Persecuted Christians // Father Jacques Hamal

For all the saints who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed; Thy name, Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong. Alleluia, Alleluia!

For in secret the holy children of good people offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, so that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.Wisdom 18:9

Fr. Jacques Hamel is a modern martyr of our church. He was martyred July 26th ,2016 while celebrating mass at his small parish of St. Etienne. Fr. Jacques was born in 1930 and at age 85 he was martyred in Roven, France by two ISIS attackers. He spent 58 years as a priest and when he had the option of retiring ten years earlier he opted to continue shepherding his flock. He is an inspiration to me and his death has an impact on the entire Body of Christ. When Fr. Jacques Hamel was martyred in 2016 I had just gotten home from living in Europe. Not two months earlier I had been traveling through France with some of my friends.

Twenty miles from where I had been traveling was the city where Fr. Jacques Hamel became a Saint through the sacrifice of his life. Twenty miles from where I walked a Catholic priest was shot in his own parish while celebrating mass for his congregation. Knowing this makes me realize how naïve I can often be to the persecution going on throughout the church. How often am I apathetic to the privilege I have of going to mass freely whenever I want? How often do I forget to pray for the persecuted Church? How often do I forget my brothers and sisters who face real danger for living their faith every day?

Three weeks ago I did a speaking event with Fr. Mike Schmitz. He spoke on praying the mass rather than just watching it. He encouraged the audience to remember the privilege we have as Catholics in the Western world and how close to home the threat of having these privileges taken from us really is. I think the reason Fr. Jacques Hamel’s death was so shocking was because it happened within the Western world. Unfortunately persecution like this happens in the Eastern World and Asia consistently going unreported and virtually unnoticed by us. I have two friends who personally know Catholic’s who have died for the faith in the Middle East. A Chaldean Catholic who lives near my home escaped from a prison in Iraq where he was being held for celebrating the Mass illegally.

This persecution is much closer to home than any of us would care to realize. Fr. Jacques Hamel’s death was a wakeup call to our blindness. We need to have both grateful recognition for our freedom and do what we can to support the Catholic Church around the world. For most of us that means through our prayers. We cannot forget to intercede for the persecuted Church, for those who face martyrdom that they would have the grace and courage not to deny Christ, and especially for peace in the world that leaders would promote religious freedom and protect the
innocent.

Four months ago we celebrated the one year anniversary of Fr. Jacques Hamel’s death. In an interview his sister, Roselyn Hamel, shared this bit of wisdom,

“We must not forget that this priest died and that a few minutes before, he prayed for peace for the whole world for peace among peoples. … We can say that Jacques after this tragedy, became a brother to us all.”

 Cause for the beatification of Fr. Jacques Hamel has been opened this past year on Thursday April 13 th Holy Thursday on the feast of the Institution of the Eucharist to mark the significance of his sacrifice in union with Christ’s in the Mass. Pope Francis shared, “He is  martyr; He accepted it as Christ at the alter giving his life not to deny Jesus.”

One day Fr. Jacques Hamel will be a Saint in the Catholic Church but until that day let us not allow his death to go without impact in this part of the Body of Christ.

Fr. Jacques Hamel, pray for us!

To Jesus through Mary-Hannah Terbrack

 Father Jacques

Father Jacques

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