What Martyrdom Means

Fr. Frans by Tony Homsy, S.J.

Fr. Frans van de Lugt, S.J.

Editor’s Note: A Jesuit, Fr. Frans van de Lugt, S.J., was martyred in Syria one week ago. In an effort to understand what happened and what it means Paddy Gilger, S.J. wrote the following for America Magazine. The beginning of that article is excerpted here.

 

Fr. Frans van de Lugt, S.J.—who on April 7 was shot in the head, twice, in front of his home in the city of Homs, Syria—had been living under siege for twenty months when, in January, he recorded a video message challenging the outside world to help. He ends this video, one that made him famous outside Syria and likely contributed to his death within it, by saying: “We do not want to die out of pain and hunger. We love life and love living it and we hate to die out of agony. Thank you very much.”

***

Each Monday the Jesuits of my community here in Omaha have Mass together, and dinner. In between, because we are part of the Wisconsin province and this is our way, we have cheese and crackers, beers, and we talk about the day: how the class taught by one went, the talk given by another, what we read in the paper, how the students are doing; the normal stuff of life.

On April 7 during this time a group of four or five or six of us stood near our round breakfast table, surrounding a friend of ours, Tony Homsy. It is normal for Jesuit communities to be ethnically diverse these days. In ours there are the usual German- and Irish-Americans along with an Asian-American, a Mexican-American, a young priest from Indonesia, another from Panama, etc. And there is Tony, who is from Aleppo, Syria.

Tony and I are friends. We have become friends over the eight months we’ve lived here in Omaha together, he studying media and journalism, myself learning to be a priest. We’ve seen movies, learned how to tease each other, watched basketball. Friends. But I am still an American; there is no cultural norm in America for how one starts a conversation about martyrdom, even with a friend. Especially when it happened some 12 hours before. So I left it to our Indonesian brother to ask him how he was, and he did.

“Are you sad?” he asked.

“Sure. Yes,” Tony replied. In the everyday chatter of the recreation room our circle was quiet as we felt sad, too, and waited for his next words…

***

The rest of the article can be read here.

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About Paddy Gilger, SJ

Paddy Gilger is a pastor and teacher of sociology and philosophy at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He's happy to talk at anytime except when the NBA is on. He lives in hope of the Milwaukee Brewers being known for something other than the sausage races.


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