Arnaud Beltrame, Great Hero

I apologize for the radio silence of recent months — it’s not that I haven’t had ideas of things to post about, it’s just that I usually do not have the time to do so or, when I do, I can’t remember what I wanted to post about…

I found the story of Arnaud Beltrame, the gendarme in the south of France who gave his life to save a hostage during yesterday’s terrorist attack on a supermarket there, so incredibly inspiring and edifying. Cardinal Sarah has done a great service in sharing the testimony of a priest who knew Arnaud and his fiancée personally, and thanks to the good offices of RC, I am sharing that story here in English translation (with some small corrections).

Perhaps we will see a cause for canonization at some point for this great hero. Many immediately noted that his heroic act was similar to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s — and Pope Francis formally added that category to the Church’s law on canonization last year.

Here is the very edifying story posted by Cardinal Sarah on his Facebook:

A picture taken in 2013 in Avranches and obtained from La Gazette de la Manche local newspaper on March 24, 2018 shows French Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame who was killed after swapping himself for a hostage in a rampage and siege in the town of Trebes, southwestern France, on March 23.<br /> Beltrame, 45, was among a group of officers who rushed to the scene in Trebes, near Carcassone, on March 23 after a gunman who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, stormed a supermarket and fired at shoppers. Beltrame offered to take the place of a woman the gunman had taken hostage and was shot. He died on March 24 of his wounds, becoming the gunman's fourth victim. / AFP PHOTO / LA GAZETTE DE LA MANCHE / -

An heroic Christian officer who gave his life to save others

Witness by a canon of the Abbey of Lagrasse (Aude, France), on the day of his death, March 24, 2018

It was in a chance encounter during a visit to our abbey, an historical monument, that I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame and Marielle, whom he had just married civilly on August 27, 2016. We became friends very quickly and they asked me to prepare them for their religious wedding which I was to celebrate near Vannes on the coming 9th of June. So we spent many hours over the past almost two years working over the fundamentals of married life. I had just blessed their house on December 16, and we were finalizing their canonical marriage dossier. Arnaud’s very beautiful declaration of his intention came to me four hours before his heroic death.

This young couple came to the abbey regularly to attend the Masses, offices, and teaching sessions, in particular taking part in the Our Lady of Cana small-group. They were part of the team for Narbonne. They came again just last Sunday.

Intelligent, athletic, talkative, and lively, Arnaud spoke freely about his conversion. Born in a nominally Catholic family, he experienced a genuine conversion around 2008, at the age of 33. He received his first communion and confirmation after two years of catechumenate, in 2010.

After a pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne-d’Auray in 2015, where he asked the Virgin Mary that he might meet the right woman, he came into contact with Marielle, whose faith is profound and reserved. The engagement was celebrated in Brittany, at the Abbey of Timadeuc at Easter 2016.

Enthusiastic about being a gendarme, he had always cherished a passion for France, its greatness, its history, its Christian roots – which he rediscovered through his conversion. In offering himself at the site of the hostage-taking, he was likely moved with passion by his heroism as an officer, since for him, to be a gendarme meant to protect. But he knew the extraordinary risk he was taking.

He also knew the promise of religious marriage that he made to Marielle, who already is civilly his spouse and whom he loves tenderly: I am a witness to that. So? Did he have the right to take such a risk? It seems to me that only his faith can explain the folly of the sacrifice which today has become the admiration of all. He knew, as Jesus said to us, that “no man has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). He knew that if his life was beginning to belong to Marielle, it also belonged to God, to France, to his brethren in danger of death. I think that only a Christian faith motivated by charity could ask of him such a superhuman sacrifice.

I was able to be with him at the hospital at Carcassonne around 9:00 last night. The gendarmes and the doctors or nurses made it possible with remarkable consideration. He was alive but unconscious. I was able to give him the Sacrament of the Sick and the Apostolic Pardon for those in danger of death. Marielle made the responses for those beautiful liturgical rites. It was Passion Friday, just before the opening of Holy Week. I had just prayed the office of None and the Stations of the Cross for his intention. I asked the nursing staff if he might have a medal of Our Lady, that of Rue du Bac [the Miraculous Medal]. Understanding and professional, a nurse attached it at his shoulder.

Because he was unconscious, I was not able to marry them, as one article mistakenly has said. Arnaud will never have children according to the flesh, but I believe his striking heroism will inspire numerous imitators, ready to give themselves for France and her Christian joy.

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