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A French Monk On His Murder By Terrorists

After the Paris and Beirut attacks I found myself despairing a bit.

Not able to find my higher ground, the higher plane of confidence and hope in God, I floundered for a bit, until I read this: http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/dom-christians-testament. Then a glimmer returned, pointing the way to the Ancient Path. I cannot imagine such a transition coming easy to those close to the attacks.

The story of Dom Christian de Chergé is not one to be read. It is to be meditated on. Chewed on. Mulled over. Internalized. I hope it brings you hope as it did me:

Dom_Christian05

A French monk on his murder by terrorists

source: http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/dom-christians-testament

Dom Christian de Chergé was one of the Trappist monks killed by extremists at the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria, in 1996, by terrorists identifying themselves as the “Armed Islamic Groups.” (Their story was told in the film “Of Gods and Men.”)  Dom Christian and the other Trappist martyrs knew that by remaining in Tibhirine, in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the country who also faced terrorism and violence, they might be called upon to offer their lives.  This is in stark contrast to the terrible plight of those who died in Paris yesterday, whose lives were taken from them forcibly.  But Dom Christian’s testament is a profound meditation on suffering, death and reconciliation, which may help as we reflect on the terrible murders in Paris,   May all those who were killed yesterday in Paris rest in peace.  May God console all those who mourn them.  And may Notre Dame de Lourdes and all the saints of France pray for their country.   (Le testament, en francais, est ici.)

Testament of Dom Christian de Chergé,      (Opened on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996)

Facing a GOODBYE …

If it should happen one day–and it could be today–that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country.

I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.

It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called, the “grace of martyrdom” to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters.

It is too easy to soothe one’s conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it.

I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naive or idealistic:
“Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!”

But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free.

This is what I shall be able to do, God willing: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families — you are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:

Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a “GOD BLESS” for you, too, because in God’s face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

AMEN! INCHALLAH!

Algiers, 1st December 1993 | Tibhirine, 1st January 1994 | Christian +

 

#GODonFILM: MIDNIGHT in PARIS Speaks of Nostalgia, Romanticism, and Presence

Inspector Javert takes a dip here, I believe

This Sunday I’ll be talking on Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris for our “GOD on FILM” series – and I just couldn’t wait to post on it even before my sermon, because for the many thematic elements to talk about here, there is the singularly rich and valuable point: the grass aint always greener on the other side. Which is why I was simultaneously charmed by this film but also really really disappointed (spoiler alert***)

Owen Wilson: naivete incarnate

The realization that presence takes precedence over nostalgia and romanticism – this is an important idea – a summons to snap back to reality and appreciate the good thing right in front of us, whether it is the place we live in, or the spouse we married, or the church we attend, or the career path we chose. Living constantly in a fantasy world of anywhere-but-here misanthropy is a miserable state to be in, no less, in my book – a state of perpetual childishness.

Which irks me to no end about the conclusion of this movie: in the end – Gil capitulates to his infatuation wholesale. Sure he’s not stuck in the 1920’s anymore but he never really grows up, in a sense. Paris may be the place to be today, but tomorrow it will be London, or NYC, or Milan, or anywhere but here. And there will always be a new belle who likes rain in her hair, or listens to Cole Porter, or likes pita bread. See what I mean?

Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen at the 2009 Tri...

not cool, Woodster, not cool.

So I don’t know if I’m alone in pointing this out – not many have aired these sentiments – but I just feel it was a bit too biographical of Woody Allen for my liking – slipping deeper into neurosis and never fully climbing out (albeit tongue in cheek).

Again. This was a great movie. But for it’s merits, the message never hits home in the end, but balks. For that reason I give it 3 out of 4.