People hold a banner with a picture of French priest Father Jacques Hamel, which reads, "Where there is hatred, let me sow love," after a July 27 Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Father Jacques Hamel was killed in a July 26 attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen by assailants linked to Islamic State groups. CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters

Fr. Jacques Hamel: a model of peace

By  Julie Hall, Youth Speak News
  • August 18, 2016

Cardinal Oswald Gracias is encouraging his clergy in the Archdiocese of Mumbai to imitate the recently slain priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel. The French priest was brutally killed by two men proclaiming loyalty to the Islamic State on July 26.

When I first read the article, I was shocked. I have been watching the news covering Olympic standings and reading articles about the most recent movie releases and yet I have seen little about this priest who was killed in an act of terror.

Cardinal Gracias is urging priests to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Hamel, by following Christ until the very end of their lives. He spoke out about how this French priest lived his life as an advocate for peace. He described the incident, in which Hamel’s throat was slit while he was celebrating Mass in Saint-Etienne-Du-Rouvray in Normandy, as “monstrous.” He pleaded with clergy members to offer up prayers for the family of Hamel as well as for the two men who committed the act.

Reading that plea from the cardinal, I think it is amazing that the Catholic community can turn grieving into such a beautiful thing. I believe that in offering up prayers for these two men, and for all those who have harmed us, truly brings us closer to Christ.

We pray it at least once a week, but how often do we reflect on the meaning behind these words: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Fr. Hamel, and his pastoral mission, encouraged humbling oneself before the Lord on a daily basis through the celebration of Mass. His ultimate act of humility, his death, was also an act of courage as he stood up for what he believed and sacrificed himself just as Christ did for us.

Now, I am beginning to understand the idea behind the cardinal’s testimony. To imitate a man who stood up in the face of terror, and ultimately sacrificed himself in front of his parish in order to try and save them. This is an image of martyrdom.

The 86-year-old priest will not be forgotten any time soon as Europe has sparked a huge amount of interest in declaring him a martyr. The hashtag #santosubito (saint now) has been trending all over Europe since the incident occurred.

But, it has of course stoked new fears of Islamic terrorism across Europe as well. To this fear, Cardinal Gracias remarked that, “We shall not be disheartened or give up hope, armed with the weapons of prayer and fasting, we combat with good the forces of dark and evil.”

The cardinal himself, being one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors and who serves as president of multiple Catholic conferences, has wise words and I encourage everyone to read his entire testimony on this particular topic.

I think the most important thing which this event has done is shown how important our faith truly is. As straightforward as that sounds, it is what I most recognized while reading multiple news reports on the incident.

Our faith is what connects us all, you and me, and billions of others around the world. Our faith is what gives us strength in times such as these, when everything around us seems so dark and intimidating. The message of Cardinal Gracias, as well as the response to the unfortunate death of Fr. Hamel, both serve as examples of how connected our community really is.

“We must remember,” the cardinal told clergy, “that the Triune God is the creator of all that exists and has the power to do more than we can possibly imagine.”

A message of humility and courage, all in one.

Let us all listen to this message and remember that we are not worthy, but we will be healed.

(Hall, 18, is a candidate for the philosophy program at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont.)

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