The Knight of Annecy
A hero rises in France
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A Christian friend and I were exchanging prayer requests the other day. By chance, some of the same things were on both our minds: the nature of God’s action (or inaction) in the world, the efficacy of prayer, the challenge of improvising one’s way through life without a clear sense of divine guidance. For my part, I confessed that my mind tends to circle around and turn over the question of randomness. Sometimes, God seems manifestly present and directing the affairs of men. Other times, He seems to allow things to take their often sad, stupid, terrible course. I have to make my peace with not knowing why, but I’m not always satisfied. I doubt most Christians are.
Shortly after this conversation, a sad and terrible thing happened in France, in the peaceful Alpine town of Annecy. A homeless, psychotic Syrian immigrant entered a playground with a knife and began methodically stabbing babies, toddlers, and their grandparents. To make the horror maximally surreal, it was initially reported he wasn’t shouting “Allahu akbar,” as one might have expected. Allegedly, he was shouting “In the name of Jesus Christ!” This has since been debunked, and the exclamation properly attributed to someone filming. But we do know he had a cross and a prayerbook on him when they arrested him. God only knows why. According to his estranged wife, he was once a good father to their own small child. “My God,” she said. “He is very nice. I don’t understand.”
Thankfully, there was light at the end of this dark story. Young Henri d’Anselme, a 24-year-old Catholic pilgrim, had been backpacking around the city and happened to be near the scene of the attack. He’s spent months touring France’s cathedrals, inviting his Instagram followers to rediscover their heritage along with him. But his restful stop at Annecy was abruptly shattered by children’s screams. In that moment, he told the press that he didn’t think about what he did next, but he knew it would be “unthinkable” to do nothing.
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