A commentary on St. Thérèse’s Play “Joan of Arc”

Dove and Rose January 2015 Kindle

This essay is an excerpt from my book The Dove and Rose. Click above for a paperback version. Click here for Kindle.

I cannot express with enough sincerity how edified I am to be reading through St. Thérèse’s script for her play on the life of Joan of Arc, one of eight plays she wrote on various subject matters. This work exceeds my expectations (which I typically set astonishingly low, even in matters of faith) in that our Little Flower, yet great Doctor of the Church, has interpreted her own life and spirituality in the historical person of Joan. Joan of Arc speaks true to her historical perspective, but we hear Thérèse’s voice. This is a most uplifting experience. And as a relevant aside, and lest one question the Carmelite nun’s affection for and familiarity with Sacred Scripture, there are over 270 biblical references (either explicit or implicit) through all eight of her works.[1] Thérèse was imbued with the Sacred Writings.

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Thérèse considered herself a kindred spirit with Joan of Arc. I did not realize fully the intensity of this kinship until reading in the Forward to the play (written by a modern day Carmelite) that “…the discovery of Joan of Arc affected her deeply; a ‘grace which I have always looked upon as one of the greatest in my life’ she would recall in 1895.”[2] Now, that got my attention, for I have considered the discovery of both Thérèse and Joan to be among the very greatest of gifts that Our Lord and Our Lady have ever bestowed on me. Certainly, Joan of Arc has had a similar relative impact on me, and it warmed my heart to hear Thérèse speak in such a way. I say relative impact because, in absolute terms, there is the difference between me and Thérèse that exists between the space just outside the gates of hell and heaven itself. One of her confessors stated that he believed that she had committed no mortal sin in her life. There is not one confessor of mine who would speak the same way about me, this I can assure you. But, nevertheless, Joan’s enormous influence on me, though as on a caterpillar in a flowerbed filled with butterflies, led me to feel deep appreciation for Thérèse’s own experience.

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And the very thing that so lifts my heart is this combination of the two. I have for quite a while sought to understand the two saints as different sides of the same coin. Joan being the valiant and brave warrior for the King of Kings, willing to suffer a martyr’s death rather than betray Our Lord’s mission, while Thérèse is the soft, loving flower who unites herself with Jesus, not through fire, but through the suffering of Love, as she herself puts it.

However, the more I study these souls, whom I hold in such admiration, I sense that my metaphor is not only overly used but also very inadequate. There is truly a unity of spirit between them, more like the amalgamating of precious metals. Both of them died willingly in great suffering out of their love for Jesus. Both fought the good fight with unimaginable courage, Joan through death at the stake, Thérèse through bitter illness. Both have demonstrated to me the life of a true Christian, a true lover of Jesus Christ. Hearing (in the spirit) Thérèse’s words in Joan of Arc’s voice is like watching Jesus paint something more beautiful than the Sistine Chapel, create music more life-giving than Mozart’s Jupiter symphony or Beethoven’s Ninth, or write a poem that leaps into your heart before you have the chance to ruin it with your brain. It is this amalgam of souls, this painting, music, and poetry of Our Lord’s that has made me a better person.

Le Royaume

The brush strokes, melodies, and poetic images that are Thérèse and Joan make me feel small as a Christian when I am near them. I simply do not match up, and that is all there is to it. I am a caterpillar crawling through a flower bed of roses. But they make me want to fly despite the crudeness of my ways. And that is, I believe, why the Lord and Our Lady have established them so firmly in my heart. They all want me to keep crawling until one day I fly too. I can think of no better mentors, sisters, or examples.

You may think I exaggerate the affection I have, but, on the contrary, I do not really have the words to express it adequately. I have no courage on my own, but because of these two, I wonder if maybe one day I might. And I think Jesus smiles at that. I feel small but think of great things with Our Lord. And I think He smiles at that, also. I want to take in the painting, hear the symphony, and absorb the poem, despite my awkwardness and “buggy” characteristics. I think, too, that this is what Jesus wants for me. For, these two, separately and combined, are Jesus’ own work of art.

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The following is just one excerpt that speaks to my point:

Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret:

“Console yourself, Joan, dry your tears.

Lift up your eyes and ears to heaven.

Thence you will learn that to suffer has charms

Of its own.

And you will rejoice with harmonious songs.

These melodies will fortify your soul

For the battle which is soon to come.

You’ll need a love made all of flame,

For you will have to suffer!…

For pure souls exiled here on earth,

The only glory is to bear the cross.

One day, in heaven, this austere scepter

Will far outshine the scepter of a king.”[3]

Pure Thérèse and pure Joan of Arc, together in that symphony of which I spoke. I hear the music of the Holy Spirit here, and I like it.

Thank you Lord, I do want to fly.

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[1] The Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux. Translated by Susan Conroy and David J. Dwyer, ICS Publications: Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C. p. 42.

[2] Ibid. p.62.

[3] Ibid. pp.74-75.

Heaven and Hope

March of Hope

This post is an excerpt from my book Seek First the Kingdom – The March of Hope. Click above for a paperback version. Click here for Kindle.

The Freedom Dance continues merrily on…
Imagine my astonishment
When the Queen announced
Through my saintly sister Thérèse
That Joan of Arc was to the fore…

The Dance of Freedom was to continue on
The trail of the Dogmatic Creed
Stretched further…
Faith had not yet animated me

Joan of Arc was the chosen guide
On the path of the Dogmatic Creed next
No one can see the Kingdom
Without Hope that forms our desire

“Joan of Arc will lead you”
Spoke my saintly sister Thérèse
“To a new world view”
“Your actions belie your words of faith!”

“Joan of Arc acts
According to her faith”
“She is no practical non-believer!”
Saintly Thérèse smiled with eyes dancing

“Unlike her, brother,
You honor God only with lips!”

“You hope in yourself” Thérèse continued
“While whispering faith in God”
“You cannot see the Kingdom
With your old point of view”

“Joan of Arc will show you
The glorious new world view
That will animate you with love
And create the appropriate desire in you”

We climbed a mountain with Joan of Arc
She pointed to a panorama below
I heard the thunder of God clapping
Bringing rhythm and reason to creation

Joan of Arc, to whom we are so devoted
Smiled at us, while singing
“God created heaven and earth
Clapping one day, two days, three and more”

“While God was clapping, music was heard!”
Cried our Maid, whom Thérèse and I so enjoy
“One day, two days, three and more
Logical beauty, reason, and rhythm!”

“God created both Reason and Rhythm!”
She cried, “It all has a purpose!”
“The order of nature is reason and beauty”
“The mystery of rhythm is the artwork of God!”

My heart was leaping!
A lesson in Hope!
That God’s first words convey the wisdom
Of purpose and unity both!

Hushing noisy philosophers aside
With Joan of Arc as my guide
I watched the beauty unfold
I let God explain his point of view

I have always wished
That beauty had meaning
I had always missed the point
Of the creation story

Joan of Arc!
With my saintly sister Thérèse
Had brought me to my first juncture in Hope
The meaning of creation – my world view is changing!

Jehanne and Therese cloud RoyaumeFrance

I have the most remarkable claim to make to you in this book. On the heels of The Freedom Dance, the story conveyed in my previous book Journey to Christendom – The Freedom Dance where I spoke of the marvelous journey of conversion out of the Dark Forest of the revolutionary, rebellious, atheistic, and New Age modern mind with its associated culture of death and mental illness toward real freedom and life on the path of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism, I have been led to a land of the highest value, a panoramic view that elevates one beyond joy, a place for which you would sell all you have to obtain, in fact, a destination that, if you truly grasp it, you will want to give your life to secure it.

I did not create this place, nor did I construct it through the philosophical musings of my own mind. It is objectively very real. I have been led to it through over twenty-four years of consecration to Mary, the Mother of God, and by my heavenly friends, particularly my devoted Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and the magnificent St. Joan of Arc. I received the promise of it during my conversion to Catholicism at the hands of the Virgin Mary in 1984.

The Freedom Dance led me from the smoke filled forest of anarchy in the modern world to the great walls of the castle that is the Catholic Church. Having now passed beyond the mighty gates of that castle, this journey has led me through beautiful, colorful, sunlit fields to a mountain top, and I simply must tell you what I see over its ridge and how it is that I came to see it. I must tell you about a kingdom over there, the ultimate destination of the journey hence, so to speak, on The Freedom Dance. Climbing this mountain, which is on that other side of the Catholic gateway, has been a purposeful march, something I call the “The March of Hope”, or, “The March of Joan of Arc” as I state above in the Introduction.  This March is the story of what happened next, after I entered into the mystical and life-giving land of Catholicism and what has brought me to the place with such a magnificent view.

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I am to be likened to a man, if you can imagine for a moment, who has followed the giant footsteps of several saintly souls destined by God to guide him on a path through a marvelous and beautiful land, to the top of a heavenly mountain, overlooking a magnificent vista of rivers, lakes, meadows, tall mountains distant, and deep echoing valleys between.  The path of faith he follows obediently with them, as I pointed out in my previous book, is the Dogma of the Roman Catholic Church; the breathtaking kingdom in the distance is the mystical body of Christ, that is, the Kingdom of God. The footprints he leaps into, one by one, with his desire to reach the kingdom represent his hope. Those steps are the “March of Hope” about which I will speak in this book. This book will document in some rough manner the key junctures I have passed once inside the borders of Catholicism, those key milestones that have led me to this breathtaking view. If The Freedom Dance is the story of a journey from a dark forest to the giant gates at the castle walls of Catholicism, then the March of Hope is the story of the ensuing journey inside that land toward God’s Kingdom.

This man we are imagining now peers through the mist and into the sunlight showering down on the grassy plains below. Suddenly, astonishingly, he comes to an understanding of what it is that he sees; he turns to his saintly friends, the ones who have shown him the way, for he is incapable of finding it himself, and they smile at him; their eyes are dancing with life and happiness; in fact, their entire demeanor approaches that of joyous laughter. Below is the land where they have been leading him. Below is the treasure, the goal for which he began searching over two decades previously when The Freedom Dance on the trail of the Dogmatic Creed began. He was promised back then that he could go to this destination and enjoy its life; he was even given these lovely friends to guide him. Even still he has failed to stay close at times; he was, over the years, often found roaming the dark woods lost and alone, having taken his eyes off of the path to chase shamefully after the worldly sirens of the dark and thereby periodically releasing his grip from those heavenly hands taking hold of him. But with all of this in account, he is at last now standing there, looking at the next stage in the journey. And with what he is viewing and soaking in, the entire Freedom Dance becomes worth every single struggle, pain, loss, and cross to get there.

