting, Brother Alois gave a meditation.

The texts of the meditations are published here.

Thursday evening 5 October 2006

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Yes, let us rejoice today, because God has brought us together for this meeting in Kolkata. And we pray to the Holy Spirit that our hearts may be filled with the love of God, so that this love will overflow in our own lives, for each and every person that we meet.

Why are we together these days in Kolkata? We are here to undertake together a stage in the pilgrimage of trust on earth that our brother Roger began a long time ago.

Some of you have made a long journey to get here, not just from all the regions of India, but also from other Asian countries and from other continents. For some of you the journey was a real challenge and you lived it as a pilgrimage.

In India, there is a great tradition of pilgrimages. But what is a pilgrimage? It means going beyond what we know already, to come closer to God and to renew our communion with him. It is also something we do to come closer to others and to create relationships of trust with them.

Each one of us can turn our whole lives into a pilgrimage of trust, without necessarily going far from home.

Last year, on the afternoon of the day he died, Brother Roger called one of the brothers and asked him to write down these words: “To the extent that our community creates possibilities in the human family to widen…” And he stopped there, too exhausted to finish his phrase.

What did he mean by “widen”? He probably wanted to say: do everything possible to make more perceptible for everyone the love God has for every human being without exception, and for all peoples. He wanted us to bring this mystery to light, through our life, in a humble commitment with others.

So we brothers wish to take up this challenge, together with all those who are searching for peace across the earth. Yes, we want to look for ways of widening this pilgrimage of trust on earth to include many others. That is why we have come to Kolkata these days and why, later on, other meetings will be held on all the continents.

Just thirty years ago these days, Brother Roger came to Kolkata and stayed here for several weeks. A deep communion united him to Mother Teresa. Both founders of a religious community, they both had the same love of the poor and the same love of communion in the Church.

With a few brothers, and with some young people from several continents, Brother Roger went to live not far from Mother Teresa’s house, and every day the brothers took part in the sisters’ work of solidarity with the very poorest.

This simple and unassuming presence thirty years ago was the seed of a long and beautiful relationship, which has become ever deeper, between our Taizé Community and the Christians of India. This relationship has never ceased to develop.

One of our brothers began to visit youth groups throughout India. Then we had two young adult intercontinental meetings in Chennai, which was still known as Madras. Young Indians, like those from other Asian countries, come regularly to Taizé and stay for three months.

One day last year, in Taizé, I spoke with the group of young Asians just before they left to go back to their countries, and I was struck by the words of a young Indian woman. She said, “The young Europeans we met in Taizé can return and meet again, but we live too far away; we will never see each other again.”

So I asked myself: how can we respond to the appeal of these young people who leave? How can the pilgrimage of trust on earth take on new dimensions; how can it accompany young people from all the continents and support their hope, with great simplicity but with imagination?

That is how the idea of a meeting in India was born. And we are grateful to all those who have made it possible for us to meet here: the community of Salesians who have extended such a warm welcome to us, Archbishop Lukas of Kolkata, Archbishop Thomas of Guwahati, Bishop Samuel Raju from Kolkata, of the CNI, the Orthodox Metropolitan Stephen and all the families and schools in the city that are offering us hospitality.

In this way we can meet together during these days. We can pray and prepare ourselves to be bearers of peace, trust and reconciliation, in the places where we live, wherever God has placed us.

As a way of expressing our joy at being together from such diverse origins, each evening we would like to greet young people coming from the different regions and countries.

A child

“This evening we want to greet with flowers especially the young people who have traveled from Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Mumbai and those coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Singapore and Malaysia.”

Friday midday 6 October 2006

Yesterday, I told you that we have come to Kolkata to undertake together a stage in the pilgrimage of trust on earth. But what kind of trust are we speaking about? Both trust in God and trust in others.

We ask the Holy Spirit to give us a heart that trusts in God, that listens, that lets itself be touched and transformed by God, a heart that is close to him.

God speaks to our heart, and in prayer we place ourselves before him. And God welcomes us as we are, with what is good, but also with our darkness, and even with our faults. We have to accept our humanity, accept that we are poor people.

Sometimes we say a few words; sometimes we are present only with our bodies, in silence. Brother Roger used to say, “A simple sigh can be a prayer.”

