Meditations by Brother Alois

Every evening during the European Meeting brother Alois spoke to the participants. Here is the transcript of his talks.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Today was a big welcome day – I wish you a good start to the meeting! It is a great joy to be here together in Wrocław, and to be in Poland, a land which has already hosted four European meetings: two here, one in Warsaw, and lastly in Poznań.

This evening already, I would like to thank all those who are welcoming us. What beautiful hospitality! That all the young people are welcomed into families is a sign of the Gospel. In Poland, it is often said: “Gość w dom, Bóg w dom” – “A guest in our home is God in our home”.

Today, when you arrived, you received the “Proposals 2020”. They are entitled: “Always on the move, never uprooted”. These words were first used years ago to describe the life of a Polish woman, Urszula Ledochowska.

A woman ahead of her time, she was a citizen of Europe, visiting the many countries where sisters from her Ursuline congregation were beginning to settle. Several of these sisters live today in Taizé and, together with the sisters of Saint Andrew, help us to welcome and accompany young people.

Here in Poland, faith has given many people deep roots, and has enabled them, even in adversity, to show extraordinary courage and daring. We, in our turn, would like to deepen the roots of our faith, by welcoming God’s love for each and every one of us.

We are gathered here in a great diversity of peoples, origins and opinions. This diversity does not prevent us from having an experience of communion. To the contrary, it brings us undoubtedly into close touch with God’s will for us: it is God who wants to gather us together in unity, through Christ who is communion.

And this unity in diversity is a testimony which transcends the boundaries of the Church. In the midst of the challenges of today’s world, and the troubled times that the European continent is undergoing, we can seek to carry this message of communion ever further.

In 1989, we were here in Wrocław – it was an historic moment. A wind of enthusiasm and freedom was blowing and creating hope. Today, this new stage in our pilgrimage of trust is taking place in a more difficult context.

Our meeting then is all the more important: we want to increase unity and solidarity so as to better carry our responsibility in the world.

In this unity and solidarity that we seek to live out, we would like the poorest to have their place. In your welcoming parishes, you will be meeting people who help those who are excluded or sick, who visit prisoners, foreigners and others. They are signs of hope.

Always on the move, never uprooted. This evening we heard the passage from the book of Genesis which presents us the figure of Abraham, and which highlights the way he left everything and, counting on God’s promise, went with his wife Sarah towards a land they did not know.

Let us dare be now as radical as they were! Let us believe that God guides us. God makes us leave behind fear so as to enter into trust. Trust in God, trust in others. This trust in God calls us to leave behind our false securities.

May we rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit. It will give us courage in times of trial, and also the inventiveness which we need at this stage of human history where everything is changing with dizzying speed. Yes, God makes us leave behind fear so as to enter into trust.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

This evening, I would like to say a few words to you about a recent event in our pilgrimage of trust: a meeting of young people in Cape Town, South Africa, held at the invitation of the various Churches of the city.

South Africa is a great country that has shown the world the power of protest against apartheid and has been an example of non-violent transition. Yet the wounds of history are still deep – our brothers who lived there for two years were able to see this.

White, black and colored people have different lifestyles and do not meet often. They live in separate areas between which there exist few bridges. In such a context, it was difficult to ask people to welcome a young person for five days without knowing in advance whether he or she would be black, white or of mixed origin.

During one preparation meeting, a woman said: “Of course we are afraid, but we know that we have to do it”. Opening your door to a stranger is never an easy matter. In Cape Town, the challenge was even greater.

At the start of the meeting, I said to the 2,000 young people: “We have no special message to offer you in coming from Taizé. It is you who live out the message of our meeting by welcoming one other.”

In all our countries, we are being called to receive those who come from other places, sometimes from far away. This challenges us and can make us feel insecure. At the same time, it enriches us enormously. In Poland, you welcome many people from Ukraine who come to work here. In this regard, we are happy that at our meeting, the second largest group of participants, after the Polish, are the Ukrainians.

From our own experience in Taizé, I can tell you that in receiving refugees we ourselves receive a lot, perhaps even more than we give. Of course, it is not always easy. One of the trials we had to face was the death of a young person named Samir. After leaving his native land, Sudan, he was forced into slavery in Libya, and then crossed the Mediterranean on a makeshift boat.

But then, upon arriving in France, a heart ailment took his life after just a few weeks. It was a great shock. A few months later, I was able to go to Sudan and visit his mother. When I found her in her modest home in Khartoum, she wouldn’t stop crying.

And then at one point she straightened up and said, “God gave him to us, God took him back; blessed be God’s name.” I will never forget this meeting. I keep in my heart these words of a mother, who is a Muslim.

Others live like strangers on this earth, not because they come from faraway but because they are marginalized. Their suffering may be due to loneliness or abandonment, to abuse, or else to illness, insecurity or unemployment. Some forms of poverty are immediately apparent, whereas others are less visible.

Even when they lack nothing materially-speaking, some wonder what meaning their life can have, as if they belong nowhere and are like strangers on earth. How can we approach them, listen and let ourselves be touched by them?

Simple attentiveness to others and fraternity are among the most important of values. Tomorrow morning, in your welcoming parishes, you will be able to reflect about this in the small sharing groups, with the help of the Bible text that we heard this evening.

