The Testimony of Easter

Friar Voices


Last Saturday Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltram, 44, a French police officer, voluntarily took the place of a female hostage in a terror attack in a supermarket in Trebes, France. He was hoping to motivate the ISIS inspired gunman to end his standoff with the police who had surrounded the building. It cost him his life.

His brother, Cedric, in an interview with a French radio station said that “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would.” I don’t know either. According to a Catholic Herald article from the U.K., he experienced a genuine conversion in 2008, and was received into the Catholic Church in 2010. He had made a pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne-d’Auray in 2015, praying to meet the right woman for marriage. Shortly thereafter he became friends with Marielle, whom he married civilly and was in preparation for the sacrament of marriage this June. The canon who was preparing them for this Sacrament, Fr. Jean-Baptiste, was able to give him the Sacrament of the Sick, although he was unconscious, and the apostolic blessing before he died. He compared him to St. Maximilian Kolbe.

In Mark’s Gospel the women come to the tomb wondering, doubting, uncertain. “Who will roll away the stone for us?” They came draped in black, ready to do the rituals for the dead. And they worry about that stone. I could be worried as we witness the deaths the loss of many friars this past year. I could be worried as I look at our actuarials. It’s easy to get convinced of the power of death. But Easter stands as testimony: We will see him in our own Galilees, our ordinary lives. Death is not the end of the story.

God sends an angel in white into all of our tragedies. He says to us, do not be amazed! You are looking for Arnaud Beltram on a supermarket floor. You will not find him there. Christ and those crucified have been raised up. Christ and the crucified are alive in the selflessness in a mother who patiently teaches her children to read, in feisty young people defiant about gun laws, in the meek who strongly serve in soup kitchens, in compassionate others finding permanent housing for those with mental illness and no home. Behold the spot where the crucified were laid. But all you will find buried here are fear, hatred and arrogance. The crucified have been raised up. They are not in a tomb. They are raised up with Christ. And they are giving us a new spirit of courage.

The joy we experience this Easter may not be simply bunnies and newborn chicks. But we are convinced that God can and will, if given a chance, “make a way out of no way.” This Easter we behold the victim become victorious, and in this we have Easter joy.

(Fr. Mark Soehner is Provincial Minister of the Province of St. John the Baptist.)