As for Jesus, a transfiguration, a transformation of our being is promised to those who pray. The darkness can be illuminated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The weaknesses and the imperfections can become a door through which God enters our life. The thorns and briers that obstructed our steps feed a fire that sheds light on the way.

In this way an intimacy with God is renewed, even if in our prayer there is sometimes more emptiness than deep feelings. We are not necessarily called to pray for long periods of time. But, in one way or another, let us try each day to turn towards God.

And then we discover that the more we place our trust in God, the more we become able to create relationships of trust with others.

Continuing the pilgrimage of trust with young people from many countries, we understand better and better that all human beings form one family and that God is united to every human being without exception. We are creating relationships of trust among Christians, but we are also looking for ways to widen that trust to include others who do not share our faith.

Many young people across the earth are ready to make that trust more visible. They are wrestling with a question: will we be among those who go beyond walls of hatred or indifference? These walls exist between peoples, between continents, but also close to each one of us, and even in the human heart.

God has created us free and responsible. By his Holy Spirit he dwells within us, but he does not take our place. On the contrary, God awakens in us creative abilities, a stronger sense of our responsibilities and the courage and clear-sightedness to grasp situations around us.

With two brothers I was recently in Russia. The enormous suffering of that people throughout the last century still marks society there. In Russia I understood something: what enabled many to resist and to pass through the worst was their trust in God. But for Russian believers faith in God is inseparably linked to trust in human goodness, trust that goodness will be stronger than evil.

And so we too would like to discover that, in situations which are sometimes very difficult, we are called to become bearers of trust on earth. And through our meeting these days, we already see one of Jesus’ parables being realized: the Church is this communion of trust - the communion of the Church is like a great tree where people from the four corners of the world can be welcomed.

Friday evening 6 October 2006

A few days ago, together with another brother, I was in Bangladesh. Some of our Taizé brothers have been living there for over thirty years. They share the existence of the poorest and the most abandoned people, in a town called Mymensingh. We spent two weeks with them.

It was a joy to go and visit our brothers who have been persevering for so many years in such a difficult life. Such visits between brothers are so necessary; they support us in our commitment. We often say that it would be impossible to remain simply in France, in Taizé, if some of us did not share the living conditions of the very poorest people across the earth.

Perhaps if you too were to go and visit those who live near you and who try to live the Gospel, that could help you to focus on the most important things in life. To go and share joys and cares with them, to pray with them in all simplicity, turning to God together for a few moments, in silence or while listening to some words from Scripture.

Recently our brothers in Bangladesh made several pilgrimages with people with various disabilities. One of the brothers wrote, “We are discovering that those who are rejected by society on account of their weakness and their apparent uselessness are a presence of God. If we welcome them, they lead us progressively away from an over-competitive world where people need to accomplish great things, towards a world of hearts in communion, a simple and joyful life, where you accomplish little things with love.”

And the brother added, “Our presence in Bangladesh aspires to be a sign that the service of our vulnerable brothers and sisters opens a road of peace and unity. Sometimes it is the poor who bring us together. Welcoming one another in the rich diversity of religions and cultures, serving the poor together, prepares a future of peace.”

This evening, the prayer will go on for a long time; we are going to pray around the cross. This is how we pray every Friday in Taizé. When Christians come together, it is always on account of the death and resurrection of Christ. We would like to become more and more aware that the Easter mystery, the mystery of death and resurrection, is the basic mystery of our life.

We are now going to place the cross on the floor. Each person can come and put their forehead on the wood of the cross. This helps us to understand that even when we are not able to formulate a prayer in words, we can nevertheless express that prayer with our bodies. God understands all languages; he also understands all our ways of praying.

Praying in this way, we express that we entrust to Christ all that is too heavy for us. Burdens that sometimes seem too heavy exist for all of us. It is important to know that we can entrust them to Christ and that he bears them with us. In the Gospel he tells us, “Come to me, all you who are overburdened, and I will give you relief.”

We also entrust to him the burdens of other people, those close to us, but also those who may be very far away, people suffering from poverty, war, and natural disasters.

Let us dare to entrust everything to Christ! And let us dare to live the freedom that he wants to give us.

Before we pray around the cross, we would like to greet more of you who have come from far away very and specially Archbishop Lukas of Kolkata and Sister Nirmala, Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity. I told you last night how close our Brother Roger was to Mother Teresa, in their love of the poor and of the Church. The warm welcome you gave us at the Mother House was a sign that this closeness continues.

