05 March 2012

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ A Truly Sacrificial Thank-you

Should it ever befall me - and it could happen today - to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all the foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. That the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones… consigned to the apathy of oblivion. I’ve lived enough to know that I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails in the world and the evil that smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love… be accused randomly of my murder. I know the contempt felt for the people here… indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me… are something different. They’re a body and a soul. My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who called me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God-willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with Him His children of Islam as He sees them.

This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today and you too, friend of the last minute who knew not what you were doing. Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen. Inchallah.
~ Dom Christian ~
while Prior, Our Lady of Atlas at Tibhirine, Algeria 

We watched the movie Of Gods and Men this past weekend...
It isn't exactly the kind of movie you say you enjoy.
But I found it impossible not to be deeply moved  and challened by the story of these gentle, servant-hearted men who loved their community, who refused escape when they could, and who paid the ultimate human price - they gave their lives. Watching this account of how these men arrived at consensus, having so many reasons to live... and thus while not wishing martyrdom they were willing to live that risk because they were confident that God had called them for such a time as this, to borrow another Biblical expression. Even as the situation deteriorated and their worst fears were realized, absolutely, they clung ferociously to confident trust in God's goodness, love and sovereignty over and above all.
The text opening this post was written by the prior in the days before his abduction and what I find so amazing is the grace he is willing to offer the very men who capture him, hold him hostage, and ultimately take his life.
That is what I call choosing gratitude...
this week's gratitude list
(#s 1972 - 1991)
sobering movies that challenge me to contemplate, deeply, on what thankulness, service and sacrifice truly means
a friend who will choose to confront me
listening ears
having my words being taken at face value
kleenex for when the tears flow
God mandated rest... the kind that happens when your body rebels and refuses to continue on without a break
conversation with one that confirms I'm not imagining things
we've felt God pushing... now beginning to consider how God is pulling
alternate futures
sleepy five year old snuggles
almost 15 year old returned to us... after 4 long days in the interior
a "really cool dermatologist," at least that was how Tori described him, and she was the one who needed to see him
end of the marking period in sight
homemade cheeze its - that actually taste just like the real thing, believe it or not... well, except for the fact that instead of cheddar cheese, gouda spiced with cumin cheese was used instead... and quite delightful
the fact that Andi made the cheeze its... without any help or direction from me
tomato soup to eat with those crunchy cheeze its
watching my friend say goodbye to Mamata... and wondering of the next time they get to hang out together, it will be at the feet of Jesus, speaking a common language but still communicating heart to heart
the privilege and responsability of saying thank you
grace to do a required job I find very distasteful
silly husband who makes crazy plays on words that cause me to roll my eyes every time


  1. First, let me say I agree completely, that if God allows evil men to prevail upon us, we should still not think evil of them, but pray for them that they would see the light, and that we will indeed see them in heaven.

    Now then, I have to wonder a little about the Prior's words. The way he bandies the word "Islam" makes me wonder about who his God is - or rather who he thought God is. Did he believe, as it appears in his writing, that our God - the God of Christianity - is the same as the God of Islam? Or was he not even talking about Christianity at all - was he just an Islamist? As admirable as his devotion was, and as graciously as he faced death, if he did not believe that the God of the Bible is the one and only true God, then he died in vain.

    1. Adam,

      I do not interpret his words in that way at all.

      Obviously, I cannot know the actual condition of this man's heart as he stood before the Lord, only what I saw represented in this film and what I've read of him as I've tried to research and find out a bit more about this story... to try and find out how accurately this particular movie account holds to what happened in real life.

      I neither pretend nor claim to agree with all that this man stood for. I admire, respect and agree with his attitude towards his death and with these words that he shared here, as I'm understanding them. That is not uncommon practice, even among the most fundamental fundamentalists. Some will quote Augustine, even though his writings are full of the philosophy of Plato. Others speak favorably of Francois d'Assisi, yet his beliefs were greatly influenced by Aristotle and we can still see and are living the impact of both of these men in positive and negative ways throughout the history of Christianity (i.e. trace the development of post-modern thought and the prevalence of the idea that we can live and should live compartmentalized lives - private ones set aside for the values, morals and religion... and public ones where fact, truth and science reside... and never the twain shall meet. Consider the furor caused by Kirk Cameron simply stating what he reads in the Bible and considers truth - because he publically removed that from its place in the private realm, people are angry - I've been horrified by some of the things I've seen printed and said as a result.).

      Dom Christian was a student of the Coran - and had spent a large portion of his life living and working with the people of Algeria. What I read in his words are the admission that the Almighty God, as Creator, is the Father of all men. There are factions within the Islamic faith - some gentle, some violent. There are beautiful words, incredible literature and truth and wisdom contained within the Coran, for it was written by a man, created in the image of God and a recipient of the common grace available to all, who was impacted by both the Old Testament writings and New Testament teachings.

      I understood him to be saying that contrary to what the world would be saying about this people he loved and who he spent his life serving, he - after his death would be able to see them as God sees them: no longer as most westerners do - frightening enemies that can't be understood or trusted, and that impression surely colored his perspective too - but as their Heavenly Father and Creator, the One Who sent His precious Son to die for them, views them. I think his words express the hope that God will somehow use the circumstances of his death to redirect one or more of the men responsible for it.

      It saddens me, Adam, how often we read something, see something, hear something from someone of a differing perspective and because of our prejudices or preconceived notions (i.e. all Muslims are violent, as is Allah, and are to be feared... or most Catholics cannot have a personal relationship with Christ b/c they are busy worshipping Mary or working to earn their salvation) that we can't see the beauty and truth that I'd rather believe God is revealing to them as He seeks to draw that person into a closer, deeper relationship with Him. (cont)

    2. (cont) With those words, I do not intend to say that all paths lead to salvation, for I believe with all my heart there is One Savior, One Mediator between God and men, One Name given under heaven by which all men must be saved. I simply mean to say that I serve an amazing God Who promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called, according to His purposes... if He can speak through a mule, can't He challenge me through the words of a Catholic priest who died serving the same God, who trusted his very life and death to God's sovereign plan - and do I have to analyze every nuance of those words - or can I accept them at face value, as I perceive them - and thank God for the life and example of this man who sacrificed so much more than I have?

      I hope you watch the movie - I'd love to hear your opinion.

      Thanks for providing me with the opportunity (by your questions) to share those words.


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