Let us remember how Jesus went to the sick, the excluded and to strangers. We will find inspiration there as we ask ourselves what we can do today.

Monday, December 30, 2019

We have just read one of the first pages of the Bible. This poetic account of creation emphasizes the responsibility human beings have in the universe, that of caring for and protecting the earth. This responsibility is entrusted by God to humanity.
I wish to thank and encourage you young people. You take this responsibility very seriously. In Taizé we are impressed to see the commitment of so many of you to safeguarding creation, protecting biodiversity and simplifying our lifestyles.

With those of my generation, we should ask your forgiveness for having so neglected this responsibility. Consumerism has taken up too much room, as if happiness depended on that alone. You encourage us to change our lifestyle so that it become more sober, more focused on the essentials.

You will read tomorrow morning in the "Proposals 2020" that in the face of the climate and environmental emergency, a common testimony on the part of different Christian denominations is possible. Yes, there exists here a beautiful call to come together around ecumenical initiatives.

To meet these great challenges of today, we need to know where to find support. These days, we are letting ourselves be inspired by these words: "Always on the move, never uprooted". Being always on the move does not mean living in permanent instability; we need to keep our roots planted in a reality that does not change.

Recently, I spoke with one of the volunteers who has been in Taizé for several months. She comes from Japan and she took part in teams that help the victims of the tsunami in the Fukushima region. I can still hear her words: "So many people there have been uprooted, they lost everything."

Sometimes we feel so helpless in the face of suffering. Let us remember that prayer is a path that is always open for us. Does entrusting to God another person or a trial we are undergoing change anything? We do not know, and fortunately we cannot measure how exactly God answers our prayers. God far exceeds our calculations.

But one thing is certain: by entrusting everything to God, we enter into a deep solidarity with our neighbor; we are united with the solidarity of Christ himself who suffers today with those who are undergoing trials. Praying sets us on the move; it makes us responsible for others and for ourselves.

When we start to pray, we may be distracted, or else find that words come only with difficulty. Let us remember then that, in our innermost selves, Christ Jesus is there, and that he knows us. Our prayer may be very poor, but he understands our heart. Let us dare to take moments of rest with him, alone or in a beautiful prayer together with others.

This evening, I would like to thank again all those who are welcoming us, in particular those who have opened their doors to accommodate pilgrims, as well as the leaders of the Christian communities of Wrocław and the civil authorities. Some of them are here with us this evening.

Our pilgrimage of trust will continue. In a little over a year, there will be a totally exceptional new stage: together with young people from different countries we will go to the Holy Land. Our pilgrimage of trust will continue. In a little over a year, there will be a totally exceptional new stage: together with young people from different countries we will go to the Holy Land. This will take place in February 2021 (Update: because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land has been postponed to 2022). After our meeting last March in Beirut, we wish to express our solidarity with all those who seek peace in the Middle East.

Just before that, there will be our next European meeting. We will gather in a country much loved by all of us. We will return to the south of our continent. From December 28, 2020 to January 1, 2021, we will be welcomed in Turin. (Update: the Turin European Meeting has been postponed to the end of December 2021).

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

We have come to the end already of our European meeting. Once again we warmly thank those who have welcomed us, the families and the parishes, the city and the region of Wrocław as well as all the Polish people who came to help and to make us feel so welcome.

During the days we have spent together, we have expressed our desire to build a future of peace. First of all in our personal lives, in our families and in the places where we study and work. But also in our countries and beyond, in Europe and in the world.

With our own eyes we have seen a great human diversity and we have been able to rejoice in it. On the European continent, each country, each people, each region contributes to forming the mosaic which constitutes our part of the world. Rather than trying to make all our continent look the same, we should value local particularities, and the variety of traditions and cultures.

Let us not forget that history has sometimes left deep wounds! Let us try to understand how the various parts of our continent are evolving. Let us do everything we can to unmask, first of all in ourselves, the prejudices that we can have about others. Let us not be afraid of our neighbors, let us listen more to each other.

The freedom regained for our entire continent 30 years ago was hard to achieve. Many, notably here in Poland, paid a very high price for it. For some, rooting themselves in faith was the source of their commitment, sometimes at the risk of their very lives.

The story of this struggle for freedom was marked by some surprising events, one of which was the forgiveness that Polish Christians extended to the German people after the Second World War. This contributed to reconciliation, a new beginning, which is one of the miracles in the history of our continent.

If today we recall such events, which occurred during periods of tension and misunderstanding, it is to find the hope that now too a new future is possible. Of course, the challenges are different, as we have seen through the themes developed in the workshops these last days.

Now each one of us will be returning home. But more than ever, we are aware that we are part of a great communion, the communion of the Church. In this city of Wrocław, you have rejuvenated the face of the Church.

In a changing world, we must look for ways to express the Gospel in an ever new way. In Mary’s availability and trust, we find an example: at a very young age, she accepted the unimaginable, becoming the mother of Christ, thus opening the way to a new beginning for humankind.

With the evolution of humankind now at a turning point, let us be guided by the truth, humility and joy of Christ! In this way we will be able to prepare the paths which God takes to come and be among us today. God will give us the imagination we need so as to move forward towards the world of tomorrow, to remain always on the move, but never uprooted.

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