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Now imagine that you are also traveling, and you suddenly spot our man crashing through the brushy and forested land to greet you, and, breathlessly, he points toward the great land, panting and gasping for air, and he exclaims to you, “You must see this! I have been shown the land that we seek, the land of milk and honey, the land where life is what we hope for, where the answer to all of mankind’s problems are to be found! Wars would stop, the hungry would be fed, justice ruled by peace and mercy would envelop the spirits and souls of humankind if they were to venture there! Yet, if you prefer still to follow your own paths with your own man-made philosophies, if you choose to desire your own will to that of the Dogmatic Creed, then I must bid you farewell and best well wishes. For, I will seek no other land than that which the trail of the Dogmatic Creed has led me. I will seek after no other treasure, no other food than that on which I have been fed. But I am here to tell you that the land we seek, that is paradise here as far as we can know it, with the promise of paradise after, is over that mountain, and I shall give my life to reach it!”

That is what I am doing in this book. I am telling everyone who cares to read this little writing what I have discovered next coming from The Freedom Dance, the promise that has been set before my heart and spirit. I am here to tell you what it is that I have come to desire and where that desire has led me. I am here to speak of Catholic Hope. And this hope has come to be more than I ever imagined; it is paradise. I want to tell you what it is and where to find it, the exact thing about which I speak.  I am panting and pointing, a man who previously in life had spent far more time lost in the woods than in the sunlight, a man who had not a clue what he was doing, but a man who, by following in the fellowship of his heavenly helpers has seen what it is for which he is now prepared to sacrifice his life. For, true fulfillment and joy come not in understanding how to live; they come from seeking that for which we would die. Because that for which we would die is that in which we truly hope.

Ste Therese dormir

We see this principle clearly in our everyday life. We can hold to all sorts of beautiful sounding beliefs and philosophies in our intellect while governing our lives by objectives that are incongruent with our beliefs. We can say that we believe God exists, yet act very concretely as if he does not. This is called practical atheism, and the vast majority of humankind act this way in our modern world. We claim that God is number one in our lives, but we work ourselves into a frenzy trying to make ourselves into gods. We might have faith in God, but we hope in ourselves. Thus, we live frustrated lives of desperation and wearisome worry in complete incongruity to our beliefs. In other words, our faith has not animated us sufficiently; our desires remain in this world and in ourselves even if our minds reach for God.

We are killing ourselves for something every day. We do hope in one thing or another even if this hope is not articulated or even entirely conscience. We are giving our life to something at all times. There is always something, somebody, some cause for which we spend our energy and health, indeed, even if it practically kills us. We work late, get little sleep, and eat poorly, even though this is terribly unhealthy, because we must advance in our careers. Despite our faith in God, we are placing our hope in what this career advancement will bring to us. We crave the promises of God’s peace while anxiously salivating over the newest model luxury car in pure envy of our neighbor. Despite our faith in God, we hope in what that car can bring to us.

What happens when we align our hope with our faith? What happens when we have faith in God and place our hope in what he can bring to us? What happens when we not only have faith in God, but we also hope in God? When we are willing to kill ourselves seeking after God’s objectives, then we are hoping in God. When we are ready to die for God’s purpose, then we are living in God’s hope. We have stopped being practical atheists who speak only intellectually of a belief in God. We are beginning to act with integrity to our beliefs; the acts of our free will are consistent with our faith. We are becoming joyful and at peace. Our hearts are hoping in what God desires for us. We are approaching paradise. We begin to desire heaven.

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The astounding saint Joan of Arc, to whom I am so devoted, and who is my leader on this next phase of the journey, the March of Hope, has taught me through her own life and cruel death that while I have much for which to live, I have even more for which to die. This is the awe-inspiring hope about which I speak, the hope that is the place where The Freedom Dance leads. With my ever devoted sister St. Thérèse, Joan of Arc and the other heaven sent companions are pointing me to the paradise that all of mankind seeks.

What I will not do here, as I describe this next phase of my journey, is to conform for you the teachings of the Catholic Church so as to make them more acceptable to you. There will be no attempt to make Catholicism “ok” for the path you are already on. I will not attempt to speak small of the saints, particularly of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, so as to not trouble the Protestant readers. I will not gush forth with religious relativism, congratulating each world religion for being an equally good path to God so as to not stall with those of non-Christian belief, no, I am going to speak of why it is that I am so star struck and edified by the complete and dogmatic spiritual path of Catholicism with every saint, creed, Pope, and sacrament in it!

Conversely, and using a more negative paradigm for making my point, I am going to tell you why it is that even with evil unfortunately operating and intruding upon this great land, while keeping others away, cannot make me leave. For, even with evil making sorties into the land, to leave would prevent me from reaching the land of Catholic Hope, this place for which I will sacrifice my life. No, it cannot be reached through any religion or philosophy of your choosing. You will find that it is a very Catholic place. But whatever your religious and philosophical predilection, I want to tell you about this March of Hope.

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Seek First the Kingdom – The Fire of Joan of Arc

March of Hope

This post is an excerpt from my book Seek First the Kingdom – The March of Hope. Click above for a paperback version. Click here for Kindle.

The Fire of Joan of Arc

I was wondering one day
Why Joan of Arc’s end, so cruelly stark
Formed with her fire,
Such mystical light out of dark

She did everything asked of her,
She did nothing wrong,
That is my opinion of her
Life and its song

She freed her
Countrymen and king
She was an astounding
Figure of history

Brave and faithful,
Selfless and kind,
She was in everyway
True to her calling divine

Yet, dear Joan met only
Thanklessness and betrayal,
She died amongst hatred

And I wondered why that day…

I ponder these things when
I don’t have much to do,
As was the case that day
Sitting with Mary, too

Why Mother Mary?
What is the meaning?
Of dear Joan of Arc’s life
And the fire at its ending?

Mary opened an image before me,
The devil himself was prosecuting
Before my last judgment day jury

I watched with obvious interest
My lips pursed in fear
The devil was laughing and
Making his point clear

He roared to the jury
That my judgment would be,
The one time he

Would not have to lie
Cheat or steal,
For he would have nothing
He really needed to tell

For my own deeds
Condemn me from the roof!
Yes, this is one time even he
Could tell the truth

Do you see my dilemma?
The thing I suddenly knew?
Joan, like the Savior, died unjustly,
I only gave the devil his due

My question
Had been poorly framed,
I was seeking to know why
Only to point blame

The real question was when…

When would I
Be brave enough to bear,
Suffering in unity
With those I hold dear?

The real question thought through,
Is could I die that way too?

I saw in the humiliation
Of my own life selfishly spent,
That Joan followed Him asking
Not why, but when

When would she reach,
The end of her dream?
And die just out of love
For our King and our Queen!

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As I have traveled over the mountains and onto the plains, across the rivers, and through the valleys on the astonishing Freedom Dance along the trail of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism, experienced specifically as the rich, colorful, mystical pathway to destiny through the ancient Tradition of True Devotion to Mary, I have been led to a place where I have caught what I believe to be a glimpse of why the first apostles left their fishing nets, walked straight way from their fathers and places of work,[1] why they and others over the centuries would offer themselves as martyrs, and why beautiful saints such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, would give up any hope of earthly gain to enter a convent for life.  I have seen a view from the broad, peaceful plain leading upward to the City of God that would, in my mind anyway, explain why St. Francis of Assisi would embrace Lady Poverty and walk in contempt of worldly desire in order to see creation through a different eye glass. I have caught, I believe further, even the smallest glimpse of why Joan of Arc would surrender to death in the fire of men’s hatred, jealously, and worldly envy rather than to betray the mission given her by her Voices from heaven.

What I have seen is Hope, Catholic Hope. I have caught sight of the force that drove the saints to move with clarity and purpose, untiringly, with hearts full of love to a place they had not seen but that they knew was their final destiny and home. I have been shown by my heaven sent companions on this journey why it is that Catholicism is so attractive, why it is that the “worldly” life of power, wealth, and comfort becomes meaningless, and why all else pales when compared to the promises mentioned by St. Paul:

“But it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him.”[2]

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It is this discovery of an alternative world view and the life-changing perspective this view has given me as the result of my journey beyond The Freedom Dance, into the land of hope, that will be the thesis of this book. I want to tell you where the Freedom Dance has led me and what it is that I see. You might wish to come and look for yourself.

Not that I have seen this magnificent place with the clarity of the saints, nor that I have anything other than the most meager of natural abilities to make any sense of it. If I were to try to act as if I had the strength of soul of Joan of Arc or the vision and faith of St. Thérèse as I run toward it, I would only embarrass myself greatly and fall humiliatingly down a very steep ravine, leaving myself helpless and calling out in despair. No, I am a simple man, with many a notable failure in both the material and spiritual life, a weak and inconstant sinner whose only reasonably mentionable merit is that he at least desires to follow these souls, however haltingly and stubbornly, to the land they are calling him.

This is what it means to me to imitate the saints, as the Church tells us we should do, that we should follow their examples as shining lights in the darkness, souls who have passed through the glorious gates leading into the City of God, even though we ourselves are untrustworthy and corrupt stewards of the graces we receive on the journey.

“Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.”[3]

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And with all of my faults and no more than this desire, this love for the journey and the friends who guide me, the great and merciful Lord Jesus Christ, savior of the human race, with his most worthy Mother Mary have allowed me to see at least a reflection of the promise in the spring waters along the joyous and wonder-filled trail of the Dogmatic Creed:

“Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now, I can only know imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.”[4]

Like a child I peer into the waters and see the reflection of heaven that cannot be seen in the murky water of secular living or through the dark clouds of alternative philosophies and belief systems ruling so many souls in this life. Others tell me of how they are gods, how they are manifesting material wealth, or how they can manipulate either the forces of nature through science or the forces of the spiritual world through Eastern New Age occultism to bring them ultimate happiness. I simply turn around and stare back into the clear waters of Catholicism, scan the horizon of the mysterious but beautiful landscape of Dogma and the Creed, and I keep running along with my saintly friends. Nothing compares to what I see through the Traditions, Scriptures, Dogma, and Creeds of the two-thousand year old Catholic Church, founded at a point in historical time by Jesus Christ himself, true man and true God.

And this is all it takes, I have discovered, to see the outlines of this beautiful land, that is, the desire to follow the will of God in obedience to the path of our Fathers in the Faith on the trail of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism, and in fellowship with the heavenly family that makes up the whole Church. The Lord has blessed us with a family, a community, indeed, as the Church calls it, a communion of saints, brothers, and sisters to help us on our journey. It is, in fact, a kingdom.

