Fr Jacques Hamel, 85, died this morning.
I didn’t know Fr Jacque. In fact, before today I had never heard of him. Most of us have never heard of most Catholic priests. They are men who serve the Church, bring us the sacraments and have only God to appreciate their love and sacrifice.
But we’ll all remember Fr Jacques; he died when a couple ISIS thugs slit his throat while he was serving mass in St.-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France.
He died just a few miles from where he was born, in the diocese where he worked since ordination in 1958. Many stories about his life and its terrible ending appear in the news today. I like the one in the New York Times by Adam Nossiter and Hannah Olivennes. It speaks of a man of faith, love, joy and service – a priest nicely balanced between the sad theological wars of the post-Vatican II years. He was beloved by parishioners, friends and family.
I find this event difficult to talk about. I find it difficult to write about. As people who know me can attest, I seldom have trouble expressing myself or offering an opinion.
We hear reports of murder, terrorism, bombing, rape and torture each day. I confess to becoming almost numb to the normal effect of these reports — which should be to break down in tears. It has come to the point where I just shake my head, ask God’s mercy on those suffering and go about my business.
With the case of Fr Jacques, I have somehow been jolted back to emotional reality: sad, angry, afraid.
But my faith is not shaken, but strengthened. My determination to stand strong as a Catholic has been reinforced. As odd as it sounds, I have to wonder is this is an example of why God permits evil to exist. Something has to contrast with good.
Is there such a thing as evil, such a thing as a truly evil person? I have no doubt of it. These people who cut the throat of an elderly priest were not misguided, confused, mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. They were evil and expressed their evil in the most abhorrent manner possible: the grotesque slaying of a holy man during the holy sacrifice of the mass.
I have a new hero. Fr Jacques, rest in peace.