Five students from fourth and fifth year, who are already part of a Pledge Club in school (abstaining from alcohol until 18 years of age and never doing drugs) joined the Dublin Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage to Taize in July 2014. This was a first time for the students and they enjoyed their experience immensely. This is what two students wrote about their pilgrimage:
My Experience in Taizé
Before arriving in Taizé I didn’t know what to expect and because of this I was slightly nervous. I had imagined it as a very spiritual and peaceful village, which I was happy to go to, although I really didn’t think it would be as much fun as it was. From my first day in Taizé I was surrounded by such welcoming people of all nationalities, some of whom were the happiest and friendliest people I had ever met. Following our arrival we were greeted by a volunteer of the community and got to know the people in the group that we had travelled with. It was the start of a wonderful week and one that I will never forget.
As you will learn on your first day in Taizé, each person over the age of 17 gets a job. In mine and Ciara’s case, our job was at Point 5 where, for the rest of the week, we would become the toilet cleaning team. Although at first we were disappointed that we had gotten a less glamorous job, whereas some of our other friends were in charge of cooking dinner or working in the little shop in the Oyak, from our first day we realised that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Each morning we would go to Point 5 at 10am and meet with our groups, we would then sing the famous Point 5 song “What shall we do with the dirty toilets (x3), all around in Taizé? Hey-ho let’s go clean them (x3), all around in Taizé!” Every day after finishing work, the Point 5 team would be treated to iced tea and small pastries, which made the job a little bit sweeter.
We ate our meals three times each day. Breakfast was served after Morning Prayer at 8:15am. Each morning we’d receive a simple breakfast of a bread roll, butter, two sticks of chocolate and a bowl of hot chocolate. Lunch followed the midday prayer at 12:20pm and supper was served before evening prayer at 7:00pm. For both lunch and supper, we would usually have a pasta or rice dish with a piece of fruit, yoghurt and biscuits. There was also a snack break in the middle of the day at 5:15pm, consisting of iced tea and biscuits, which would usually take place after our Bible group discussion.
Each night after the evening prayer at 8:30pm, we would leave the church, turn towards each other and shout “Oyak!”. The Oyak is a social area where everyone goes after prayer and meets with friends. There is a small shop there where you can buy ice cream, drinks, and a small selection of hot foods. You can also buy essentials there such as water bottles and toothbrushes, in case you have forgotten to bring them with you on your trip. Here at the Oyak, is where I was first introduced to the “Taizé” games which everyone plays each year in the community. These include Samurai, Funky Chicken, Ninja and the Foot Game. We were introduced to these games by a group of Swedish boys and Roger, a boy from our group, on our first night at the Oyak. We soon became very good friends with these boys and each day we would meet to eat and hang out together. Many people often brought guitars, ukuleles and even a saxophone down to the Oyak and usually the night would end with everyone dancing and singing together in a large crowd.
Lights go out at 11:30pm, sometimes at midnight if we have been quiet, and the night watch team asks everyone to leave the Oyak and go to bed. Most nights, Ciara, myself and our friends would go to the church to listen to people singing as there was usually a small gathering of people there. This was always a lovely way to end the night, especially since throughout the week we had all become so fond of the Taizé chants and loved to listen to them in the quiet environment of the church. We would stay for an hour or so and then head to bed, to get some much needed sleep before the next day began.
Taizé was definitely the greatest experience of my life. I have never been in a place that was filled with such happiness, openness and warmth as the community and I found it very difficult to keep a smile from my face during the week I had spent there. During my time in Taizé I met such kind and lovely people from all over the world with whom I have stayed in close contact since returning home and hope to see again soon. The memories I have from my trip are ones that I will always cherish. I would recommend it to anyone considering going there.
Isabelle Ryan, Fifth Year Student
My first expectation of Taize was that of a small quiet community filled with young people and little freedom. I was wrong! Taize was the friendliest community with the nicest young people and the most liberty to do as you pleased.
Taize prayer happened three times daily, and whether you attended or not was optional. It wasn’t like Mass you would go to in Ireland, in fact, it was a lot better. Upon entering the church, you are handed a prayer book with songs in every language you can think of. People hold signs that ask for complete silence and the people sit on the floor, as there are no chairs in the church. Prayer begins with a few songs everybody sings in all sorts of languages, ranging from English to Swedish to German! Then, one of the Brothers, who sit in rows in the centre of the church, will read, and afterwards we retreat to songs.
The silence during the prayer is the most magical, peaceful and astounding thing I have ever seen! Half-way through Taize Prayer there is a silence which lasts between seven and ten minutes. With over one thousand people gathered in the church, you wouldn’t expect such silence, but you can almost hear your heart beat. It’s a wonderful experience to see such tranquillity and share it with the others around you.
The last two days of Taize are different to the usual Taize Prayer. On Friday night we go to the top of the church and each person can put their head on the cross if they wish, and pray. On Saturday evening we all light candles and each person holds a candle which makes the whole church light up and it’s very beautiful.
Taize was an experience of a life-time and I cannot wait to go back.
Ciara Foley, Fifth Year Student
The five students who went on the pilgrimage this year want to go back next year and have already enthused interest in other students to join next year’s pilgrimage! It is clear from the two accounts above that pilgrimage, which involves a community aspect, is a key factor in faith formation for young people today.
Sr. Rosaleen Crossan