The death of a fellow Jesuit: What martyrdom means

Fr van der Lugt

Each Monday the Jesuits of my community in Omaha, Nebraska have Mass together, and dinner. In between, because we are part of the Wisconsin province and we have cheese and crackers we talk about the day, writes Patrick Gilger in America.

We talk about 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.

Last week, 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, while I learn 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, the martyrdom of Fr van der Lugt in Homs, 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 war in Syria started in March of 2011. Fr Frans had by then been living and working for 48 years in Syria - as a psychotherapist, a retreat leader, pastor and founder of Al Ard, an organization that cares for the mentally handicapped and provides one of the rare spaces where the three Abrahamic religions can come together and pray. He was considered a kind of holy puzzle by many Syrians: a Dutchman who learned to love Syria perhaps more than they themselves.

FULL STORY What martyrdom means (America)

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