Before the Taizé service began, Brother Emile explains the service. Photo by Evan Boudreau

From Timmins to Taizé

  • March 14, 2012

TORONTO - Like any adolescent Brother Emile grew up full of wonder, questions and a desire to answer what had otherwise been unknown to him. While the topics varied, his exploration of one, the Taizé Community in France, left a permanent impression on the then 17-year-old Canadian.

Brother Emile shared his story on March 7 surrounded by members of Toronto’s Catholic school board before facilitating a Taizé prayer service at St. Clare’s Church.

“I first heard of Taizé when I was in northern Ontario as a high school student. I felt like knowing more about Taizé and went with a group” led by Sister Claudette who is now in Ottawa and continues to take youth across the pond, said Brother Emile. “She said ‘I am going to Taizé and I’d like you to come,’ so I went and had my first visit. I was only 17 but I was very impacted by a sense of what it means that Christ has risen from the dead, that that means that joy, hope and communion are possible — they’re not just words. That stayed with me my whole life.”

After the week in France he returned to Timmins’ Ecole Secondaire Thériault, completed Grade 13, then returned to Taizé for a year of reflection on what it means to live the Gospel.

“It seems so simple in the Gospel of Christ, it says ‘come follow me,’ and people get up and follow Him. I said ‘what does that mean today?’ so I thought Taizé was a place where I could think about that for a year,” he said

He would return home once more as a regular parishioner explaining why he would embark upon a year-long journey towards brotherhood. That journey  resulted in the young man becoming Brother Emile 35 years ago.

Now the northern Ontario native, who’s home base is the Church of Reconciliation in Taizé, travels internationally for several weeks annually spreading the message that there is a place in the Church for new ideas, new vitality and a new sensitivity. The Taizé Community, through its prayers and songs, offers not answers but an understanding of the desire to question.

“In some ways God has become a taboo for young people and it’s good to create opportunity where people can, through the beauty of singing perhaps, open up to God,” said Brother Emile. “That is what I would like to help with in a way, to make it possible for such prayers to take place where God and beauty are associated.”

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