If you google – Arnaud Beltrame Hero – you’ll get the story about his taking the place of an ISIS hostage in a supermarket just the other day in southern France, a boring little out of the way supermarket like any other as in any small town anywhere in the world. Here’s that supermarket, your supermarket:
Arnaud Beltrame is just another guy with a bit of military background like most Law Enforcement Officers anywhere in the world. But just another guy, Catholic, as most people are in France. The ISIS guy shot him four times and, by the way, no, he did not get the opportunity to get sacramentally married before he died from those wounds).
We recall Maximilian Kolbe taking the place of a fellow prisoner facing execution. Yet, the response is muted by a lot of conservative Catholic blogs. He was civilly married, though on his way to a sacramental marriage. I was a priest in France for two years but I wasn’t responsible for marriage prep and don’t know if getting civilly married means anything. In some places it doesn’t mean you are living together, just that you have an intention to get sacramentally married sometime in the foreseeable future. He had some 30 hours of prep time put in, his pastor “accompanying” them (ooooh, Amoris laetitia). I assume with all that prep time that this couple was living chastely and had always done so. But even if they were not – he in that case being no Maximilian Kolbe before his death – I would still nevertheless assume that he went right off to heaven with this selfless act of love.
Arnoud Beltrame laying down his life for someone under his protection – he being a Law Enforcement Officer – has done what Jesus calls the greatest act of love. That’s God saying that:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
Oh, and let’s not forget what we read elsewhere as inspired by the Holy Spirit:
“Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” (1 Peter 4:8-9)
Question from a reader: Can we ask for prayers for him?
Answer: Why would you want to do that?
I mean, sure, go ahead. Yes. Pray for him. And, by golly, there will be a massive funeral like France hasn’t seen for perhaps a half century or more for Arnoud Beltrame. Great!
But here’s how I think that will go. Those prayers and that Mass will go for those in purgatory, but not him. Indeed, I think Jesus will laugh at the attempt of such prayers and ask you if you are serious about that. Why oh why shouldn’t this guy go straight to heaven? I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t, you know, taking Jesus’ words seriously. Fulton Sheen once said about another soul that was controversial: “Upon hearing of his death, I firstly prayed first for the repose of his soul, and then I immediately prayed to him.”
I suppose I will be condemned by ultra-traditional-ism-ists for playing a dark side of Amoris laetitia. But, no. That’s not the way it is. I suppose I will be condemned by ultra-liberal-ism-ists for not confirming everything they exaggerate in Amoris laetitia for their own dark ends. And I’m good with that condemnation by them.
OK, now let’s give the proper direction to this event
There are lots of words being thrown about, like “hero,” and I agree entirely, and with that I would also point to similar selfless accomplishments of Arnoud Beltrame in the military. Really, very impressive. I rejoice in all that for him. What a great guy.
But in saying those things we had better not be “building the tombs of the prophets” in all hypocrisy, running away from doing the necessary when it is our turn. I dread my weakness and ask my guardian angel to help me in such a situation. Exclaiming “He’s a hero” is not about us basking in the limelight simply because we are the one’s voicing words like “hero.” As one operator of operators told me (“The Guy”), having a hero is not about lifting someone up; it’s about striving to follow their example.
Personally, I have a profound reverence for Arnoud Beltrame. O.K. We pray for him: Hail Mary… And now, I say: Arnould! Pray for me! Pray for us!