Saturday, August 14, 2010

St Roger of Taize?

Well, its been five years since Roger Schütz (no relation, aka Brother Roger) died under cruel and tragic circumstances. Along with Martin Luther, Elijah, Our Lady, Bishop Elliott (the Archibald Portrait), Pope John Paul II, Blessed Mary of the Cross and Cardinal Newman, his picture adorns my little "iconastasis" wall in my office. There have been many speculations about why it was that Cardinal Ratzinger communed Brother Roger just a few months earlier at Pope John Paul II's funeral, but in the light of all the commentary and information available, I think the answer is a fairly simple one: Brother Roger was Catholic. Now there is a statement that I am sure will keep the combox full for a little while, but I base my opinion on the fact that John Paul II's funeral was not the first time that Brother Roger received Catholic Communion, and that it was, in fact, a regular practice for him both in his own community at Taize and whenever he visited the Holy Father in Rome. He was, of course, in a very unusual situation, almost without parallel in the Church.

Despite its origins, Taize as a community is not officially affiliated with any Protestant Church, and (as I understand it) the majority of the brothers today (including the current prior) are Catholic. Since John XXIII, Taize has had a very positive relationship with the Holy See. Again, as far as I know, although Brother Roger was technically speaking an ordained reformed minister, he did not celebrate the reformed sacraments or excercise his ordained ministry in any way in his role as prior of Taize. I guess, again technically speaking, you could say that I am an ordained Lutheran pastor. The difference between Br Roger and me is that I made my entry into the Catholic Communion publicly, whereas his entry into the Church's communion was unofficial and private. Another difference is that I have received the Catholic sacrament of confirmation, and there is no evidence that Brother Roger ever did. So in my mind that puts him rather in the same position of any Catholic child who has received first communion but has not yet been confirmed. Perhaps one could say that he was (even in his advanced old age) still on the path of an initiation that was begun but never completed.

I can understand why that was, and obviously so did the Holy See, even though the Catholic Church never publically (and still does'nt) claim him for herself. John Allen reports on a positive tribute to Brother Roger in L'Osservatore Romano marking the fifth anniversary of his death. According to Allen, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone writes in his message to Br Alois that:
Brother Roger was “a tireless witness to the gospel of peace and reconciliation” and a “pioneer on the difficult journey towards unity among the disciples of Christ.” ...Pope Benedict wants to express his “spiritual closeness” to Taizé, Bertone wrote, and his “union in prayer.”
Even more interesting was this comment:
In some ways, Bertone referred to Schutz almost as a saint, writing that “now that he has entered into eternal joy, he continues to speak to us.”
But for the fact that Brother Roger was never officially confirmed as a Catholic, he lived a life which (again in my own humble opinion) certainly would have put him in line as a candidate for sainthood HAD he been a "signed-and-sealed" member of the Church. Brother Roger was certainly an exemplar of what it means to live a life of "spiritual ecumenism" according to the teachings of the Church.

Here is something Pope Benedict said five years ago on his visit to Cologne for World Youth Day soon after Brother Roger's death which illustrates this point:
We cannot "bring about" unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism - prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life - constitutes the heart of the meeting and of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 8; Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.

I would also like in this context to remember the great pioneer of unity, Bro. Roger Schutz, who was so tragically snatched from life. I had known him personally for a long time and had a cordial friendship with him.

He often came to visit me and, as I already said in Rome on the day of his assassination, I received a letter from him that moved my heart, because in it he underlined his adherence to my path and announced to me that he wanted to come and see me. He is now visiting us and speaking to us from on high. I think that we must listen to him, from within we must listen to his spiritually-lived ecumenism and allow ourselves to be led by his witness towards an interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism.

I see good reason in this context for optimism in the fact that today a kind of "network" of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity.

The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an "invisible cloister" which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves interiorly to the Lord's prayer "that all may be one" (Jn 17: 21), then this prayer, made in the Name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14: 13; 15: 7, 16, etc.).
St Roger of Taize? I think the idea has merit. But you might disagree.


At Saturday, August 14, 2010 3:39:00 am , Anonymous Joshua said...

I assume, accepting your theory for the moment, that his conversion/entry into full communion was kept private to avoid scandal - however, and this is a big however, is not there something wrong about treating one's reception into the visible communion of the Church as a potential scandal or stumbling block?

I think the Cause for his canonization might well come undone when confronted by the scandal of his being in full communion being kept quiet for fear of scandal.

BTW, what are the terms for true scandal and false scandal, if you know what I'm trying to say!?

Would not fear of scandal in the bad sense be rather fear of what the scoffing world might say - as in the way that the positive value of virginity is not exactly bruited about (or would that be rather casting pearls before swine?)?

