Father Jacques Hamel, Martyr.
I posted something here in July about the death of Father Jacques Hamel, an elderly French priest killed during daily Mass by militants acting in the name of ISIS. At the time of his death, I suggested that Father Hamel should be considered a Christian martyr, having been murdered in church by assailants motivated by a hatred for the Christian faith. Father Hamel's local ordinary, Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, recently indicated that the first steps were being taken in a process which would hopefully lead to the priest's canonization. Today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, it appears that Pope Francis has lent his support to the cause. In a homily given this morning at his residence in the Vatican, the Pope spoke about the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel before a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Rouen. Here is my own rough translation of the homily, which I undertook mainly to practice my cobwebbed Italian:
In the Cross of Jesus Christ – today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Cross – we understand fully the mystery of Christ, this mystery of annihilation, of [his] nearness to us. He, "being in the form of God" says Paul, "did not consider it a privilege to be like God, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, coming in human likeness. Found to be human, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even to death on a cross" (Phil 2:6- 8). This is the mystery of Christ. This is the mystery that is martyrdom for the salvation of men. Jesus Christ, the first martyr, is the first one who gives his life for us. And from this mystery of Christ begins the entire history of Christian martyrdom, from the first centuries until today.On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, may the Martyr Jacques Hamel intercede for us before the heavenly throne. AMDG.
The early Christians confessed Jesus Christ and paid with their lives. To the early Christians was proposed apostasy, namely: "You say that our God is the real one, not yours. Make a sacrifice to our God or our gods." And when they did not this, when they refused to commit apostasy, they were killed. This story is repeated until today; and today in the Church there are more Christian martyrs than in the early days. Today Christians are murdered, tortured, imprisoned, and slaughtered because they do not deny Jesus Christ. In this way, we come to our Père Jacques: he is part of this chain of martyrs. Christians who are suffering today – either in prison, or by death, or by torture – because they refuse to deny Jesus Christ, show the cruelty of this persecution. And this cruelty which demands apostasy is – we must say the word – Satanic. And how much good would come if all religious confessions were to say: "To kill in the name of God is Satanic."
Father Jacques Hamel was slain on the Cross, just as he celebrated the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ. He was a good man, mild, a brother to others, one who always sought to make peace, assassinated as if he were a criminal. This is the thread of Satanic persecution. But there is something in this man who accepted his own martyrdom, with the martyrdom of Christ, on the altar, something that makes me think: seeing in that difficult moment the tragedy that was coming, this gentle man, this good man, this brotherly man, did not lose the clarity to accuse and to clearly state the name of the murderer, and he said clearly: “Go away, Satan!” He gave his life for us, he gave his life so as not to deny Jesus. He gave his life in the same sacrifice of Jesus on the altar and from there he also accused the author of persecution: "Go away, Satan!"
May this example of courage, but also the martyrdom of his own life, emptying himself to help others and working for brotherhood among men, help us all to move forward without fear. From heaven, may he – because we must pray to him, for he is a martyr, and the martyrs are blessed – we must pray, give us mildness, fraternity, peace, and also the courage to tell the truth: to kill in the name of God is Satanic.