Our Lady of the Sign

We seek the fellowship of family and friends on earth, and by God’s grace, we have the fellowship of friends and family in heaven. To walk with this family and to desire that which this family desires, to want to go to the land where this family is going, and to conform one’s life to the norms of this family, that is what is required. We can come with all of our weaknesses and sins, hoping to be transformed on the journey, where we look to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, as our savior, his Mother as our mother, and the rest of the saints as role models, friends, and defenders.

This book is about Hope, the March of Hope, which is for me, anyway, something I call The March of Joan of Arc. St. Joan of Arc with my saintly sister Thérèse of Lisieux have been true God-sends in my life to lead me more deeply into the mystery of True Devotion to Mary as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort, that place of destiny I described reaching in The Freedom Dance and the mysterious land beyond the great gateway into Catholicism about which I cannot wait to speak to you next.

[1] See Mathew 4:18-22

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:9 (New Jerusalem)

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraph 957.

[4] 1 Corinthians 13:12 (New Jerusalem)

A Catholic madman’s guide to the galaxy (and on going home to Guymon, OK)

 

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(Written in the Spring of 2012.)

I’m writing this not knowing whether or not I will be able to make my Guymon High School 35th class reunion this summer. Guymon Oklahoma is far from Chicago, and Oklahoma City, the gathering spot for the reunion, is not much closer. We’re all grown up these days, if not in mind at least in body and in accumulated responsibilities. Duties, time, money, and the general vagaries of life all come into play in determining the outcome. Then we have to sort, prioritize, plan-a-tize, and all those other “ize” kinds of things. Sometimes I just wish I were closer to home. And that, the general theme of coming home, and coming home from where, is what I would like to present to you here.

The first thing to notice is that I refer to Guymon, OK as home. The home where I now live is in the Chicago metro area. It is indeed “a” home. For my son, who has spent most of his life here, this will be as much “home” for him as Guymon is “home” for me. So, in that sense, Chicago land is sacred ground. Plus, I really like it here. But none of that can alter the fundamental truth for me that Guymon is “my” home. Of course, if I were to go back there today, I would not know too many people (and they would certainly not recognize me). Most of the friends with whom I grew up are gone as well. But that does nothing to keep Guymon from still being “home.” A high school classmate recently wrote me a note on Facebook pointing out that there is an old saying to the effect that while young, one tries to get away from home, only to spend the rest if his or her life trying to get back. “I heard that,” as one might say “back home.”

This all became poignantly clear to me over the past few years. Facebook brought me back into touch with those people and those memories in a way that I could never have imagined a few years earlier when I was globe-trotting. I assumed then that there was only forward motion with no chance to go back. Yet, the oddest thing has happened to me over this time. I have traveled to worlds beyond while at the same time finding myself heading “home” again. Forward motion has come together with what is behind me in a way that has touched me profoundly.

I believe that when that happens, when time comes together into one moment where the past, present, and future collide, we call that eternity. It is the Eternal NOW. I think that this NOW brushed up against me. I did not know what it was. It startled me. Yet, it has left an indelible mark on my soul. Rather, it has bored all the way through my soul like a branding iron to my most hidden chambers. That I write publicly about these things, in effect as one who pens a private diary only to purposely leave it on a bench in a public square, might seem strange, self-centered, imprudent, all the above, or, quite simply, just mad. But the reality is that it seems impossible for me not to do it. Like an energy source, this NOW has a life of its own that at the same time has become the essence of my own life. It is not of me, but it is me, and there is no other way I can explain it. It demands to break out. My joy in living is to let it do so. Plus, I don’t like traveling alone.

It was on July 17, 2006 that the thing happened. I won’t go into the details, as I have written a number of posts about this event. But for those of you who have followed my journeys over the years, you know what that thing was that happened. On that day my life was unalterably altered by the influence of the greatest heroine in the history of France, or of all the world for that matter, Ste. Jeanne d’Arc. I could not possibly recount to you here how all of this happened. You would have to simply read through my material. But my experience that day, and the spiritual journey it brought about in me over what appears to be the rest of my years on earth and then into eternity, forever shook me to my core. Life has not been the same since, nor could it ever be, and I will not rest until I am finally eternally home in the Mystical Kingdom of France with Jeanne d’Arc.

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I did something that day, July 17, 2006, that is perhaps the most outrageous, the most daring, the most breathtaking, the most unthinkable thing a person could do. I did what so few people in the modern world have done. This act was an egregious break with modern society. It was the most counter-revolutionary, counter-cultural act a person can make in the modern era. What I did was this. I decided to take the Catholic Church at her word. I decided to accept everything she had to say and to (you might want to pause here for strength) surrender my intellect and will, that is, to submit my intellect and will, to the authority of the Catholic Church. Can you imagine? The audacity! John Lennon’s Revolution was easy. That can be done falling out bed in the morning. You should try the Counter-Revolution. That will make your hair stand on end like a loopty-loop roller-coaster. I went where in the modern world we could almost say, no man goes before us. Modern man will say that he is not foolish enough to do what I did. I will respond that he is not brave enough to do what I did. With shrieks from the general community, I went forward. Into the mist I went.

Why, in heaven or on earth, would I have done that? What causes a man to simply go mad? Well, for starters, I was motivated by the desire to live. The day before, July 16, 2006, I was not far from death and was even closer to insanity. The choices before me on July 16 were: Jail, Asylum, or Coffin. One of those three was going to be my destiny within my near future, probably within a year. Yet, only 24 hours later, on July 17, 2006, I was completely restored by the authority of the King of Heaven Himself.

I then found myself before the Queen of Heaven who gave me one command, and one command only, as a condition for my continued freedom from the chains that had held me bound: “Seek First the Kingdom.” Ste. Jeanne d’Arc, the heavenly Daughter of God who restored the Kingdom of France for Jesus Christ during her temporal life, was to be my constant companion and guide. Why this is so is not as mysterious as it might first sound, but you will need to read my other writings to understand it. Thus, before me in one direction was death, or more likely, insanity just preceding an early death. Before me in the opposite direction was a Kingdom. Which path would I choose? It was up to me. Perhaps this decision was not as difficult as you might have imagined in the beginning. Mad? I was already mad. Been there, done that. “Imagine there’s no heaven, and no religion, too” Mr. Lennon? Sorry. Been there done that, too. That’s what drove me mad.

Crossing through the threshold of the gateway into the Kingdom, I found, as G.K. Chesterton has described it, that the Church was bigger on the inside than on the outside. That is because the Church is not simply an institution; it is not simply a religion; it is not simply a philosophy; nor is it a mere opinion. The Church is a Kingdom. It is a Kingdom that is seen on earth as one sees mountains in the distance from a meadow on a hillside looking through the early morning mist. Something grand is out there, but you just can’t see it all. The actual reality is indeed bigger than the foggy view you have before you. Only when the mist rises can we see the entire panorama. The mist will not fully rise until we die.

Mystical France radiance

Over the past six years, I have been riding through that Kingdom, misty as it might be for me, with my most faithful guide. My goodness. We have battled the Saracen at Tours with Charles Martel, fought Crusades in the Holy Lands, studied philosophy with Thomas Aquinas in Paris, crowned Kings in Rheims, been imprisoned at Rouen, burned at the stake, backed-up to the gates of hell, fought the Protestant and Catholic Wars of Religion, marched alongside general Charette in the armée catholique et royale of the Vendée during the French Revolution, had peaceful retreats in the meadows of France, and once or twice on a sunny day even caught glimpses of those celestial castles. I am happy to argue religion and philosophy with you, but you first have to convince me that you’re having more fun than I am.

Through it all, I became a new man who is still the same man. Note that I did not say that I was a new man who was still the old man, for the new and the old cannot co-exist. New wine in old wineskins will merely split and spoil the new wine. No, I mean I became a new man who is the same man. As Aquinas teaches us, grace builds on nature; it does not destroy nature.

I knew then that my destiny was in a place I like to call “La France Mystique,” or, Mystical France. I had become (brace yourself) medieval-minded. Rather than the ardent Democratic Republican I had been so dogmatically taught to be from my youth, I had become a strong supporter of the Frankish Royalty and of the restoration of the French Monarchy. I have even proposed a Catholic Monarchy for the United States (a real popular concept here, as you can imagine – it should really take off any day now). Why, again, would I do, say, and propose such madness? Well, now, this time, it is not from a sense of desperation; rather, it is from a sense of love. I do and say mad things about my saintly heroine, her kings, her queens, and her land because I have come, through all of these grand adventures, to love this Kingdom with that King, that Queen, and that saintly heroine. I sought the Kingdom as commanded, and that Kingdom is breathtaking.

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But still, recently, I could tell that my heart was nevertheless, and simultaneously, sending me home, back home to the much smaller and fantastically less romantic kingdom of Guymon, OK where I grew up and had such wonderful childhood memories. Despite these marvelous adventures in forward motion, I was still, as my facebook friend had warned, trying to get “back home.” Why? And how could I, now that I was destined only for “La France Mystique”?

Then it dawned on me. My saintly heroine was pointing out something to me. My original conversion to the Catholic Church came on the heels of my engagement to my wife, Josey, in my home town. My first introduction to the Queen of Heaven was in the Church of St. Peter’s in my home town. My introduction to Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux, the 19th century French Carmelite nun who introduced me to Jeanne d’Arc had occurred in Guymon (or at least from a book found in that Catholic book store in Amarillo we always visited). My trip to France in high school with my classmates, whereby I first saw Jeanne’s statue at the island fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel, took place while I was still in Guymon. I looked back over the many writings I had produced during these recent years. I noted that in my earliest accounts I mention being grounded in the contemplative spirit during my youth while looking out on the high plains that surrounded my home town.

It became obvious. I was new, but I was the same. The seed of the Kingdom had been with me all the time that I was growing up in Guymon. I left that town and those friends, in a temporal sense, only to ride headlong to the gates of hell. I then rode, in a mystical sense, through ancient Christendom with Jeanne d’Arc only to find the Kingdom of Heaven. And I have now come home to my native town and my friends, at least in spirit if not in time and space, only to discover that both home and the Kingdom had been available to me my entire life.

I’m new, but I’m the same. A new man, yet the same man. But NOW a whole man, thanks to the King of this Kingdom, the Queen, and Sainte Jeanne d’Arc with her ever faithful heavenly sister Thérèse. Most importantly though, I am home. Home where both forward meets what is behind in what we might call “the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”

Vive la France Mystique, y’all.

StM

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How an American man from Oklahoma found spiritual kinship with the Mystical Kingdom of France

 

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One of the most prominent themes in all of my writings is that of our growth through time and space toward our Final Form that resides in the Mind of God. I often quote St. Thomas Aquinas who himself quoted Aristotle and integrated the latter’s profound philosophy of the four causes of creation – Formal, Material, Efficient, and Final –  into the Christian framework.

