Last week the Algerian bishops’ conference announced that Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 others from his country will be beatified in December. Claverie and a number of other Catholic religious — both men and women — suffered persecution and martyrdom during the Algerian Civil War at the hands of Islamist extremists.
Among those to be beatified are the seven monks of Tibhirine, whose story was told most recently in the profoundly moving film “Of Gods and Men.” In a very powerful scene from that film, one of the Trappist monks, Brother Luc, is counseling a young Muslim girl who finds herself in love. She asks him at one point during the conversation if he has ever been in love. The monk answers: “Yes, several times. And then I encountered another love, even greater. And I answered that love.” The full impact of that profoundly simple response is felt later in the film as Br. Luc and his companions in religion are led off to their deaths. Br. Luc’s commitment to that “other love,” was of course nothing less than his love of God, a love which made great demands of him and caused him to love those whom he served with even greater intensity and generosity.
We need the witness of the Algerian martyrs now, especially as the Church seems besieged from both within and without. Commitment to the love of Christ, above and before all things, is the only path forward. Many loves clamor for our attention — the love of comfort, prestige, the alluring familiarity of the status quo — but only a pure love of Jesus will help us as a Church to love each other better and find a path forward in pursuit of justice, truth, reform and healing.