Seeking to Understand the Whole Person: Brother Roger

I have been reading Brother Roger of Taizé: Essential Writings, edited by Marcello Fidanzio (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006). Here are two excerpts that I hope you will find edifying:

More often than ever before young people ask me, “What is the most beautiful thing in your life?” Without hesitating I reply: first of all the common prayer, and in it, the long periods of silence. Then, immediately after that, the most beautiful thing in my life is this: when I am talking with someone alone, to perceive the whole human being, marked by a tragedy or by being torn apart within, and at the same time by the irreplaceable gifts through which the life of God in that person is able to bring everything to fulfillment.

It is essential to try to comprehend the whole person, by means of a few words or attitudes rather than by lengthy attempts at explanation. It is not enough simply to share what assaults a person within. It is even more vital to search for that special gift of God, the pivot of their whole existence. Once this gift (or gifts) has been brought to light, roads forward lie open.

No dwelling on the knots, failures, and conflicting forces; thousands of reasons for them can always be found. Move on as quickly as possible to the essential: uncovering the unique gift, the talents entrusted to every human being, intended not to lie buried but to be brought to full life in God.

The most beautiful thing in my life? I could go on forever: those rare occasions when I suddenly find myself free to drop everything and go out … walking for hours and conversing in the streets of some great city … sharing a meal with guests round a table …
– A Life We Never Dared Hope For, 65

September 4, 1974

When I was young, at a time when Europe was torn apart by so many conflicts, I kept on asking myself: Why all these confrontations? Why do so many people, even Christians, condemn one another out of hand? And I wondered: is there, on this earth, a way of reaching complete understanding of others? Then came a day – I can still remember the date, and I could describe the place: the subdued light of a late summer evening, darkness settling over the countryside – a day when I made a decision. I said to myself, if this way does exist, begin with yourself and resolve to understand every person fully. That day, I was certain the vow I had made was for life. It involved nothing less than returning again and again, my whole life long, to this irrevocable decision: seek to understand all, rather than to be understood.
– (Journal entry) The Wonder of a Love

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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