Another of my prominent themes, a cousin to the first, is that of the Kingdom of God represented by a beautiful landscape whereby we are all integrated in our almost infinite individual variety into one, magnificent panorama. That unity of the particulars into one beautiful Final Form called The Kingdom is that of the one unifying Principle, Jesus Christ, He Who is the Word through Whom all things were created. Thus, the two themes fit together in a manner that hopes to satisfy both our Intellect (Faith) and our Will (Love). Our Intellects (Faith) lead us to seek (Hope) the Principle End (Love) Who unites us as radically unique individuals into the one beautiful panorama of the landscape that metaphorically represents the Kingdom Of God, just as unique flowers, trees, meadows, rivers, and mountains are united into one breathtaking view in nature.

Those themes, how and for what purpose we are created with how we are integrated as individuals into the Whole, are precisely the points that explain how I, a man born in America and raised on the High Plains of the great state of Oklahoma, found his calling in life through a spiritual connection with the “mystical” Kingdom of France, and, more specifically, with the spirit of the devout Catholic Royalists of Western France.

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Just out of Guymon High School and before entering Princeton University in the Fall of 1977, I had the opportunity to travel to Brittany, France near the Normandy border for a six week cultural study along with a number of my friends from GHS. At the time I was simply a mainstream American, Protestant young man as were the majority of folk from Guymon. The mainstream, Protestant dominated culture of Guymon was the center of my world, though I was well aware of a larger world beyond the remote town’s borders (where there was even a place called France!).

Toward the end of our stay, we journeyed through Normandy to the island fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, the one pocket of resistance in the Hundred Years War that stayed true to St. Joan of Arc’s Charles VII, despite the fact that the bulk of Normandy had become English occupied land. There, before the chapel, I stood before a statue of St. Joan of Arc. “Who is that?” I asked Ms. Bowling, our French teacher (note that whereas I knew of this larger world where existed a place called “France,” my understanding of what was “under the hood” in that place was pretty limited!). “Ah, c’est Jeanne d’Arc!” (“It is Joan of Arc!”), she replied, or something close to that. I shrugged and walked away, thinking no more of it. How naive was I! I may not have thought more about the matter, but it appears that the aforementioned “Jeanne d’Arc” WAS thinking more about it. We had been introduced.

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Approximately eight years later, at age 26, I married the lovely woman who remains my wife to this day. I was converted to the Catholic Church in the process (she is a cradle Catholic), and soon after was given the book, “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort. St. Louis was an early 18th century priest who gave missions throughout the Vendée, Brittany, and Normandy. At nearly the same time, I was introduced to St Thérèse de Lisieux, affectionately known as “the Little Flower,” through reading her autobiography. St. Thérèse was a Carmelite nun from Normandy who lived and died in the late 19th century. France, St. Joan of Arc, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Normandy, Brittany…etc.

So, thinking about my most prominent themes referenced above, you might see a picture developing in my journey through space and time, much the way a Form takes recognizable shape when one connects the dots in a puzzle. In the midst of the apparently confusing mess of “dots” there rests an image representing the Final Form for one’s purpose in the Mind of God. One simply must slow down in life long enough to contemplate the puzzle.

Time went by (as it has a tendency to do). I later found myself in dire spiritual and physical trouble in the summer of 2006. Through the intercession of The Most Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joan of Arc, I was restored. On March 25th, 2008, I was making a renewal of my consecration to Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort while sitting in her chapel inside the Cathedral of St. Louis the King in St. Louis, MO. A hint of French Royalty was now being shaped into the mix with the conglomeration made up of those other “dots.”

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The following Christmas I received a family genealogy from my nephew that demonstrated that one our family’s major branches came from Normandy. At the time, I was writing the first of my books, Journey to Christendom – The Freedom Dance, under the inspiration of St. Joan of Arc. Through St. Joan a continuing interest in the French Monarchy grew in my soul. Shortly thereafter I discovered the story of the Wars of the Vendée whereby the courageous locals in Western France, only a mere lifetime away from the influence of St. Louis de Montfort, gave their lives to defend the Catholic Church, their way of life, and importantly, the 1,300 year old Monarchy that had defined France as the “Eldest daughter of the Church” over those 13 centuries.

Immediately the dots faded away, and I could see the Form, the picture of who I am and who I was meant to be. My journey began on the High Plains of Oklahoma in a small town called Guymon. However, my destiny was a place far away, in fact, further away in a sense than that “place called France” I had visited so many years before. This destiny was more than all that. It was, and is, to a place I call “mystical France.” This destiny represents my Final Form, or the purpose for which I was created in the Mind of God, and where I, as a uniquely formed individual, fit into that marvelous unified landscape.

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This destiny is only one very tiny piece of the whole. However, I do not mind being small in the overall scheme of the panorama. I am, in this destiny, with St. Joan of Arc, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and, through them, with the Mother of God in the Kingdom that is ruled by Jesus Christ. There is no more to desire than that. It is not prominence I seek, only alignment with my destiny, however small and unnoticeable that is.

As Catholics we do not believe that it is right to presume on our salvation. God is always true to His promises; yet, we, with our free will, are ever capable of devising our own ruin. This is particularly true for me. I pray, as all should, for the grace of final perseverance.

If, when you are in Heaven, you happen to make a journey to Mystical France, and if you see me in the land of my destiny with St. Joan and St. Thérèse, know that there is no happier person in the entire Kingdom. If, when you are in Heaven, you happen to make a journey to Mystical France, and you do not see me in the land of my destiny, know that there is no more foolish person in Hell.

Vive l’Église, la Reine, et le Roi des Rois.

StM

Ready for Battle

While we’re wandering in the dark, and over this treacherous sea,

Please hear us, young maid, Joan of Arc. You won’t ignore our plea

In this vale, so filled with tears, the sufferings that wait in store

You’ll come in haste, to calm our fears, and row us to safer shore

The battle horn is blowing now, the Angels poised with bowls of wrath, St. Joan help us through this somehow, and lead us  along God’s holy path

It’s hard to see the light at all, the battle’s just begun, We hear you with your battle call, with you the victory will be won

St. Joan, you’re here to help us fight, with your courage we can win. The enemy sees you and takes flight, in this evil world of sin

We need your help. The time is here, and now we join your army ranks. Your time’s arrived, the signs are clear. There’s no need for army tanks

St. Joan, we join you in this war, for this , the Lord will arm us. Your name, we’ll bear upon our breast, and nothing then will harm us

Written: February 8, 2012

A beautiful and inspiring personal letter from an officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson

 

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I am delighted to present on RoyaumeFrance a beautiful personal letter from the training officer aboard one of our heroic aircraft carriers defending the country.

In her personal spiritual journey, LCDR Amy Hunt was drawn by St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse to courageously make her Act of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort. What a grace! It is my hope that all of you will make this same, powerful, and grace filled consecration. “To Jesus through Mary in the friendship and sisterly care of Sts. Joan and Thérèse”!

I hope this pleases and inspires you. With permission to use her name and the carrier’s name:

Hi Walter,

I am writing you on Sunday afternoon, as it is the one day each week on the USS CARL VINSON where my schedule is a little lighter and I have time to catch up with family and friends. Every day is a work day on a deployed ship, but I am very grateful that I can worship on Sunday and have a few hours of personal time.

First of all, thank you for the lovely poem you sent me in honor of my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary! It was such a beautiful and fitting tribute. I will cherish it always. It was one among many blessings I received through the act of my consecration. The mass itself was beautiful. Our priest, an ex-Marine and faithful chaplain whose vocation has brought such blessings to our ship, prayed a special Blessing of the Candles for Candlemas and we had a small processional entrance in our tiny shipboard chapel. One of our sailors had prepared a beautiful makeshift shrine to our Blessed Mother, complete with a statue of Our Lady of America, candles and artificial roses (we can’t get the real thing out here, obviously). I asked one of my good friends, a Prowler pilot who is very devoted to our Lady, to do the readings. Then in place of a homily, Father had me read and sign my prayer. He signed it as witness, and then we continued the mass. All in all, it was a lovely mass. When I first learned about St. Louis de Montfort’s devotion to the Blessed Mother a few years ago, I never thought I would be making the consecration myself, in the middle of the North Arabian Sea, no less! And yet, it just goes to show you that God often has his own plan for our lives.

The amazing thing about God’s plans versus what we often invent for ourselves, is the miraculous way He brings about His design in our lives. I know it took your website to deepen my devotion to St. Joan and St. Therese and give me the courage to make the consecration (which you speak about in many of your blogs). Only God could bring the lives of two strangers together in such a meaningful way! And the fruits of it are still emerging. Just 2 days after my consecration, my husband’s grandfather who left the Church more than 50 years ago, made an appointment to see a priest about coming home again to the Church. This in itself is an answer to our prayers, and I know it is the grace that flows from Christ our Lord through our Blessed Mother’s heart that touched his heart after all these years.

I hope you will post this letter in your blog, not to bring attention to myself, but because there may be someone else out there considering deepening their spiritual journey by making the Total Consecration to Mary. I want to encourage them to do so. I was scared about abandoning my own will and whether I would be able to live out my consecration faithfully. But the Bible says that God will always give us the grace and strength for the challenges at hand, and the temptations that threaten to make us fall. Trust God. “Do not be afraid”. Once you abandon yourself as a slave to Christ, you realize you have no fear because you’ve already given up everything. There is nothing left to lose!

Thanks, Walter. I pray that God continues to bless you and your wife Josey. I hope one day our families will have an opportunity to meet.

In Jesus Through Mary,

LCDR Amy Hunt
Training Officer
USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70)

Fair Maiden of France

Joan cloud no site

Saint Joan of Arc so pure and bright

Who became that brave and wondrous knight

Who so valiantly fought with courage and love

and kept going ,supplied with graces from above

You won the battle, to get a king crowned

around the world, your name is renowned

A maiden so fair, put to death for no reason

in the flower of youth, blooming in the right season

A girl who kept her soul white as snow

sent by God on a mission, so off did she go

To do as God asked, for He stayed by her side

and the strength she needed her saints supplied

Untouched by the vanity the world had to give

she gave up her life, so that she might live

Her soul like a dove to Heaven flew

where she prays for us daily,our strength

she renews

A great French maiden of seventeen years old

and now the face of God , Joan of Arc can behold

Interview on radio talk show Religion, Politics, and the Culture

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I am most appreciative to have been interviewed by radio host Dennis O’Donovan on his talk show “Religion, Politics, and the Culture.” The video below holds the audio to this interview. Everyone should tune in to 1040 AM Radio every Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 9:00 pm Eastern to hear Dennis’ very informative and interesting shows.

