Is Father Hamel a martyr? I would like to think so – and I have certainly thought so today. But in the end I cannot say for sure. I wonder if we may still need to pray for his soul also.
How do we know if someone is a martyr? The book released by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, entitled “Le Cause dei Santi” (Causes of the Saints), lists three conditions that the Church has for the category of martyrdom. They are:
1. A violent death (whether instantaneous or prolonged);
2. Being killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith) — whether in hatred of the faith as such, or in hatred of some key aspect of it that contradicts the fundamental principles of the killers’ religion;
3. A voluntary acceptance of death (which does not exclude trying to save one’s life — indeed, we should try to preserve our life). This can be difficult to ascertain.
The fulfillment of conditions numbers one and two seems clear.
But what about number three?
I think we know that Fr. Hamel initially tried to resist and/or defend himself. What I am not sure we know is whether he gave some sign of voluntarily accepting his death in the end — such as, perhaps: by vocally forgiving his killers, or by crying out “Vive le Christ Roi!” (Long live Christ the King) while being killed, or by some other sign (there are many possibilities). Maybe we will find this out… maybe not.
This is just a brief summary of a complex category; there is much more that could be said. In the end, I remain hopeful that Fr. Hamel is a martyr, even while I whisper a prayer for his repose.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.