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Prayer form emphasizes repetitive song and silence

By LISA SCHULTE
The Catholic Voice

Editor's note: This is the fourth and final story of the series on prayer.

Amanda Homan is a typical high school freshman, with homework and social activities that take up much of her time. Still, the 15-year-old takes an hour of her busy schedule once a month to spend with God.

For the past year and a half, Homan has been participating in Taize Prayer services at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha.

Taize Prayer, founded in Taize, France, is an ecumenical prayer form that places great emphasis on simple repetitive song, with one or more periods of silent time. Done in semi-darkness and candlelight, it centers on the cross. Scripture readings and petitions also make up the prayer's format.

'Taize has given me the chance to look at my life and sort through exactly what I'm going through," she wrote in a testimonial. 'Almost every time I leave the Taize Prayer services, I feel so willing to go out and serve other people. Taize has allowed me to know God and just what he has in mind for me."

The repetitive song, or chant, of the Taize Prayer helps quiet one's soul to move deeper into the presence of God, said Sister Kerry Larkin, OSM, co-director of the Associate Program for the Servants of Mary and coordinator of the order's Taize Prayer services. The Servants of Mary have been holding Taize Prayer services for six years at their motherhouse in Omaha.

'It's just so prayerful and peaceful that it just kind of calms you down," Sister Larkin said. 'You can just let go and place your worries in God's hands and there's just this serenity that comes from it."

Taize Prayer is for everyone, said Peter Guile, liturgist at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish and coordinator of the parish's Taize Prayer services. The services at St. Stephen the Martyr draw between 15 and 30 people "“ both young and old, he said. Youth are encouraged to sit around the sanctuary and oftentimes bring cushions and rugs to sit on. All are invited to remove their shoes, he said. The services are prepared and conducted to a significant degree by parish youth who serve in ministry, Guile said.

'Taize has really made a difference in my life and my faith," Homan said.

Prayer styles can range from being purely unstructured, like Centering Prayer, to very structured, like the rosary. Taize Prayer has the components of several prayer forms across the spectrum, but emphasizes silence, reflection and simple song in a calm and peaceful environment, Guile said.

For Guile, Taize Prayer helps in maintaining a spiritual balance in his life.

'Any prayer form that is very reflective in nature, that allows opportunity to just be in the presence of God, is very significant to nurturing peace and serenity," Guile said.

Taize Prayer provides this opportunity on a regular basis, he said.

'With the pace at which our world seems to move these days, I think there is a great need for folks to take time out, to step back, breathe deep, allow God to be present to us and just simply rest in the Lord," Guile said. 'This prayer form provides yet another opportunity."

TAIZE PRAYER OPPORTUNITIES

 St. Stephen the Martyr Church, 16701 S St., Omaha

>> Last Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. before and after daylight savings time); September through May; lasts one hour

Servants of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows Convent, 7400 Military Ave., Omaha

>> First Friday of every month at 7 p.m.; September through April; lasts about 45 minutes

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