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Paris Attacks: An Open Letter from a Young Catholic

"I hope, dear terrorist, that these words will reach you ..."

“I asked the Lord, with the help of all my faith, to come to my aid, to come and help us forgive you.”

I’m 18 and I’m Catholic. Today, like every Monday, as I left class, I went to have a cup of coffee on the patio of a café. Nothing amazing really. The coffee didn’t taste different from last week, the waitress’s smile was no different and the regulars were sitting at the same tables. Like every Monday I took yesterday’s newspaper out of my bag almost mechanically and skimmed the headlines.

But I don’t recognize the newspaper that I flip through every week. The logo is at half mast, and there is only one headline: “Sorrow and Anger.”

What Should I Do?

A picture of a man crying in front of a bouquet of flowers, candles and a French flag made the headlines. A man, tears, sorrow, anger, death, innocent people, injuries; I don’t want to read anymore. I put down my paper, swallow my coffee and pay. For the first time this year I left this place where I am in the habit of reading my newspaper in peace early.

So what should I do? Go home like the authorities advise us to do? No. I decided to walk to a place that is familiar and precious to my heart. After a five-minute walk, here I am.

This place is my parish church, my second home, the Lord’s. I go in. There are a lot of people. I sneak in silence to the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. No room there. The only remaining spot is a kneeler in front of the altar of St. Rita, the saint of lost causes and impossible things.

A passage from the Gospel according to Matthew comes to mind: “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who spitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).

I Did Not Pray for the Victims …

So I had an idea. I did not pray for the victims or for the bereaved or for the salvation of my beautiful homeland. Today I have prayed for you. I prayed to St. Rita that she help us to forgive. I asked her to help the French forgive you. I prayed for the families of the victims so that one day they can forgive you, forgive your unjustifiable and barbaric action. I asked the Lord, with the help of all my faith, to come help me, to come help us forgive. I asked St. Rita to bless you and to bring down the Grace of the Holy Spirit upon you.

I prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to watch over you. I asked her to wrap you in her love. To make you understand that we are on earth to love and not to kill. To make you understand the gravity and stupidity of what you did. I prayed for you to understand that no man, no matter who he is, where he comes from, what he believes or what ideas move him deserves to die just because he wanted to have a good time with his friends.

“If two of you agree to ask anything …”

Then I remembered a second passage of the Gospel according to Matthew: “If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).

And I prayed not to be the only Catholic to pray for your forgiveness. I prayed for you to learn to accept the forgiveness of others, something that your ideology did not teach you. You who, like me, live in France, have a family, may the Lord Jesus Christ put you on the right path. May He teach you the meaning of love and brotherhood that binds us all.

Because you did not blow French society apart, you have strengthened it. You did not increase racism, you will eradicate it. You did not kill our faith, you have resurrected it.

Finally, I would like to quote a few words from Mother Teresa:

Life is beauty, admire it,
Life is bliss, taste it,
Life is a dream, realize it,
Life is a challenge, meet it,
Life is a duty, complete it,
Life is a game, play it,
Life is precious, care for it,
Life is wealth, keep it,
Life is love, enjoy it,
Life is mystery, know it,
Life is a promise, fulfill it,
Life is sorrow, overcome it,
Life is a song, sing it,
Life is a struggle, accept it,
Life is tragedy, confront it,
Life is an adventure, dare it,
Life is happiness, deserve it,
Life is life, defend it.

I hope, dear terrorist, that these words will reach you so that you come to realize that hatred and death are not the solution.

A young Catholic who is trying to forgive.

 

Translated from the French, by Liliane Stevenson