A child

“This evening we want to greet with flowers especially the young people who have traveled from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, Punjab, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and those from Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.”

Saturday midday 7 October 2006

All of us gathered here together would like to prepare ways of peace. But many people across the world experience situations of conflict or injustice. How can we respond to violence with peace? How can we prepare a future of peace for children? How can avoid passing on to the next generation wounds endured?

It is essential for us to listen to these words of the prophet Jeremiah: “God is preparing for you a future of peace.” God is the one who gives peace; we must first receive it in order to communicate it. And receive it in the depths of our being.

This peace given by God begins in our heart, and it can transform our life. Inner peace is not first of all a feeling that we try to produce within ourselves. Peace is born in our heart through the presence of someone who loves us, the Risen Christ. He passed through violence, hatred and death. And after this he said, “Peace be with you.” It is good to let these words echo within us.

Christ is our peace. So it is up to us to take courageous decisions to dare and follow him on the road of peace. What we can do is often very little, but we have to do that little. It is not so much spectacular actions that change the world, but rather persevering day by day in human goodness.

If, in the Church, our youth groups, our communities and our parishes could be first and foremost places of heartfelt goodness and forgiveness! Places where we welcome one another, where we attempt again and again to understand and support others, places where we are attentive to the weakest. What joy that would bring!

During the recent conflict in the Middle East, a young Lebanese man, the father of a family, wrote us these words: “Peace of heart, that topic so dear to Brother Roger and to all the brothers of Taizé, is possible. Yes, peace of heart is not a utopia. In spite of the suffering, in spite of the hatred that escalates day after day, in spite of the desire for vengeance that wells up in us in moments of weakness, I believe in that peace. Yes, peace here and now.”

To open ways of peace and trust, Christians have a specific gift. The communion of the Church, the profound charity that unites those who follow Christ is already a unique ferment of peace in the human family.

It is the communion among us Christians that makes the Gospel credible. It brings the Word of God to life and allows it to speak to people today. In a world where violence and disenchantment attempt to gain the upper hand, through our communion we can give a sign that shines out even in the most difficult situations.

Unity among Christians is never automatic. We must always begin again to live in mutual forgiveness. When we turn together to Christ, when we consent to come together for a common prayer in his presence, he already unites us. Humbly, in prayer, we constantly learn that we belong to one another.

Today more than ever we have the possibility of living a communion beyond the frontiers that separate peoples, races and generations. Yes, we can prepare a future of peace on earth. God gives us his breath, his Spirit, so that we can be witnesses to peace by the lives we lead.

Saturday evening 7 October 2006

The Gospel we have just read this evening spoke about the first person who believed that God’s love was stronger than hatred and death. She was a woman called Mary Magdalene. She wept at the tomb of Jesus. Then Jesus, the Risen Christ, came towards her. And he did so in a completely unexpected way, not in triumph, but so humbly that she did not recognize him; she took him for the gardener of the cemetery.

Jesus said one word to her that would change everything. He called her by name: “Mary”. What is extraordinary is that Mary recognized the voice of Jesus in her heart. She turned towards him and called him in turn, “Rabbuni, Master.” A new life began in her; she trusted that God’s love was near, even if Jesus’ presence was henceforth invisible to her eyes. Then the Risen Christ sent her with these words, “Go to my disciples!”

Christ calls us too by our name and says to us, “Go! Communicate my love by your life.” The courage of Mary Magdalene stimulates us. A lone woman, she dared to go to the disciples to say something unbelievable to them: “Christ is risen!” And trust in the invisible presence of the Risen Christ became for them a light in their life.

These evening we will express this by a sign. We will pass on the light of a little candle from one person to another. It will be a symbol: we too, like Mary Magdalene, can dare to communicate to others around us the light of the Risen Christ.

Each one of us can communicate, in the places where we live, that trust in the resurrection, that trust in God’s love. And something surprising happens: by communicating that trust in God, we grasp more and more the mystery of Christ’s resurrection, the mystery of his invisible but constant presence with us through the Holy Spirit.

A child

“This evening we want to greet with flowers especially the young people who have traveled from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, and those coming from England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Portugal, the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

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