For those who wish to love Joan of Arc – Mark Twain and his Recollections

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For those who wish to love Joan of Arc (and who would not?), Mark Twain’s book, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is a must read. I say, “for those who wish to love Joan of Arc,” because, unlike many writings on historical figures, this book does not relate dry historical data couched in cold, erudite, academic language. On the contrary, this book tells her astonishing story by one who loved her and who was himself astonished by that story. Now, that is how we want to read of the exploits of Joan of Arc! Devotion to the saintly child can only be spread by those who are devoted to her! Only through the fire of the soul deep in our hearts can we spread the warmth of transcendent inspiration. Leave spiritless skepticism to modern, professional historians. Welcome to our side, Mr. Twain.

Mark Twain

Recollections is one of the most magnificent stories in history told by one of the most magnificent writers in history. Many people are surprised to know that Mr. Twain wrote on Joan of Arc, and few know that he considered it his best book. He spent twelve years researching it, including taking a trip to France, and he used both French and English sources. He called it something to the effect of a “labor of love.” The rest of his books “did not require research and got none.” Mark Twain was neither Catholic nor even particularly religious. He distrusted organized religion. Yet, he was nevertheless slain spiritually and emotionally by the Maid of Orléans, who was eventually declared a Saint of the Roman Church.

Mark Twain’s book is considered to be historically very accurate, though he delightfully fills in “gaps” using his famous Twain humor and by developing memorable, Twain-typical characters. You will chuckle at how he weaves everything together and yet marvel at how, despite this, he is still able to tell the history with integrity.

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One of the very ingenious methods he uses here is to tell the story from the standpoint of a third person. He, Mark Twain, is Louis de Conte, Joan of Arc’s true-to-life page given her by Charles VII. Twain tells the story as if Louis were relating it back to us in his later, aged years as we all sit around the fireplace like fidgety, excited grandchildren. Marvelous story-telling!

Let us now peer into the opening of the book as Mark Twain, well, rather we should say “Louis,” begins his tale. We can imagine him taking a sip of wine and settling in as we all sit on the floor anxiously awaiting his account of a most stunning historical figure, a heroine whom we have begun to study in school, and someone whom he personally knew! “Grandpa, you KNEW Joan of Arc?!?” Really? Tell us, please!” Yes, Monsieur de Conte, please, do tell us.

“This is the year 1492. I am eighty-two years of age. The things I am going to tell you are things which I saw myself as a child and as a youth.

In the tales and songs and histories of Joan of Arc which you and the rest of the world read and sing and study in the books wrought in the late invented art of printing, mention is made of me, the Sieur Louis de Conte – I was her page and secretary. I was with her from the beginning until the end.

I fought at her side in the wars; to this day I carry in my mind, fine and clear, the picture of that dear little figure, with breast bent to the flying horse’s neck, charging at the head of the armies of France, her hair streaming back, her silver mail ploughing steadily deeper and deeper into the thick of battle, sometimes nearly drowned from sight by tossing heads of horses, uplifted sword-arms, wind-blown plumes, and intercepting shields.

I was with her to the end; and when that black day came whose accusing shadow will lie always upon the memory of the mitred French slaves of England who were her assassins, and upon France who stood idle and essayed no rescue, my hand was the last she touched in life.

As the years and decades drifted by, and the spectacle of the marvelous child’s meteor-flight across the war-firmament of France and its extinction in the smoke clouds of the stake receded deeper and deeper into the past and grew ever more strange and wonderful and divine and pathetic, I came to comprehend and recognize her at last for what she was – the most noble life that was ever born into this world save only One.”

What a fine start! The old man might pause here for a moment to stare into the fire. Perhaps he is remembering, or maybe he is meditating. He simply stares in silence, unable to continue for a minute or two; though, it seems  to us like an eternity. Indeed, he may be on the brink of the eternal Kingdom trying to catch one more glimpse of his faithful companion. I think that I see a tear forming in his eye. He is, in his mind’s eye, seeing the whole picture, the entire landscape that was his life with Joan of Arc, from the laughter at its dawn to the lamentations at its dusk. Words are difficult to form, as he desires not to merely tell us, but to SHOW us who this glorious figure is. Words are so meager, yet words are all that he has.

Well, in order to come to know the rest of the story, that is, to hear our aged grandpa as he finally turns his head, laughing and crying all at the same time, to regale us with all of the glorious tales of Joan of Arc, we must read the book. It will be well worth your time, I assure you. Remember, though, it is not for those who wish to study Joan of Arc. It is for those who wish to love her. As grandpa continues his tale, you will find yourself helpless but to do so.

StM

Mystical France radiance

May 30 – The Feast of St. Joan of Arc

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I will say boldly that throughout history Our Lord remains active and vibrant, occasionally painting the sky in yet one more shade of brilliance so that the world may witness His Grandeur, His Call, His Kingdom. He is forever proclaiming that Kingdom through His followers, and for those who wonder just where He is today, I will tell you: He is all around and always has been throughout history (“I am Who am,” Ex 3:14). As we look back through the centuries, we see His works of art in occasional flashes of the blues, reds, yellows, greens, violets and peaches of others’ love, sacrifice, and faith. We see acts of virtue and heroism that impress our soul the way a panorama of beautiful flowers, majestic mountains, peaceful meadows, and rushing creeks impress our senses. On May 30, 1431, the world witnessed one more of those brilliant soul-edifying expressions.

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It was on that day that Joan of Arc, the Deliverer of France, was cruelly executed at the stake as a criminal and heretic, though she was innocent. There can be no greater objective in life, and no greater compliment to give another, than that their life is an imitation of Christ. And Joan of Arc’s life so resembles that of Christ’s that we are in awe of His handiwork. Joan carried out her mission with unyielding faith, hope, and love. She was wrongfully accused; she refused to deny her faith and call, and she therefore was unjustly executed as a mere criminal.

The earth did not shake, but many miracles did take place when she died. The cry of “Jesus!” was her last exclamation before expiring, and the name “Jesus” was seen written in the flames. Tough English soldiers repented and confessed on the spot. The executioner testified that her heart would not burn. A soldier spotted a white dove flying out of the flames and toward unoccupied, free France. I am convinced that after that dove circled the hills, valleys, and meadows of the French countryside, it soared through the gates of heaven, bursting on arrival into that brilliant, colorful expression referenced above and then was painted across the sky by the swift and mighty hand of Jesus Himself. That last part is not written in any of the history books, but it is written in my heart.

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It would be just over four centuries later when another spectacular light of Christ would come into the world that was a reflection of that same peculiar light from heaven. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was inflamed with a love for Joan of Arc and considered her to be a kindred soul. Joan was a source of courage for Thérèse as she suffered her own cruel death, not by political corruption, but at the hands of the dreadful disease of tuberculosis.

It was Thérèse who taught me about Joan of Arc. I am convinced that Thérèse is the only person who actually can explain Joan to me in a satisfactory manner. Thérèse saw Joan’s life through the eyes of Christ. She saw Joan’s life through the eyes of love, sacrifice, and unyielding devotion to Our Lord no matter the cost, even that of her own life. There is a name for that devotion. It is called martyrdom. Thank you Thérèse, I see it now. And thank you, Joan, for your witness born through that martyrdom and which now shines in that magnificent color in the sky.

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It was because of Joan and Thérèse that, metaphorically speaking, I looked up into the sky one day while I sat miserably sick and alone in the Dark Forest. There was a special and marvelous color in the heavens that day. Filthy and afraid, I peered out from the trees and saw these two who smiled and pointed out and upward toward a most marvelous Kingdom in the distance. I made a decision to take their hands, and we have been following a very narrow but breathtaking path ever since. I have not arrived, in fact, far from it. I just run along as best I can. I trip and occasionally fall into deep crevices. Sometimes I even annoy my sisters by running off to the darkness of the Forest again. I’m just that way. However, they will run after me and drag me out again. This is the only difficulty of the path, you see, that I want this Kingdom of Christ’s, yet, sadly, “what I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want but, but I do what I hate” (Rom 7:15). So, then, “what occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith” (Rom 3:27). That faith to which Joan and Therese bore witness gives me faith, and off I will go with them yet again. Special needs demand special help.

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So, in short, this is what the Feast Day of Joan of Arc means to me. My heart is filled with gratitude for the friendship of these two saintly sisters through whom, together, Our Lord has created that very special color in the heavens.

Let me leave you with some of the last words written by those who knew Joan of Arc and who conducted her trial of rehabilitation to clear her name some quarter of a century after her death. And here I ask one thing of the reader and one thing only. If you care nothing about what is written here so far, if my words have done nothing to pierce your heart, I ask that out of mercy you think for a moment of Joan’s mother, Isabelle, who bore the loathsome weight of a cross for almost twenty-five years because her beautiful, faithful, and heroic daughter had been unjustly declared an apostate and burned as a heretic by impious, corrupt, and partisan clergy. I ask you to think of this mother who carried her maternal duties to the very end of her life by bringing this case forward to see to it that her child’s name was cleared before her country, and indeed before all of Western Civilization. Imagine how tears must have streamed down her cheeks when, after months of deliberation and review of the original condemnatory trial and written record, she heard the following solemnly pronounced by the Archbishop of Reims on behalf of Pope Calistus III in Rouen, the very city where Joan died:

“That although it was abundantly apparent to the aforementioned judges that Joan had submitted to the judgment and decisions of our Holy Mother the Church, and that she was so faithful a Catholic that they allowed the Body of Our Lord to be administered to her, nevertheless out of their excessive zeal for the English, or not wishing to extricate themselves out of fear and pressure, they most unjustly condemned her as a heretic to the pains of fire.”

“That Joan continuously, and notably at the moment of her death, behaved in a saintly and Catholic manner, recommending her soul to God and invoking Jesus aloud even with her last life’s breath in such a manner as to draw from all those present, and even from her English enemies, effusions of tears.”

“That the preceding and other points being weighed, the case and the sentence are both null and most unjust…”

And as the Archbishop’s gavel fell with all the authority and power of a Papal anvil, these words rang through the cathedral in conclusion:

“And so it was and that is the truth.”

At that moment Isabelle must have broken down, shedding over two decades worth of tears. All of Christendom (excluding the mighty Plantagenet house in England) rose to its feet in cheers of joy. But Isabelle cared little for that. She was a poor, simple peasant mother, caring little for politics but much for her child. She had raised Joan a good Catholic, and all Isabelle cared about as her mother was that she died a good Catholic. That is the power of a mother before the eyes of God. Tearing mothers can move the heavens, and, as here in this trial among powerful princes, the earth as well. Isabelle told the devil to go to hell. And not enough credit is given her, on earth at least, for that.

