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Catholic Church of the Beatitudes: Make Music, Not War

Taize chant and prayer bring peace within and peace in our world

In a familiar story, Jesus is asked: Who is my neighbor? He answers by telling the story of the Good Samaritan.

In this story he tells about a man who was robbed, beaten and left on the road to die. A priest and a Levite came by and ignored the dying man. But a Samaritan — a supposed enemy of the Jews — saw the man, took pity on him, bound his wounds and provided for his care.

By choosing the Samaritan as the “hero” of this story, Jesus is confronting us to challenge our attitudes toward our enemies and those we consider “less” than ourselves because of their racial, cultural or social clan background. Jesus doesn’t give us long lectures on how to love our enemies. Rather, he tells us a story and invites us to become what we hear and understand.

I was pondering this parable while attending a Fourth of July concert at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring Josh Groban. The first part of the concert featured our country’s patriotic favorites with the traditional salute to our veterans. As each of the armed services’ themes was played, veterans of that service stood to be acknowledged.

This must have entered my subconscious because a few nights later as I lay in that liminal space between wakefulness and sleep, I had a vision in which I imagined a world symphony playing the national anthems of all the differing countries. Thousands of people from all over the world had gathered for this performance. While the national anthem of a particular country was being played, those who came from that country or whose ancestors had originated in that country were asked to stand and be recognized. Rounds of applause followed. I was deeply moved as I witnessed, in my imagination, what music can do to bring the world to a sense of oneness.

Somehow this brought me back to reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan. I suddenly realized that in telling this story, Jesus provided an action for the hero to perform. Instead of criticizing the Samaritans, Jesus made a Samaritan the star of the story.

This led me to ponder: What would happen if instead of harboring anger, mistrust and alienation toward our perceived enemies, we would instead sit at a concert together listening to one another’s national anthems being weaved into an incredible symphony? How would our souls and or spirits resonate to the experience?

If this is impossible to put into action at this particular moment in our history, what action might we take that is practical and doable? One of the ways the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes answered that question was to begin a Taize Prayer for Peace. Taize is a meditative prayer and a prayer of the heart.

Brother Roger, founder of the Taize Community, wrote: “Prayer does not make us less involved in the world. On the contrary, nothing is more responsible than to pray.” If we cannot bring a world orchestra together, we can create an opportunity to come together and pray for peace.

Taize provides the setting. On the second Sunday of each month at 7 p.m., people come to chant, meditate and pray for peace in our world. The music of the Taize chants supports the deep prayer. This is followed by moments of silence and reflection. All of the prayer takes place in an atmosphere of candlelight and brilliant colored cloths draped over screens to provide a sense of “otherness.” A feeling of quiet and a sense of oneness spread and grow as the prayer becomes etched into our souls. Often the chants sing themselves within participants’ daily lives during the week.

Taize Prayer is for all people and all ages. The prayer has no boundaries of faith or religion. All are welcome. In Santa Barbara, we are fortunate to have a Taize Prayer Service available each week. The following is a list of times and places church communities gather together:

» First Sunday at 7 p.m. — Montecito Covenant Church on Cold Springs Road

» Second Sunday at 7 p.m. — Church of the Beatitudes downstairs in the Fellowship Hall of First Congregational Church on State Street

» Third Wednesday at 7 p.m.  — Unitarian Society on Santa Barbara Street

» Fourth Sunday at 7 p.m. — St. Mark United Methodist Church on La Colina Road

All are invited to join us in praying for peace in our world.

Suzanne Dunn, RCWP, is the pastor and a member of the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes, which celebrates Mass at 5:30 p.m. Saturdays at First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara, 2101 State St. Click here for more information, or call 805.252.4105. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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