Siena College will host two brothers from a French ecumenical monastic order for an evening of prayer and song April 10, 7:30 p.m., in the college chapel.

The Taize community, from which the brothers hail, has a large international following and is known for a form of prayer that uses silence and repetition of simple music and Bible texts. Taize prayer can be sung by assemblies of various nationalities, languages and denominations.

Each year, pilgrimages and meetings attract hundreds of thousands of young people to Taize, located in Burgundy, France. The 100-member community also has a strong devotion to peace and justice.

Reaching out
Siena decided to sponsor the event as part of the college's 75th anniversary celebrations instead of publishing a special book or holding a gala, noted Rev. Ken Paulli, OFM, the college's chief of staff. The event also responds to the Year of Faith started by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who asked communities to deepen faith through study and prayer, worship and service.

"I see this as one of Siena's ways of attending to that second call," Father Paulli said. "One of the things I admire about Siena College students in 2013: These folks understand this is a global community."

The Taize community was founded in 1940 by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, also known as Brother Roger, who came from the Swiss Reformed church. Taize members commit themselves to an apostolate of reconciliation and vow celibacy, simplicity and obedience, much like the Franciscans who sponsor Siena College.

In fact, Father Paulli used the Taize chant of "Laudate Dominum" in his first Mass almost 30 years ago. He's admired the style ever since: "It just becomes part of you because it's simple but powerful. It just has always really kind of grabbed [my] heart."

Help for students
Siena students have also shown interest in elements of Taize prayer: For example, they've been sitting on the floor around the altar during their new praise and worship program on Wednesday nights.

"That's their solace," said Kate Kaufman Burns, director of liturgical arts at Siena. "At the end of a long day, that's how they make their joyful noise."

The students also enjoyed Taize music at chapel Masses during Lent. One favorite is the hymn that repeats the line, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

The harmonies are not difficult, Mrs. Burns said. "It works. It brings that very prayerful, meditative quality."

Mrs. Burns, who also helps with pastoral care at the school, said many students are "overwhelmed" with the stresses of school, family and personal lives.

"They're looking for clarity and a sense of purpose and a deeper relationship with God," she said. "Music is such a powerful tool for prayer. I hope to see our young people have a feeling of calm and peace. If they leave here singing one of those refrains before an exam or before meals or on the way to class, then that's a gift."

Siena got the idea for the prayer service, which will be followed by a talk from the brothers on what draws young pilgrims, from Marymargaret Fallati, a parishioner of St. Pius X parish in Loudonville who took her family on a retreat to the French monastery in 2006. Mrs. Burns is a fellow parishioner.

Mrs. Fallati met Christians from all over the world on the retreat and has since attended Taize meetings in Montreal and Bolivia.

"It's an astounding sight," she said. "We have a very hurried society and culture, and we're all very plugged in. There's a universal need to take time to reflect and take stock and connect with our God.

"I like connecting young people to an enriched prayer life and validating their walk of faith," Mrs. Fallati continued. "It's just a joy to be able to introduce the spirit of Taize prayer to others."

Siena is publicizing the service to Christian congregations and Catholic and Protestant chaplains at area colleges. The event will feature student musicians, as well.