He traded places with a hostage and was killed

France has a new hero, Arnaud Beltrame

Policeman Arnaud Beltrame, 44, willingly traded places with a hostage held by a man claiming to be from Islamic State, who stormed the Super-U supermarket in the town of Trèbes in southern France.

Police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield, the BBC reported.

It was at this point, an eyewitness told the BBC, that Arnaud Beltrame volunteered to swap himself for her. As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

“It seems to me that only his faith can explain the madness of this sacrifice which is today the admiration of all.”

Familie Chretienne, a French religious newspaper, has revealed Beltrame’s back story.

“It turns out that the lieutenant-colonel was a practicing Catholic. The fact is that he did not hide his faith, and that he shone, he testified. We can say that his act of offering is consistent with what he believed. He went to the end of his service to the country and to the end of his testimony of faith. To believe is not only to adhere to a doctrine. It is first to love God and his neighbour, and to testify of his faith concretely in everyday life. In the happy or unhappy, even dramatic circumstances of our lives. The woman, to whom he offered to take his place to save her, took on a particular humanity. Arnaud Beltrame was suddenly close to her to take his place. The anonymous person who, suddenly, becomes close.” (Via Rod Dreher of American Conservative.)

Beltrame, converted at 33, had been planning to marry his wife, Marielle, in church at the time of the attack. (Being French they had already been civilly married.) A local priest, Father Jean-Baptiste, canon of the Lagrasse Abbey, had been preparing them for the wedding after a chance meeting at the Abbey. Jean-Baptiste, and Marielle were with Beltrame as he died.

“He was alive but unconscious. I was able to give him the sacrament of the sick and the apostolic blessing on the dying of death. Marielle alternated these beautiful liturgical formulas … I could not marry him as he was unconscious.”

Jean-Baptiste summed up Beltrame this way. (Once again this is from Google Translate, via Dreher, but the meaning is clear.)

“Passionate about the gendarmerie, he has always had a passion for France, his greatness, his history, his Christian roots that he rediscovered with his conversion. By indulging in the place of hostages, he is probably animated with passion for his officer’s heroism, because for him, being a policeman meant protecting. But he knows the incredible risk he takes. He also knows the promise of religious marriage he made to Marielle, who is already his wife and loves him tenderly, I am a witness. So? Was he allowed to take such a risk? It seems to me that only his faith can explain the madness of this sacrifice which is today the admiration of all. He knew as Jesus told us, that ‘He does not there is no greater love than giving one’s life for one’s friends’, (John 15:13). He knew that if his life began to belong to Marielle, it was also to God, to France, to his brothers in danger of death. I believe that only a Christian faith animated by charity could ask for this superhuman sacrifice.”