It was this, and much more, that I witnessed when I peered out of that dark and lonely Forest. It was for this, and much more, that I decided to come out. This was the most beautiful color I had ever seen, and it was bursting forth from a Kingdom that I then joyfully understood really existed.

Thank you, Joan. And, by the way, thank you mother Isabelle.

Royaume France VBB

May 7 – The day of Victory! “In God’s name, tonight we will enter the city by the bridge.”

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The morning of May 7, with only the Bastille of Les Tourelles standing between Joan and freedom for the city of Orleans, she spoke the words quoted in this title. Soon, all of Christendom from Rome to London would hear of a most remarkable victory by the battle-weary French army, itself led by a most remarkable young woman. The Bastille of Les Tourelles would fall this day by no less than the sheer determination of Joan of Arc, known by her contemporaries as Joan the Maid. Very soon, she would be acclaimed by a title known throughout history as, “The Maid of Orleans.” Almost six hundred years later, the city still celebrates her victory.

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According to historian Regine Pernoud, “Joan moved energetically and swiftly, showing just how much she could do, but near or shortly after midday she was wounded, apparently by an arrow above her breast, as she had foreseen.” (“Joan of Arc: Her Story” p. 47). In tears, she had to retreat in order to allow her soldiers to remove the arrow. Someone suggested applying a “charm” to heal it which she strenuously refused saying, “I would prefer to die rather than to do something I know to be a sin, or against the will of God.” (p.47)

By evening time, the combatants had grown weary, and it seemed that the fortress would not be taken. Joan was spotted riding to a secluded spot in a vineyard to pray alone for approximately 15 minutes. Upon her return, we have the decisive moment. “Joan had handed her standard over to a squire named La Basque. Jean D’Aulon ordered him to follow himself and Joan to the foot of the ditch. Joan caught sight of her standard, saw that the squire who carried it had entered the ditch, and grabbed it. Pulling with all her strength, she ‘waved the banner in such a manner,’ said Jean D’Aulon, ‘that when she did so the others thought that she was giving them some signal. In short, all those in the army of the Maid rushed together and rallied themselves and with great ferocity assailed the breastwork, and shortly after this breastwork and the Bastide were taken by them and abandoned by their enemies; and the French crossed the bridge and entered the city of Orleans.'” (p. 47-48)

Just what happened in that ditch in front of the Bastille of Les Tourelles the evening of May 7 is a matter of confusion. Did Joan rally her troops purposely? Did she simply pull her standard from La Basque with such energy that her army thought she was sending a signal? Prayers are answered in mysterious ways at times. Perhaps we will never know the answer to just what happened at that precise moment until that Great Day when all will be known. I, for one, will be watching the footage.

However, we do know this. As Jean D’Aulon suggests and her page Louis de Coutes informs us:
“The King’s men got ready to attack again; and when the English saw this they put up no defense. They were terrified, and practically all of them were drowned. In that last attack, there was no defense put up by the English side.” (Ibid, p. 178)

Joan of Arc did cross that bridge into the city of Orleans that evening just as she had predicted. The following day, May 8, all of the English forces remaining in the area left the city, went to a field, and poised themselves in battle formation. However, the Maid resisted a charge and told her men at arms to let them go if they choose. The English were not preparing a counter-attack at all. They were weary and beaten. They just wanted to make sure that they would not be attacked from the rear in retreat. When they saw that Joan was not going to chase them, they turned and left. The siege had been raised. To this day, May 8 is celebrated in the streets of Orleans as the day of freedom from foreign occupation given them by the courage and spiritual strength of the young girl from the village fields of Lorraine.

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And so what of the rest of the story of Joan of Arc? You must take the time to read it. You will not find a more inspiring, heart wrenching, troublesome, heroic, or tear-jerking story in all of history save for the story of Our Lord’s divine life and passion in ancient Palestine. So much of Joan’s own life imitates that of Our Lord’s, and this is the highest compliment she can receive.

After freeing the city of Orleans, she cleared out the Loire Valley of the rest of the English. She took Charles VII and marched him through enemy territory to Reims to be crowned King of France. Every English (or English allied Burgundian) town en route surrendered to her without a fight, simply on her reputation as a Warrior sent by the King of Heaven Himself. It is far easier to go along with heaven than to resist it, a lesson we should be contemplating today.

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In the end, she would have the honor, known only as such by the citizens of heaven, of going through her own passion. The way of the cross is foolishness to man but is the glory of God as St. Paul tells us. Burgundian English sympathizers who hated Charles VII captured her. She was dragged to Rouen, the English capital in occupied Normandy. Joan was mistreated, told lies, threatened with torture, and chained in bed at night with callous, mean spirited English soldiers in her room with her. The only reason she was not raped was that the wife of the English King’s regent, the Duke of Bedford, felt pity for Joan despite her being an enemy, and threatened the soldiers with their lives if they touched her. Thank you dear woman, and may Our Lord hold you in esteem for doing that.

Joan was set up in a kangaroo inquisitional court influenced by the English military who wanted her burned as a heretic and witch in order to discredit Charles’ claim to the throne. Men bearing the robes of the very Church Joan so loved, yet under English influence, shamefully sought to humiliate her and burn her. Most terribly, the king she had just crowned a year before refused to come to her aid. We all wonder, to this very day, why Charles abandoned her. Then again, “ye without sin, cast the first stone.” This is a tragic sight indeed. However, have no fear; it is Joan who will smile in the end.

As she was led to the stake, I want you to hear some of the eyewitness testimony from the moment of her execution. It is likely that, if you have even a glimmer of warmth burning in your heart, you will find it hard to hold back your tears. From Jean Massieu at the trial of rehabilitation many years later:

“She uttered pious and devout lamentations and called on the Blessed Trinity, and on the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, and on all the blessed saints in paradise, naming many of them in her devotions, her lamentations, and her true confession of faith. Also she most humbly begged all manner of people, of whatever condition or rank they might be, and whether of her party or of the other, for their pardon and asked them to kindly pray for her, at the same time pardoning them any harm they had done her.”

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“The judges who were present, and even several of the English, were moved by this to great tears and weeping, and indeed they wept most bitterly. Some, and several of these same English, recognized God’s hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end.”

“She asked most fervently to receive a cross….and an Englishman who was present… made her a little one out of wood from the end of a stick. She received it and kissed it most devotedly, uttering pious lamentations and acknowledging God our Redeemer, who suffered for our redemption on the Cross…”

“Then without any formality or any reading of the sentence, they dispatched her straight to the fire, saying to the executioner, ‘Do your duty.’ And so while she was uttering devoted praise and lamentations to God and the saints, she was led off and tied to the stake. And her last word, as she died, was a loud cry of “Jesus.”

The day was May 30, 1431. The executioner threw her ashes into the river Seine. By eyewitness testimony of this same executioner, her heart would not burn. An English soldier reported that he had seen a white dove fly out of the fire and in the direction of France. Distraught and in tears, he went to find a priest to make his confession.

Joan of Arc went to heaven that day, of this I am quite sure. However, for the citizens of ancient Christendom, she would be known as a heretic for a quarter of century. It was at this later date when Charles VII, still enjoying his Kingship of France won for him by the Maid he never attempted to rescue, ordered a review of the trial. It was during this trial that ecclesiastical authorities became alarmed at the irregularities, apparent forgeries to the original trial manuscript, and the contradictions that faced them from this politically inspired inquisition. On July 7, 1456, Pope Callistus III’s legate declared her condemnatory trial null and void and further declared Joan a martyr for the Church. Her ecclesiastical accusers were condemned as being politically corrupt.

Defend the Kingdom Royaume France

Approximately 500 years later, on May 16, 1920, Joan of Arc received her rightful honor as a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She was later declared Patroness of France. Yes, finally, and after centuries of political machinations between England and France, the Church universal held up Joan of Arc that the entire world might see her for the jewel that she is.

Many of us are very glad, very glad indeed for this. As for me, I have the great privilege of playing a small role in this whole affair. Quite simply, I have the joy and privilege of telling others the story of Joan of Arc. It is a simple man’s duty, not that of a noble, and one that I pray Our Lord will judge in the end, not by its grammatical expression, but by my faithfulness and love in performing it. I have nothing else to offer.

StM

May 6 – Joan’s bravery in the face of confusion at Iles-aux-Toiles provokes an ill-fated English attack

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The day of the Ascension passes, and Joan is moving again. No longer fearing a counter-attack from Saint-Loup since its capture a couple of days ago, she marches to take the strategically placed Bastille on the island called Iles-aux-Toiles. Only here she discovers to her surprise that the English have already abandoned it and have withdrawn to re-group in the Bastille of the Augustinians. There, the English would have leverage to protect the ever-important Les Tourelles that sat on the waterway protecting the entrance to Orleans. This simple maneuver by the English now put Joan’s forces in great danger. The French had to retreat from the island. They were exposed.

We will let Jean D’Aulon, Joan’s personal guard, tell us what happened next:

“As soon as the French began to return to the Bastide of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc to enter the Iles, the Maid and La Hire (Captain) went to the other side of that island, with a horse and a boat each, and mounted their horses as soon as they had landed, each with a lance in hand. And when they had perceived that the enemy was coming out of the Bastide of the Augustinians to rush upon them, the Maid and La Hire, who were always in front of their men to protect them, immediately couched their lances and led the attack upon the enemy. Everyone followed them, and they began to strike the enemy in such a manner that they constrained them by sheer force to withdraw and to return to the Bastide of the Augustinians….Very bitterly and with great diligence, they assailed that Bastide from all directions so that they seized it and took it by assault quickly. The greater part of the enemy were killed or captured, and those who could save themselves withdrew to the Bastide of the Tourelles at the bridges foot. The Maid and her company won a great victory over the enemy that day. The great Bastide was taken, and the lords and their men remained before it all night, along with the Maid.” (Pernoud, “Joan of Arc: Her Story”, pp. 45-46.)

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For those who think that Joan of Arc might have just been “another pretty face” to inspire the army, having no real substance herself, you should read the account above again. Joan’s personal heroism is a consistent theme during her short military career. Here, on May 6, she personally protected the “backs” of her men who had been foiled and were attempting a dangerous retreat. That retreat provoked an attack by the enemy, which was then repelled with the Maid right in the thick of things. Her perseverance and bravery inspired her men to storm and take the Bastille of the Augustinians, the one rampart that stood between them and their deadly enemy Glasdale, who now waited furiously in the Tourelles.

