Père Jacques Hamel

Yesterday there was yet another murderous atrocity, aimed perhaps at stirring up fear in Europe and likely to create division and yet more hatred and violence. This one was in the church of St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray in a suburb of Rouen in France.

The elderly auxiliary priest Father Jacques Hamel was celebrating Mass when he was murdered. It was at the table where bread and wine is taken and blessed, the bread is broken and thanks and praise are given to God. This is done in every Christian church as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, in remembrance of Jesus, who gave his life as the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

How should a Christian respond to such a horrific murder of a faithful priest when was in the very act of public witness to his faith in Christ crucified and risen? An obvious answer is 'with horror, with tears, with prayer for all involved or affected'. Prayer at such times is natural but hard. Then it can be that Christian traditions such as the daily praying of the Psalms or ancient Christian prayers can be a real help. It is a huge challenge that Christians are encouraged to rejoice and pray in all circumstances:
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
1 Thessalonians 5: 16 - 18
We cannot and should not rejoice in anyone's murder, but for Christians there is always reason to rejoice in God. We cannot give thanks for all circumstances but it is right to give thanks in all circumstances. In the horrific circumstance of the murder of Jacques Hamel we can give thanks for his lifelong faithful service. He was a true servant of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to serve humanity and give his life as a sacrifice for our sins. 


I was reminded by this post, True Maryrdom: Père Jacques Hamel, that a traditional custom of the catholic church on hearing of the death of a Christian killed because of their faith is to pray the 'Te Deum Laudamus' (We praise you O God). This is also a tradition in the Anglican church when commemorating true Christian martyrs. The 'Te Deum' is an ancient Latin hymn of praise to God, probably dating from the 4th or 5th centuries A.D. It feels counter-intuitive to praise God in response to a brutal death, but the praise is not for the crime. The praise is for who God is, Creator and Lover of all, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who will "come to be our judge" and through whom evil is and will be destroyed.

Towards the end of the 'Te Deum' is a 3-fold plea to God to 'have mercy upon us'. That is an all-encompassing request, not only for our own particular group, Christian or otherwise, but for all humanity, including all for whom Christ died which includes the perpetrators of the most heinous violence.
Lord, have mercy on us all.
When I find it hard to pray, I often find that music helps, so here is a musical version of the 'Te Deum', sung in English. This 'Te Deum in B Flat' is arranged by Charles Villiers Stanford and sung by the choir of Winchester Cathedral with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

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