I debated on whether to write this post because I have such a HUGE backlog for work but I knew I just had to do it. My heart has been so, so, so heavy these past few days… with personal struggles, family-work-life-balance challenges, and news reports of horrific happenings all around the world.
One of those reports — that of ISIS terrorists killing an elderly priest while he was celebrating Mass in Normandy, France — really moved me to tears. This is a fallen world we live in, and oh how my heart breaks for us who deal with the effects of sin every single day. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. Those men who killed Fr. Jacques Hamel needed His mercy and grace as well. Let us pray, pray, pray! And act according to our faith and values as well.
Anyway, as I said, I did not want to let this moment pass without paying some sort of tribute to Fr. Jacques, who has been proclaimed a martyr by so many in the Church. So I thought I would share just three important life lessons that I think we can glean from his example, based on this report I read about him on The New York Times:
1. Once you’ve embraced your vocation, you will be a generally happy person.
Rev. Philippe Maheut, the vicar general of the archdiocese of Rouen, described Father Hamel as “joyous, sometimes anxious, like those who want everything to be done well.” He was also “fully engaged with the community, and very much appreciated.”
It’s clear then that Father Hamel learned to totally embrace his vocation, and doing so helped make him the person he was.
How many of us today can honestly say that we have embraced the calling we have received from the Lord? (Yup, I’m preaching to myself today!) How many of us live out our vocations with joy, trusting that God has placed us where we are for a greater purpose — His purpose?
It’s never too late to discover God’s purpose for our lives — and to live according to His will and plan; start by seeking Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
2. At the end of our lives, what matters most is our relationships, not our accomplishments.
Father Hamel was said to be “loved by all,” and people looked to him to be “a little like a grandfather.” The people of St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the town in Normandy where he spent many years of his life, are all grieving over his death; like all of us all over the world.
One of his parishioners, Jean Paya, said this about Father Hamel: “He was just so helpful.” He even remembers the time Father Hamel came to their house after they had “lost a child.”
This serves an important reminder to all of us — and leads to a few related questions: When we die, what will people remember most about us? What do we hope they will say when people ask them about us? What really, truly matters in life?
Let us strive for significance, not success. Let us prioritize people over things. Our relationships are actually part of our “riches” here on earth.
May we never forget what soon-to-be Saint Mother Teresa once said:
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”
3. Never let your age hinder you from fulfilling God’s plan for you.
Father Jacques was 85 years old when he was killed — right when he was celebrating Mass, the highest form of worship. He lived a full life, and died while giving life to others via the Holy Eucharist.
One of the priests who knew him said that he was very “invested with the parish life” even if he was already very old. When teased that he should already retire from the priesthood, he would “laugh it off and say, ‘Have you ever met a retired priest? I’ll work until my last breath.'”
And that he did indeed. He was working for God’s kingdom right to the very end.
May we be privileged and blessed to do the same. May we never allow our age– whether we think we are “too young” or “too old” — to hinder us from serving the Lord.
Thank You, Lord, for using Father Jacques to remind us of these things.
Thank you for the example He has given us.
Father Jacques Hamel, pray for us.