As if by magic, once again a horrific event is met with a spontaneous outpouring of both grief and support. The gruesomeness of the murder of a priest and the terrorizing of a handful of parishioners attending daily mass has captivated the international press. The city of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, however, has responded not to the spectacle of the violent act, but to the humanity of its victims. These images come from the Sun, a London news organization.
I find it very interesting that the makeshift memorial has focused not at the church, but on the city hall plaza. Ironically, this location is close by Rouen, the city with the cathedral made famous by Eduard Monet, the painter. The church, for this community is more than just a place of worship, it is a symbol of their settlement. So citizens came to express their support, not just for the church, but for their community, for France, and for the church by lighting candles in front of their city hall.
The other location for remembrance is the home of the priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel. Fr. Hamel is described as a man of peace. In his mid 80’s, he chose to serve the local parish as an associate, helping with the ministry. One of his fellow priests recalled Fr. Hamel’s response when it was suggested that he ought to slow down and take full retirement. “Have you ever seen a retired pastor? I will work until my last breath.” Fr. Hamel, in living his faith to the last will be serving his church well beyond his days on earth.