“You wouldn’t think that they go together, and that’s some of the beauty of it. These clay tubes that are plain and ordinary, that don’t even fit together in an organized fashion, can come together to be a thing of beauty.”
She was right too.
There were white cows everywhere. I knew they existed, but how could it be a herd of just white cows? Not that I mind, but it made me marvel as I walked by the meadows, searching for a bit of ancient wall to sit down on and try to gain my bearings. What was this city boy doing in a tiny village in France?
A week in the Taizé community, a monastery that has been opened to those who would dare to search for God and his way in the world. A week surrounded by monks, curious agnostics, and about everything between the two. A week of French, German, Polish, Finnish, and some obscure form of my language known as “Taizé English.” A week of prayer, eating, laughter, and time.
Gosh, I forgot how important it is to take time. I forgot how much time can do for your soul. Five minutes to sit on a wall and enjoy a sunrise; Five hours to sit in a church and pray through all the unspoken cries of a tired heart; Five days to sit on a bench and dialogue with people who are different from you in such a beautiful way.
It can’t always be this way, but for a week it is.
For a week you get to listen to Brother Hector, the monk from the Bronx who seems to know exactly what you need to hear:
“Sometimes the most difficult thing about forgiveness is not to forgive someone for what they’ve done, but to forgive someone for who they are… or to forgive myself for who I am.”
“Deposit in Christ those things that are heavy for you, that keep you from living… His wounds will make you whole again.”
“We don’t just need money and NGOs, we need a word, because a word can transform us, a word can heal us, a word can bring us hope.”
For a week you get to listen to the voice of 2,200 pilgrims who are searching for a new home. You get to join with them as you try to sing the darkness away:
“Dona pacem, Domine.” [God, give us your peace]
“La ténèbre n’est point ténèbre devant toi; la nuit comme le jour est lumière.” [Even darkness is not darkness to you, the night is as bright as day]
“Jubelt und freut euch über den Herrn, er hat Großes an uns getan. Jubelt und freut euch, fürchtet euch nicht. Alleluja, alleluja.” [Be glad and celebrate because of the Lord, he has really done wonderful things for us. Be glad and celebrate, don’t be afraid. Hallelujah, Hallelujah]
And for a week, you get to explore a new world with a few students and a few friends. And somewhere between heartfelt conversations and playing “Sexy Kartoffelbrei” [a game where one attempts to eat mashed potatoes in a charming or seductive way], one of your students interprets an artistic arrangement of blocks for you.
And she really was right. It doesn’t make sense, spending a week with atheists and monks, but it happens nonetheless.
And she really was right. It is a thing of beauty.