Nowhere Is Sacred: France Church Attack
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Politics and Activism

Nowhere Is Sacred: France Church Attack

Reflecting on terrorism and one of its most recent victims.

Nowhere Is Sacred: France Church Attack

Last week two armed men stormed into a church in Rouen, France and took five people hostage. Once inside, they recorded themselves pledging allegiance to ISIS before killing Father Jacques Hamel, an 84-year-old priest presiding over Mass at the time of the attack. Another hostage was critically wounded, but both attackers were shot and killed by police after a short standoff. This marks the second terrorist attack in less than two weeks for France, following the horrific attack in Nice on Bastille Day.

I have to admit that when I first heard about the attack on the church in Rouen, my reaction was one of both sorrow and anger. I grieved the loss of life, of course, but I was also infuriated by how common these attacks had become, as well as by the uneasy sense of familiarity I felt when another one occurred. Additionally, every attack seems to only encourage more Islamophobia. Instead of understanding that those who carry out these attacks do not reflect the faith they claim to be practicing. But this time around, something else bothered me.

If you’ve suffered through enough of my articles or a couple of conversations with me, you’re probably well aware of my Catholic upbringing. It’s something that almost always seems to come up, and while I no longer consider myself a Catholic, I can’t deny how much being raised as one has affected me. I realize that makes me sound like some kid who was raised in a doomsday cult and escaped, but it was nothing like that at all. Of course being raised Catholic, like being raised in any religious faith, came with both pros and cons. But above all else, being raised Catholic meant being raised in a community (or “parish”) that might as well have been my extended family. And the leader of that community was of course, the priest.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a parish that had not one priest, but several priests, a monsignor and a deacon. Considering how much time I spent at church as a kid I grew to both trust and admire these men greatly. They weren’t just there to give us our weekly wafer and sip of watered-down wine, they cared about each and every member of our parish, and were always welcoming to anyone who needed spiritual guidance. As I got older, I wanted to become a priest as well, to both serve God and guide His people. That obviously didn’t happen, but there’s still something I admire about the life of discipline and devotion that priests live. So when I heard about the attack on the church in Rouen and the death of Father Jacques Hamel, I couldn’t help but think about and be thankful for the priests I have been fortunate enough to know in my life.

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