If you follow the news, you'll find much to be sad about, things that have happened in the last few days and weeks, both at home and abroad. But I'm especially sad for the priest who was leading mass in France when terrorists attacked the church and killed him. His name was Father Jacques Hamel. He was 85 years old. A presumably peaceful, elderly pastor leading prayers. I wonder if they were praying for peace, for an end to violence in their country, for the comfort of the families of those lost less than two weeks before in the tragedy in Nice.
I think it's poignant that the day before Father Hamel's own martyrdom, he had celebrated the feast of Saint James, who was the first of Jesus' twelve disciples to be martyred. He went to mass the next morning to meet his own death at the hands of broken, confused people. I wonder if he felt compassion for them. Did he say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" ?
I would like to offer prayers for Father Hamel, this recent addition to the great cloud of witnesses. I feel sheepish because he'd been praying liturgy all his life, 85 years; and here I am a novice dipping my toes into the liturgy and history of faith in Jesus, "fooling with it" as Phyllis Tickle would say in her Tennessee way. So I offer these prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant Jacques Hamel;
and we pray that, having opened to him the gates of larger life,
you will receive him more and more into your joyful service,
that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past,
he many share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death:
Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way
that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness;
for your tender mercies' sake.
(1) Collect for the Departed, p 253, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church
(2) Burial II, p 505, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church