Earlier this week I attended the mid-winter Taizé Melbourne retreat at the Carmelite Centre in Middle Park. I don’t think I’ve been to Middle Park before. It’s right on the beach and when we were there it was very quiet, nice coffee – and a quick glance at the average price of the lovely late 1800s terrace houses in the area confirms the reality that I could never afford to live somewhere like that!
Here are a few snap shots from the day. We had vegetarian soups for lunch, singing, and lots of interesting conversations – because Taizé is very deliberately ecumenical, or inter-denominational, everyone comes with varied beliefs and ideas about God, prayer, church community and the Bible. I find it really valuable actively surrounding myself with people whose outlook is different – it challenges and stretches my own faith. As a very introverted person, married to an introvert too (in that light it’s amazing we ever actually met each other, really, considering we could both happily be hermits), I also find events like this a genuine help in meeting people on a similar wavelength. The way the small group studies were organised meant that my husband and I had to go with separate groups and sit with complete strangers to discuss the Scripture in question.
When I got home I was browsing through the materials and brochures they gave us and, to my surprise, I found that one of my older relatives (my father’s uncle) is listed as one of the spiritual directors at the Centre – I had no idea. I haven’t seen him much since I moved away from my hometown, so I guess I hadn’t realised that we move in similar circles. That really got me thinking – I’m not so unique, in a sense, because there are other people in my extended family who are also interested in Catholic mysticism, contemplative practices, theology and prayer. Of course there are. Some of them are nuns and priests, too. And I’ve been thinking about heritage a lot, lately. There’s a heritage of Catholicism and Methodism in my ancestry, and though my parents’ generation mostly haven’t adopted the Christ-centric spiritual worldview, it gives me a sense of connectedness to those who’ve come before me in the way I’ve kind of absorbed and taken on Christianity, as far as I can understand it, as my worldview. But that’s a whole other story and I could write a blog series on that idea alone. Maybe I will, one day – I’m still journalling through my thoughts on that and it is nowhere near the stage of being workable into any kind of writing.
Anyway, I’ve mentioned Taizé a couple of times on this blog. It’s something I had never even heard of before last year – though I had learned a few Taizé songs as a teenager playing flute for services in the Catholic church, without knowing they were from this French monastic community devoted to prayer, reconciliation, trust and peace. After the mid-winter retreat I found myself reflecting on the fact that I am so grateful my husband and I discovered Taizé when we did. In a time when I’ve experienced some significant life challenges and an attendant but, I think, necessary crisis of faith, Taizé-style prayer and music has become for me a calm oasis.