Thursday, July 28, 2016

A New Age

Earlier this week we read of the violent death of 85 year old Father Jacques Hamel, a priest of the Diocese of Rouen, France. Two young men entered the Church in the small village of St. Etienne near Rouen. They killed Father after they forced him to his knees. The Church has lived through many persecutions, some memorialized by churches, statuary and monuments. I believe it was the early theologian Origen who said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith." Father Hamel could have retired 10 years ago when he reached he age of seventy-five. Since he had the energy and the will to keep in his post as an active priest, he stayed on. People loved him because of his dedication, his kindness, gentleness and humility.
One media account quoted an Algerian born Muslim woman who came to the site of the Church to offer her prayers and condolences. She had been touched by the priest's kindness. During this Year of Mercy, I am sure that Father Jacques would have whispered "Jesus, forgive them, they know not what they are doing."
Let us pray for all victims of violence and their survivors who mourn them. As Pope Francis said, "This is a war", scattered in many places. But, he adds it is not a "religious" war. Greed is the prime mover of much of the violence we witness in our life time. Although it is at times hard to watch, the movie "Blood Diamonds" shows how human trafficking, greed and violence trap men, women and children into In the USA we see racial tension, joblessness, gang violence, random shootings, and discontent among many. Others of us need to stop and refresh ourselves in prayer offered for our leaders, our priests, our Pope and each of us. May Father Hamel's death remind us of how unexpected death may be.
Following the Crucified Lord day-by-day we can overcome our fear of death, natural though it is, by daily "dying" to our selfishness and other sins. Our daily self-denial is what we can offer in the chalice and on the paten raised up in offering and consecrated during daily Mass. Is our Age, a new Age of Martyrs. Whether or not that be true, we are witnessing examples in our days: Father Hamel, the 4 Missionaries of Charity slain in Yemen, the young Christian men killed by ISIS in Libya, are part of this "New age of Martyrs." May these men and women, new Christian martyrs, intercede for us. May they pray for us to be be solid in our faith, and alive with enthusiasm for God and our brothers and sisters.

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