A Universal Heart: The Life and Vision of Brother Roger of Taizé (Centenary edition) by Kathryn Spink
It is impossible for a Christian, reading about Roger Schutz-Marsauche’s early life, his later development, his discoveries of, first, his own vocation to community, celibacy and unity, and then of Taizé, not to conclude that God had chosen Roger long before Roger chose Him. He was aware, he said, that ‘the inner life with God began with the quest for confidence, trust in him, and with the initial possibility of carrying, creating together.’ Others found that this man had the ‘spontaneity of a childlike heart’. Faith, trust and confidence made him the founder of the Taizé community; the friend of Popes (present by invitation at much of the Second Vatican Council though not himself Roman Catholic); admired by Nelson Mandela and by Archbishop George Carey, who visited Taizé – and above all the friend of children and young people.
He longed for Christian unity, and thought that in the Council he could see the dawn of reconciliation, only for his hopes to wither after the deaths of Popes Paul VI, John XIII and John Paul II. But at Taizé the Church of Reconciliation is packed with young people of every denomination and none, and even some of non-Christian faiths. They come to the hill in their thousands, and return to their many countries bearing in their hearts the light of love, hope and unity with which Roger entrusted them.
Brother Roger’s biographer, Kathryn Spink, visited her subject in 1985 – ‘You have come’, he exclaimed, ‘and you are young!’ – and spent much time in his company and that of others who knew him. The book was first published the following year, and a second edition in 2005, with an epilogue – Brother Roger having in August of that year been stabbed to death by a mentally disturbed woman, for whom Roger’s successor prayed at his funeral. It was a worthy gesture at the end of a life devoted to reconciliation, to humility and simplicity, to childlike hope and trust in God.
Reviewed by Julia Taylor
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