Tomorrow – we have the final showdown between Joan of Arc and Glasdale. It will be a most bitter day for the latter. In fact, it will be the last day of his life. Joan will show more bravery by rushing headlong into the fighting using nothing to protect her but her banner flying in the wind. She will take an arrow and refuse to die. She will come again, wounded, to push Glasdale out of the Bastille to the point where he has no choice but to die.

Tomorrow, Joan of Arc will enter Orleans, not around, but through Les Tourelles.

StM

May 5 – Feast of the Ascension – Joan refuses battle in honor of the holy day – but sends a final ultimatum

 

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The English do not know it, but they have only two more days before their siege over Orleans is broken. With that backbreaking, their hopes of claiming the royal crown of France for Henry VI, boy king of England, will go with it. The surge of activity starting tomorrow and through May 7 will shape the course of history for Europe and, indeed, Western Civilization as whole forever. The ramifications of a dual monarchy based in England versus the firm reinforcement of the single French Crown in her traditional role as the “Eldest Daughter” of Christendom and of the Church are enormous either way.

At this point in history, almost 1,000 years have gone by since the late 5th century when the first Catholic king of the Franks, Clovis, was baptized and received the anointing of holy chrism oil by the Church in Rheims. Clovis established the true faith over the heretical claims of the Arians by his military victories. The anointing of every French King after that transferred to them that heritage for the defense of Europe, the defense of the Faith, and the defense of the Church who proclaimed it. Yes, just who was to be anointed in Rheims, Henry VI of England or Charles VII of France, would have huge ramifications regarding both ancient tradition and the future of our Western world we have inherited today. The single person in the middle of this whole affair is a young seventeen-year-old peasant girl who is now the military leader for the demoralized Charles VII and his nearly defeated army. She is facing what seems to be insuperable odds against an unbeatable foe.

Joan the Maid

However, on this day, May 5, we have another feast day, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. Joan, being raised in the chivalrous spirit of medieval Christendom, refused to engage in battle on a holy day. However, in an attempt to avoiding more bloodshed, she spent this day dictating a final ultimatum to her English foes. That ultimatum was shot over English lines by arrow and read as follows:

“You, O English, who have no right to this kingdom of France, the King of Heaven orders and commands you through me, Joan the Maid, to leave your fortresses and return to your country, and if you do not do so I shall make an uproar that will be perpetually remembered. Behold what I write you for the third and final time; I shall write you no further.”

Signed,

Jesus-Maria

Joan the Maid

(Pernoud, “Joan of Arc: Her Story,” p. 44)

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She offered the following post-script with a touch of wit and perhaps even a little bravado in light of yesterday’s great victory at Saint-Loup:

“I have sent you my letters honestly, but you have detained my messengers, for you have kept my herald named Guyenne with you. Please send him back to me, and I will send you some of your men who were taken in the fortress of Saint-Loup, for they are not all dead.” (Ibid. p. 44)

Well, shall the English take this note seriously and leave? Will they counsel over this new development and see the light? I am afraid I have dire news on that front. These messages seemed to put the English in the foulest of moods. No, they did not intend to leave. In fact, they responded with:

“Here’s news from the whore of the Armagnacs!” (Ibid p. 45)

To this, Joan began to sigh and weep, calling on the King of Heaven to help her. There was no respect on the part of the English for Joan of Arc.

And did I tell you? I think I forgot. The English were planning something of their own after all. Lord John Talbot, the respected and feared commander of the English forces in the region, was sending Captain John Fastolf with a large number of reinforcements to Orleans. They are just days away. Time is critical. We certainly have no time now for Dunois’ “caution.”

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Upon hearing of these approaching English reinforcements, Joan was, ironically, elated! Her steward relates:

“At these words, the Maid seemed to me full of joy, and she said to my lord of Dunois these words or others like them: “Bastard, O Bastard, in God’s name, I order you, as soon as you know of Fastolf’s coming, to let me know it, for if he should pass by without my knowing it, I promise you that I will have your head cut off!” The lord of Dunois answered that she should have no doubts on that score, for he would indeed let her know.” (Ibid, p. 43)

Joan was, as we might say today, “a tough cookie” despite her age and gender, particularly in medieval France. Over the next two days, the English will find out just how tough she is.

Tomorrow – the Bastille of the Augustinians is taken! Joan and her forces are now directly facing the final knot strangling the city of Orleans, that being the Bastille of Les Tourelles, where Joan’s most famous victory, one of the most famous victories in all the history of Christendom, will take place on May 7.

Soon the world will be shouting, “Vive La Pucelle!” “Long live the Maid!”

StM

May 4th – A most touching tribute to Joan from one of her soldiers – and, Saint-Loup is taken!

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I must admit that May 4 during the siege of Orleans holds a special place in my heart. It is not only that we are on the cusp of something, well, miraculously big. Who does not like a great battle story, anyway? No, the reason I so love May 4 with the return of The Bastard from Blois with Joan’s army is that on this day we have a most moving account of loving tribute given her by one of her soldiers. We will allow Mark Twain to regale us here. It is this story that most mimics my own feelings; it touches me deeply in the heart. The story of the Dwarf is, in a certain way, my own story indeed.

The Dwarf, in quick summary, was a very large soldier who, upon re-entering Blois on the march back from Orleans, deserted the army. The reason he deserted the army was that his wife, his one love in life, was fatally ill. He wished to see her before she died. After her death, the Dwarf ran to catch up to the army. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, the other soldiers took no mercy on Dwarf and threatened him with death as a deserter. They carried him with the army back to Orleans as a criminal. Joan wanted to know what this was all about and approached him. She listened to the man’s story. What she did next would leave the Dwarf changed forever. The following account is as good as any to describe how Joan felt about her soldiers and how Joan’s soldiers felt about her. In summary, there was a bond and a love between them that prepared each to give their lives for the other. This enthusiasm, this will to live, fight, and even die for the Maid was a force that no number of English garrisons would be able to match.

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“The eyes of the two met (Joan and the Dwarf), and Joan said to the officer, “The man is pardoned. Give you good-day; you may go.”

Then she said to the man, “Did you know it was death to come back to the army?”

“Yes,” he said, “I knew it.”

“Then why did you do it?”

The man said quite simply, “BECAUSE it was death. She was all I had. There was nothing left to love.”

“Ah, yes, there was – France! The children of France have always their mother – they cannot be left with nothing to love. You shall live – and you shall serve France.”

“I will serve YOU!”

“You shall fight for France.”

“I will fight for YOU!”

“You shall be France’s soldier.”

“I will be YOUR soldier!”

“You shall give all your heart to France.”

“I will give all my heart to YOU! – and all my soul – if I have one – and all my strength, which is great – for I was dead and am alive again; I had nothing to live for, but now I have! You are France for me. You are my France, and I will have no other.” (Twain, “Joan of Arc,” p.180)

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That type of love and enthusiasm drove Joan’s army to meet the English for the first time that day with wild abandon. For, despite the tepidity of the rest of the English in the surrounding bastilles that were choking Orleans of its life, the forces from the Bastille of Saint-Loup had sallied forth to attack “the witch’s” men at arms! This one daring advance by the English would ultimately mark the beginning of the end for the English in France.

It was a battle in the open field, and when Joan came forward with her banner flying and shouting, “Forward men! – Follow me!” the French forces surged forward in a terrible and frightening way. The English were repulsed but formed a counter charge and returned as like a raging fire.

Dunois had now arrived on the scene, and those of the enemy who survived ran back into the fortress for a short-lived respite. He thanked Joan and told her that she would now receive a great reception!

“NOW? Hardly now, Bastard. Not yet!”

“Why not yet, is there more to be done?”

“More Bastard? We have but begun!” We will take this fortress!”

He tried to talk her out of it. (That famous French military “caution” that so annoyed her)

“Bastard, Bastard, will you play always with these English? Now verily, I tell you we will not budge until this place is ours. We will carry it by storm. Sound the charge!” (ibid. p.190)

And with that, Joan’s forces brought the Bastille under French control. Joan had experienced her first battle and was gloriously victorious! The morale of the French forces rose to the heavens, as did their voices in loud acclamations of joy!

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However, when they went to search for Joan and to raise her high on their shoulders as they marched back into Orleans, she was not in sight. When they did finally discover her, she was alone, sitting with her face in her hands, tears streaming from her eyes. Joan was, after all, only seventeen years old. How she wished she could be back home in Domremy tending her father’s sheep! Sadly, more fighting would be necessary. Orleans was not yet free. This was only the beginning. More bastilles would have to fall.

Tomorrow – The Feast of the Ascension – no fighting for one more day – then we move to glorious victory and a feat that will forever make Joan known as “The Maid of Orleans!”, still celebrated each year, 600 years later, in the city of Orleans.

StM

May 3rd – Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross. As we wait one more day for Dunois – a touch of humor (to brighten your day!)

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During Joan’s era in the early 15th century, the rules of chivalry still dictated that armies cease-fire on Sundays and feast days. That is one ironic advantage of Christian being at war with Christian. If there must be a war (and must there be? As Joan spoke plainly in her trial two years later, “Why did not they leave France and go back to their own country?”), at least Christians of old knew enough at least not to offend Our Lord on His most holy of days! Therefore, for various reasons, including the striking one mentioned yesterday, we are at rest for one more day. Stick around though, for tomorrow things begin to get quite exciting!

For today, as we sit in the city square, hoping that the English do not attack in anticipation of Dunois’ return, we will cheat by telling a story from a couple of years ahead, a story that no citizen of Orleans on that day would have known. Ah, but we have the advantage of retrospection!

While Joan was in prison two years later during her trial at the hands of her English captors, we find her facing the most abominable treatment. Yet through it all, witnesses would testify later that she gave the most amazing, indeed even miraculous, responses to the rapid fire questioning of her inquisitors. Those who objected to Joan’s treatment testified that her examiners tried to confuse her. According to these witnesses, Joan gave pleasing and wise responses that even those doctors of theology sitting in attendance from the University of Paris would have had trouble answering! She was particularly noted for her outstanding memory. They would ask her questions on different days to see if she would give conflicting answers. She never did. In fact, she would often point out to them the exact day that she did answer that question and just what she had said. Given that each daily examination lasted between 8 and 12 hours, that is a remarkable feat, particularly for an uneducated teenager! Sometimes, they would even purposely read back false accounts of what she answered, but Joan would always correct them.

One such account demonstrates how remarkably this young woman maintained her composure and even her sense of humor during this devastating, life and death ordeal, sitting all alone with not one friend to support her.

