Dear Monsignor, dear brothers and sisters,
After the national tribute of this morning, I would have liked to be at your side to evoke the colonel's face. Arnaud Beltrame, whom I had been preparing for marriage for two years and whom I was close to in recent years.
But I must preach at his funeral tomorrow morning in Carcassonne. My prayer joins yours tonight.
You all know the joy I had of being with Colonel Arnaud Beltrame with Marielle, his fiancée and already his civil wife, five days ago at the hospital.
We were all three together for their marriage that I had to bless soon, and this is the ultimate anointing of the sacrament of the sick that we celebrated instead, for a hero who is admired by all.
Praise the Lord for the strength He has put in this heart of man and officer. His excellent physical form impressed his brothers in arms. He often came to see me in hiker's clothes. You know his beautiful military career. But more importantly, he did not hide from anyone the joy God had given him by rediscovering the Catholic faith towards his 33 years, resulting in his first communion and the sacrament of confirmation only nine years ago. We talked a lot about conjugality, evangelism, the devil or the stranger. He wanted to know and to understand.
Intellectually brilliant, he followed a demanding preparation for marriage with a seriousness that forced my admiration. Marielle and Arnaud came each month to couples meetings in Narbonne or the Abbey of Lagrasse. Arnaud has marked us with his vivacity, his contagious joy and his training ability. Loquacious, almost talkative ... I sometimes had to interrupt him so that Marielle could express herself ... and he always stopped with a tender smile towards her. Because this soldier, this elite policeman was melting in front of the one he loved and was overflowed with delicate attentions and kind words towards her. I have been a hundred times a witness.
His declaration of intent for the Catholic marriage that I was to celebrate on June 9 near Vannes is admirable. Marielle does not want this ultimate letter to be made public. But let us know, that this text written only four days before his heroic death, proves his unconditional and fervent adherence to all the Catholic faith and its tradition, that he has prayed in particular to Our Lady with gratitude, that he has asked for the help of St. Michael and has chosen St. Joseph as a role model.
During blessing his house on December 16th, I was struck by the decoration showing his faith and passion for history and gendarmerie. But even more so, by the fact that he had reserved a room to make an oratory. We prayed to all three of them. Imitate it! Let's make room in our lives for prayer!
The holy week we have now, remind us of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. Praise the Lord for allowing him to imitate Jesus, to live in line with saint words "There is no greater love than to give one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13). Arnaud knew the insane risk he was taking by exchanging and becoming a terrorist hostage. He did it to save a life, perhaps many lives, because that was his commitment as a gendarmerie officer and as a Christian. I believe he has offered his life so that death stops. The jihadist's belief ordered him to kill. Arnaud's Christian faith invited him to save, offering his life if necessary.
Is Arnaud a saint in Heaven, a sinner in Purgatory or a damned in hell, as the partisans of his murderer think? We have great hope that he will look at us and intercede for us, but only God knows it. Anyway, let's pray for him and the other victims of this tragedy. Pray for his killer and his accomplices.
Colonel Beltrame was convinced that we can not fight an ideology only with weapons and computers. It can only be conquered sustainably with spiritual convictions. The Catholic faith he has rediscovered, the Christian wonders of French history that fascinated him, are the best shield against the madness of murderous convictions that kill and want to kill again. So, with Arnaud and like him, let us be ready to sacrifice our lives for the love of our brothers! Where is hate, let's put love. Where there is doubt, let's put faith. Where there is despair, let's hope. So be it