Friday, April 26, 2013

Pere Cretien

Friday, April 26, 2013 -- Week of 4 Easter
Robert Hunt, Priest and First Chaplain at Jamestown, 1607

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 960)
Psalms    40, 54 (morning)    //    51 (evening)
Wisdom 6:12-23
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 7:1-17

Today Jesus heals the slave of a Roman army officer.  Some Jewish elders commend the centurion to Jesus for the soldier's goodness and generosity.  Being sensitive to the Biblical purity laws, the officer sends word to Jesus not to come inside, where Jesus would risk ritual defilement, but "only speak the word, and let my servant be healed."  Jesus remarks, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."  Jesus heals the Roman soldier's servant.

Many would not have responded as Jesus did.  Some in Israel saw a Roman officer only as the enemy, an instrument of occupation and oppression.  Many who were religious might have seen him only as a non-believer, one who is profane and impure and worthy only of God's judgment and wrath.  Jesus saw him as a fellow human being with qualities of faith and goodness.

May those of us who follow in his name be as generous as Jesus toward those of other faiths and traditions.

I'd like to share a story of another generous spirit from our later Christian tradition.

On May 21, 1996 an Algerian Terrorist group - the GIA - beheaded seven French Trappist monks who, against all advice, decided to remain at their abbey in the Atlas Mountains alongside their Muslim neighbors with whom they had established deep bonds of affection. Their compassion and their vow of stability led them to stay put in spite of all dangers.

Five days after their assassination, on May 26, the Feast of Pentecost that year, the testament of one of the slaughtered monks, Père Crétien was opened and read. It was dated January 1, 1994, two-and-one-half years before his kidnapping and murder. It reads in part:

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.

I would 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 will strike me down.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm
those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic:
"Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!"
But these persons should know that finally
my most avid curiosity will be set free.
This is what I shall be able to do, please God:
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.

Père Crétien then addresses his assassin, the one who will do him evil:
And also you, my last-minute friend,
who will not have known what you were doing:
Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this "A-DIEU"
to be 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.




At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Barry Chitwood said...

Having read the monk's testament, I wanted to comment. However, I have no words that can clarify my feelings about the profundity of his prose. Thank you, Lowell for sharing that deeply moving masterpiece.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we are to be followers of Christ, we will have to give up trusting in weapons and military might. Until then, we can only profess to "wanting" to be Christians.



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