Here was a man who believed in saints. I do not mean this casually. Raised in a modern home, free of religion, he was called to military service. As a French soldier, he was decorated for his bravery in Iraq. In his thirties, he became a Catholic convert; made a pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne d’Auray, to ask the Virgin Mary to find him a wife. Found Marielle, a woman of deep faith like his own. Just before the terrorist attack at Trèbes, he had made his latest pilgrimage, to Compostela. He was an amateur historian, too, whose interest was in the Catholic roots of his own once-Christian country, France.
“He would thus have been familiar with her long conflict with Islam, going back to Charles Martel. He would have known that in the Middle Ages, across the Mediterranean range of Europe, there were whole orders (including the Franciscans) devoted to ransoming Christians captured by Muslim pirates and slaving raids — often sacrificing their own lives. He would have known something of the very Catholic history of the men-at-arms, the Gendarmerie, and of the chivalric ideals that inspired them. More is conveyed by an old photograph of Beltrame’s face, wearing a smile of becoming simplicity. He had escaped the complexity of our modern world, while remaining very much part of it, and when he was called, by God, to redeem an innocent captive woman, he did not hesitate.
Arnaud Beltrame, priez pour nous.