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.