Praying with the songs from Taizé on an island in the Adriatic

Following the visit of one of the brothers to Croatia in March, Zorka, a young woman from Hvar, wrote a testimony on the life of Christians on this island in the Adriatic.

To reach the island of Hvar from Split, on the mainland, it takes an hour by catamaran or two hours by ferry. Throughout the summer, in the world of tourism, our island is well known as an overcrowded holiday centre; with pleasure yachts and the hubbub of various languages and cultures. In the winter, life is completely different. After the first rains, the alleys and the commercial centres empty and people return to their normal work – a little agriculture, a little fishing and preparation for the following tourist season.

Ten years ago, at mid summer, at the moment when everybody – young and old alike – is occupied in the hotels and restaurants, a group of young adults went to Taizé for the first time. With impressions that were more than positive, a week later we returned home to the chaotic free for all of summer in Hvar. Since then, each year groups of young people have gone to Taizé. Two years ago came the question, “How can we let ourselves be inspired by what we experience in Taizé for our life on the island? Could we get together to organise prayers and meetings at home? We discussed what the best way would be to propose this to people in our own environment, traditionally fairly closed, and especially to young people who have never had the experience of prayer and silence, and who go rarely if ever to church. The question of where to do this did not even come up: our island has a number of magnificent chapels from the Middle Ages, which seem destined for a contemplative prayer. A church in Starigrad, for example, dates from the sixth century; you sit on the ground on pre-Christian mosaics.

We decided to have, as in Taizé, a prayer with a time of silence, then a time of exchange on a Bible text and finally sharing a picnic. At the beginning we met once a month, five or six of us. We sang together and tried to get started. After two or three times we started inviting some friends who were interested, so that at least they could see what was happening. They were a bit sceptical at first, given the fact that they had never prayed and had silence in this way. The songs were a bit new for them, but in the Bible exchange that followed, they were committed right from the start: often we did not even have time for the second question. Each meeting was different to what was planned. But we often went home filled with our new experience. So we decided to have the prayer in a different parish of the island each month to introduce more and more young people to what was going on.

One of us was studying at the seminary in Split. Since last year he is priest in the village of Brac, the second island of our diocese. In March this year several of us went to spend a weekend at his place. It is half a day’s journey in each direction: even if our islands are separated by a channel less than ten kilometres wide, there are no direct boats. In spite of being tired when we arrived, we nevertheless came together for prayer right from the first evening. It was as if someone had chased away the tiredness. The next evening we prepared the prayer in a chapel beside the sea. It was probably the first time that this kind of prayer had been celebrated on the island. Over twenty young people came, which gave us great joy. They made us understand that they had appreciated the moment and they wanted us to come again.

Now, we hope to have aroused their curiosity; maybe they will come to Taizé with us this summer. The biggest obstacle is that they take seasonal jobs whenever classes are over. And the season on the islands lasts until mid September. So we have no summer holidays! However, Mario, one of the young people, said that it was possible. “I have my own stand and I prepare crêpes for the tourists. Like most of the people here, I live the rest of the year on the money I make in summer. But I really wanted to go to Taizé. So I employed a friend to look after my stand and I went off in August, in the middle of the season, when the tourists are most numerous. I got my job back again when I got home.”

Perhaps this example and our efforts on the island will encourage others to have this magnificent experience of communion and to let themselves be inspired by what you can live in Taizé. We carry this desire in our hearts and we try to make it happen around us.

Last updated: 29 March 2009