True Martyrdom: Père Jacques Hamel

When we received news of yesterday’s atrocity at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, we prayed for the perpetrators, that they might be forgiven, for the wounded that they might recover, but for Fr Jacques, who was murdered at the altar, there was only the Te Deum. Why? Fr Jacques joins the long line of those who have witnessed to Christ by their blood. He did not choose to die, he was murdered; and he was murdered simply and solely because he was a Christian. He is thus a true martyr, and it has long been the custom of the Church, when hearing of martyrdom, to praise God by singing the Te Deum. But what of all those others who have been killed, in Nice, in Ansbach, in so many places, are they martyrs? Not as the Church understands martyrdom, perhaps, but that does not mean that their deaths are any less important, nor that their murder is any less heinous. We reserve the terms ‘martyr’ and ‘martyrdom’ for very specific conditions, but all taking of innocent human life is wrong and cries to heaven for vengeance. When the language of martyrdom is appropriated by the murderers themselvs, as in the case of IS, the language may be — indeed is — defiled, but the reality of martyrdom itself is untarnished.

Today we ask the prayers of Fr Jacques for all who have died, all who grieve, all who live in fear; for surely his prayers must be very powerful with God, whom he served throughout his long life and for faith in whom he died.

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9 thoughts on “True Martyrdom: Père Jacques Hamel”

  1. Prayers indeed for the repose of Fr Jacques and all who have died through violence, not their choice.

    The spilt blood of all who are murdered, might call out to heaven for vengeance, but that isn’t the Christian way, is it?

    We are called to forgiveness and to turn the other Cheek, as Jesus told us – so how can we protect ourselves against such random killings as Fr Jacques, the Nice events and many others – the pre-meditated of the disabled in Japan while they slept, let alone the violence against many perpetuated by so called IS in the middle east and across Europe?

    I don’t have any answers, and vigilance and observation are probably the only tools that we have to protect our congregations at worship – but worshipping behind locked doors isn’t an option (in my view).

    How do we turn the hearts and minds of those committed to commit violent acts is a task too huge for me to even speculate upon – but prayer seems to be our first and last resort if we are not to descend to the level of defensive violence advocated by some extreme voices.

    Much to ponder on as I go to Church for Morning Prayer.

    • Actually, Ernie, I think Fr Jacques is in no need of our prayers because it seems to me he fulfils all the conditions for martyrdom, but we must pray for others, and I’m sure his prayers will help us.

  2. Thank you for your post sister. Your post is instructive as always. When we heard the shocking news yesterday, my colleague and I also thought that Fr Hamel was a martyr. I also prayed that the hearts of those wicked people, who promote such terrible deeds, might be turned to the Truth. UK Viewer, my understanding is not that vengeance is ours to carry out, but that these awful, sinful acts do indeed cry out for vengeance. This is why I pray for their conversion.

  3. Near the end of the ‘Te Deum’ is a 3-fold plea to God to have mercy on us. As I looked again at the English words of the ‘Te Deum’ it came home to me that this is a prayer not only for whatever particular faith group we belong to, not just for ‘people like us’ but for all people. Jacques Hamel died as a faithful servant of Christ who died for the sins of all humanity and that includes those who commit heinous violence.

    Lord, have mercy on us all.

  4. I would also like to pray for those people who will be rejoicing at the murder, who’s hearts are hardened and twisted by we know not what. No baby is born to be a callous murderer, surely? What goes wrong in a human life to take a person onto that road of anger and violence? I guess the ‘old-fashioned’ word is ‘sin’…..but I still wonder what else in a young person’s life would predispose them to be come capable of these horrific things. May the love of Christ, somehow, become real to them and change their heart.

  5. Thank you for posting this. When I heard the news I was very shocked. I think the murder was to strike fear so that people think there is no refuge, nowhere will be safe. However I have been reassured by the French church reaction and articles like yours. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.

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