These few remaining days before Easter are the most sacred time of every year. I began writing this column to explain what the word “holy” in Holy Week means. But actions often speak and teach more loudly than words.
On Friday, March 23, an Islamist gunman in southern France attacked a supermarket. A jihadist loyal to ISIS, he murdered a worker and customer, and wounded many others. In the subsequent standoff with police, a gendarme lieutenant-colonel – Arnaud Beltrame – exchanged himself for a female hostage. Several hours later, the gunman shot Beltrame in the throat and was then cut down himself by police gunfire. Beltrame died early Saturday morning in a Carcassone hospital. And therein lies a story.
Beltrame - Wife - Marielle - Monastery - Priest
Beltrame and his wife Marielle were already civilly married when they toured a local French Augustinian monastery in 2016. While there, they met and befriended a priest. Over the coming two years, the priest – a Father Jean-Baptiste – helped Arnaud and Marielle through dozens of conversations and many hours of marriage preparation to ready themselves for a Catholic wedding. Beltrame even walked the Camino Real pilgrim road in Spain with his father, who died only recently.
In fact, according to early press reports, the gendarme officer attended his father’s funeral exactly one week before he himself was fatally shot.
March - Morning - Arnaud - Death - Le
On March 24, the morning of Arnaud’s death, Le Monde reported that Beltrame was known for his courage, intelligence and commitment to public service; a leader well liked and widely respected for a generous devotion to his troops. This was high and sincere praise, but far from the most important details about his life. For according to Le Monde, the same Father Jean-Baptiste who prepared Arnaud and Marielle for their planned sacramental marriage, also administered the Sacrament of Anointing and prayed with his wife...
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