At Saturday, August 14, 2010 1:00:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

If that is how Br. Roger saw the matter, and if successive popes apparently agreed with him, who are we to be quibbling about canonical processes?

That's basically what I am saying, Perry. And I think the fruit of his life demonstrates that he, essentially, manifested the Catholic Faith and was properly disposed toward the sacrament. I don't think his Catholic faith was kept hidden, it simply wasn't trumpeted. Again, I don't think that was because he wanted to "avoid scandal" so much as he wanted to be - as St Paul - "all things to all men". You can argue with that, but obviously a number of popes - including our present one - didn't. I reckon the bloke was a saint. (Mind you, I reckon Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a saint too, but just put that down to my latent Lutheranism...)

At Monday, August 16, 2010 10:21:00 pm , Anonymous Marcel said...

'Latent Lutheranism'? Your tongue my be firmly in your cheek with that confession David. However, with a picture of archheretic Martin Luther on your wall (next to Our Lady!) I wonder whether you have reached the Tiber yet, or are you still paddling in the Rhein?

The Br Roger episode was more of a scandal than something that should be 'celebrated' and held up as an example with moves for a canonisation. I am sure it was uncomfortable for +Newman (also on yor wall) to publicly convert, but we received no such Apologia Pro Vita Sunt from Br Roger did we?

At Tuesday, August 17, 2010 5:22:00 am , Anonymous Marcel said...

I admit I am confused by the case of Br. Roger. Br Alois, in the aftermath of Br Roger's death said: "No. Brother Roger never 'converted' formally to Catholicism. If he had, he would have said so; for he never hid anything about the path he was following. All through his books, often written in the form of a journal, he explained as he went along what he was discovering and what he was living.”

I thought the only 'evidence' for his conversion was the reception of Holy Communin at the funeral Mass for John Paul II. Is it not still an open question? I would be extremely happy to be corrected.

At Thursday, August 19, 2010 3:06:00 am , Anonymous Marcel said...

Thank you Peregrinus for that succinct summary of events.

If everything you say in that post is correct then I cannot see how Br. Roger could be considered a Catholic. So a canonisation is completely out of the question. His improvident death outside the Church was a great misfortune.

At Thursday, August 19, 2010 5:13:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

"The name of the particular brother I am thinking of is on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite remember it. He wrote a good little book on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Can someone help jog my membory?"

Max Thurian. He not only became a Catholic without "converting", in the same way as Br. Roger, but was ordained a (Catholic) priest in 1987, and was appointed by JPII to the International Theological Commission in 1994.

At Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:39:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

That's the man! And i seem to remember he explained his conversion to the Catholic Church (which was formal and public) in exactly the same terms that Br Roger used to explain his relationship with the Catholic Church, which again gives me reason to think that Br Roger believed that he had done the same thing.

At Friday, August 20, 2010 4:29:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Well, this gets more and more interesting. We can assume that because Max Thurian was ordained that he must have been officially received into the Church beforehand (via confirmation although we have no knowledge of when or by whose hands that happened), since, as we all know, one cannot be ordained a Catholic priest without being a baptised and confirmed Catholic. Br Roger was not ordained, but he was on more than one occasion given communion by the Holy Father, and usually this is only done for those who are baptised and confirmed Catholics. A reasonable assumption in the former case would therefore also be a reasonable assumption in the latter, wouldn't it? IF the Church were to go ahead and allow a cause for his sainthood to be opened up, that would put the matter to rest as surely as Max Thurian's ordination did.

At Friday, August 20, 2010 5:48:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

On the other hand, it might be seen as asserting precisely the kind of "claim" that Br. Roger would have been so averse to.

(Plus, confirmation is a canonical necessity for ordination, but not for taking the Eucharist. So the basis for assuming confirmation in Br. Roger's case is not quite so strong. Plus, reports of the "reception" of Br Roger by the Bishop of Autun affirm that he was not confirmed on that occasion, which I think suggests a positive decision not to be confirmed. That, of course, might have been reconsidered at a later date, but have we any reason to suppose that it was?)

At Friday, August 20, 2010 9:18:00 pm , Anonymous Joshua said...

This raises an important issue much on the minds of Anglicans considering taking up the offer made in Anglicanorum cœtibus: many of these Anglo-Catholic layfolk have always held a high doctrine of confirmation, and honestly find having to be confirmed "again", as they see it, as part of the rite of reception into full communion, to be a real scandal and stumbling-block.

I know of two cases (and there must be many more) of Anglicans who have been received into the Church, but who have deliberately managed to avoid being confirmed in the process, precisely because they believe they were confirmed by an Anglican bishop and that that suffices.

Now, I know little of Calvinistic practice, but would Br Roger have been "confirmed" in some Reformed ceremony when he was a youngster?


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