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From Pierre Daron at the trial of rehabilitation decades after Joan’s death:

“I heard some people say during the trial that Joan was miraculous in her answers and that she had a remarkable memory. For once when they were interrogating her on a point on which she had already been interrogated a week before, she answered, “I have been asked that before, on such a day, ” or “I was interrogated about that a week ago, and I answered like this.” Even though Boisguillaume, one of the scribes, told her that she had not answered that question, some of those in the court protested that Joan was right. Then they read the answers for that particular day and found that Joan was speaking the truth. She was greatly elated and told Boisguillaume that if he made another mistake she would “pull his ears.” (Pernoud, The Retrial of Joan of Arc, pp. 222-223)

I am sure that made a number of witnesses, including Boisguillaume himself, chuckle inside, though no one would dare show it for fear of the Bishop of Beauvais and the English who threatened the lives any who supported Joan. However, it must have made for a good hushed chuckle over dinner.

Tomorrow: Things begin to roll. Joan takes her first of three bastilles. Joan of Arc takes the Bastille of Saint-Loup! Orleans is just days from being free!

StM

May 1st through 3rd – Conflict appears inevitable while Joan waits for her army

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It is May 1, and Dunois is off to help bring in the army, which is making its way back from Blois. He likely is relieved to have a good excuse to leave Orleans. Joan is not easy to manage, and to sit and wait with her may press hard even Dunois’ well-honed political acumen. “They need me dear Maid! I shall see you in a few days!” he might have yelled to her over his shoulder as he ran for his horse and rode into the distance with a sigh of relief.

But he will be back. And things are likely to heat up when he does. The English are not budging. Worse yet, they do not take Joan seriously and merely mock the French. In God’s name we should leave? What did she say? Did we not crush the French at Agincourt almost 14 years ago? Have we not now pressed them to the brink at Orleans? On whose side is God anyway?

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We have different points of view. Minds are not meeting. The inevitable is less than a week away.

But let us take today, a day in the eye of the hurricane, and reflect on a most intriguing question. That question would be: Just why were the English being so passive during these days? We witnessed only yesterday that they preferred merely to trade verbal insults with Joan rather than to come after her as she stood defenselessly just within earshot. They sounded quite brave as they stood behind their rampart walls, hiding from a seventeen-year-old lady.

Could it be that the English were just a little bit afraid of this child? More curious still, in just a few days time and with the return of Dunois, we will witness a strange sense of dullness by the English. You will be shocked to discover that the English merely sat silently as the French men at arms made their way past their positions. Could a powerful and well-trained army, such as was that of the English, simply let enemy reinforcements walk by?

What is up with the English?

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Vita Sackville-West, a non-Christian believing, non-religiously oriented biographer of Joan’s calls this English passivity during the early days of May simply inexplicable. Though Ms. West buys none of the Catholic Christian explanations for Joan of Arc’s wonder-workings, she nevertheless is so mystified by Joan that she ultimately admits that there had to have been something supernatural about her. Ms. West is intellectually honest on any account. Our non-believing friend shakes her head in wonder. Yes, there is something about this young lady. But as for the English, Ms. West has no such words of admiration:

“Why on earth the English did not attack the Bastard and the Pucelle (Maid) on that occasion passes my comprehension. They might have caught them both, and what a prize that would have been! Still further does it pass my comprehension to understand why they refrained from delivering a decisive assault on Orleans during the three succeeding days (May 1-3)… What an opportunity was theirs had they only chosen to take it!” (Saint Joan of Arc, p.176)

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Well, rather than give Ms. West my own biased opinion (which has to do with believing as opposed to not believing!), I shall let those closest to the situation explain this mystery.

At Joan’s trial of rehabilitation some quarter of a century later, our man Dunois would reveal the following:

“She wanted to cite the English besiegers of the city before trying to raise the siege or attacking them; which she did. She cited the English in a letter written in her mother tongue, in very simple language. The substance of this letter was that they, these English, must agree to give up the siege and return to the kingdom of England, or else she would attack them so strongly that they would be forced to retire. This letter was sent to my lord Talbot, and I swear that the English, two hundred of whom had previously been sufficient to rout eight hundred or a thousand of the royal army, from that moment became so powerless that four or five hundred soldiers and men at arms could fight against what seemed to be the whole force of England. And sometimes they so mastered the besieging English that they dared not leave their strongholds and bastilles.” (Pernoud, The Retrial of Joan of Arc, p.138)

Jeanne

Joan’s personal page, Louis de Coutes would give this remarkable testimony at that same trial concerning the battle for Les Tourelles, which we will witness in a few days:

“The King’s men got ready to attack again; and when the English saw this they put up no defense. They were terrified, and practically all of them were drowned. In that last attack, there was no defense put up by the English side.” (Ibid, p. 178)

Aha. These tough talking Englishmen were more afraid of this seventeen-year-old than they let on. Some, including Thomas Marie, a Benedictine monk who was a witness from the original condemnatory trial in Rouen, attributed it to English superstition.

“How do you know that the English are superstitious?”

“Everybody knows it. Why, it is quite proverbial.” (Ibid, p. 199)

Well, whatever it was, it was a mysterious sense of power that clamped down the arms and legs of the besiegers. At her trial of condemnation in Rouen, the English would accuse Joan of sorcery and of casting spells against the English army. Well done, monk Marie, I think you got it. Wait, though, until you hear what the citizens of Orleans have to say about Joan. They beg to differ! Oh yes, to the citizens of Orleans, she was already, in their eyes, Saint Joan!

We wait patiently for Dunois’ return and pray that the English will not misbehave… but one fears the worst in this matter.

StM

April 30 – Now in Orleans, Joan of Arc gets into a shouting match with the English

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On April 30, Joan spoke first thing with The Bastard (Dunois), and, according to her page, Louis de Coutes, “Upon her return she was very angry because they had decided not to try an assault that day.”

And it was no wonder Dunois resisted the idea of an immediate assault. For the result coming out of the previous day’s fiasco, whereby Joan had been deceived into coming up the Loire on the far side of the river, was that her army was forced to march all the way back to Blois from where they had originated, which was the nearest crossing point. Dunois had talked Joan into staying at Orleans while her Captains went about correcting their egregious misjudgment. This put off the presence of the whole army for days. Still, Joan seemed quite ready to take whatever men at arms she had right then and drive the English out! She cared little for the “wise caution” of Dunois.

Joan the Maid

Poor Dunois has had a rough go since the moment he and Joan “got off on the wrong foot,” so to speak with regard to that whole “side of the river” mess. Joan is not an easy personality to manage, but we must admire his political instincts. Dunois is both soldier and politician.

However, he has met no one like Joan of Arc. Here he has met a saint and a very determined saint at that who knows nothing of political correctness and, further, who despises indecisive military councils in the way she despises being led on the wrong side of the river! Yet, with some sympathy, we must appreciate that Dunois’ army still smarted from the humiliating defeat of the “Herrings,” in the not-so-distant-past. He wanted to be very careful about attacking before the King’s reinforcements had arrived from Blois. I suppose I would have been just as “cautious”! Forgive me, Joan!

Jeanne 2

So, while waiting, Joan went out to survey the English positions of which several were within hearing distance of the city’s defenders. And here we find the poor girl getting into all sorts of trouble! As one might imagine, given Joan’s complete confidence in Our Lord’s assurance of victory and given her clear speaking simplicity, a rather odd, and even quaintly type of flare up occurred! Joan got into a bit of a yelling match with the enemy!

Louis de Coutes again tells us:

“She spoke with the English on the opposite embankment, telling them to go away in God’s name, otherwise she would drive them out. One of them, named The Bastard of Granville (from the French point of view a “renegade” Norman), traded insults with Joan, asking her if they really wanted them to surrender to a woman; he called the Frenchmen who were with Joan “worthless mackerels'” (a sexual insult).

That evening Joan, from the island of Belle-Croix, confronted more of the English situated at the rampart of the Tourelles:

“From there she spoke to Classidas (Glasdale) and to the other English in the Tourelles and told them that they should surrender for God’s sake and that their lives would then be saved. But Glasdale and those of his company answered in a very ugly way, insulting her and calling her “cowherd,” loudly shouting that they would burn her if they got hold of her.”

This was one promise that the English would keep.

Jeanne 3

Joan reacted to these insults in a most touching manner. As any young person might do in such a rough environment and before such terrible personal affronts and insults, she turned away and cried. She was, after all, only seventeen years old. But do not take those tears to be indications of weakness Mr. Glasdale, or you shall regret it dearly. You, sir, will hear more from Joan of Arc. And I would take off that heavy armor if I were you. You will find it much easier to swim without it.

Tomorrow – Dunois leaves to help bring in the reinforcements from Blois. He will be gone until May 4th. Joan spends her time riding about Orleans. The town is completely buzzing with excitement! Hope has dawned in Orleans!

StM

Source: Pernoud, “Joan of Arc, Her Story”

April 29 – Joan arrives to Orleans and crossly scolds Dunois, The Bastard of Orleans

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Joan’s epic at Orleans begins on the evening of April 29.

As Joan made her way to Orleans from Blois with the royal army, she discovered that, without her knowledge, her Captains had decided to avoid the English positions by coming up the opposite side of the Loire River from the city. Joan was furious about this deception, for she had wished to go straight way and on their arrival to attack the English. John, Count of Dunois, Bastard of Orleans (“Bastard” being a perfectly acceptable title in medieval Christendom in order to appropriately delineate the various lines of heritage) and whose name would forever be linked in history to that of Joan of Arc’s, came out of Orleans to greet her. His first encounter was neither what he expected nor hoped for upon meeting his new boss. The following terse conversation ensued, as recounted in Dunois’ own words:

“Are you the Bastard?”

“Yes, I am, and I rejoice in your coming.”

“Are you the one who gave orders for me to come here, on this side of the river, so that I could not go directly to Talbot and the English?”

“I answered that I and others, including the wisest men around me, had given this advice, believing it best and safest; then Joan answered to me: “In God’s name, the counsel of Our Lord God is wiser and safer than yours. You thought that you could fool me, and instead you fooled yourself; I bring you better help than ever came to you from any soldier to any city; It is the help of the King of Heaven. This help comes not for love of me but from God Himself, who at the prayer of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne has had pity on the city of Orleans. He has not wanted the enemy to have both the body of the lord of Orleans and his city.” (Note: Dunois’ half brother Charles, Duke of Orleans, previously had been captured and was being held in an English prison.)

Ste Jehanne

At that moment, Dunois was about to be fully swept away by the Maid, Joan of Arc, and would become among her most loyal devotees. For at that very moment, as Joan finished scolding him about his lack of faith in Our Lord, King of Heaven and Earth, the wind, which had been contrary to their need to get boats across the river, changed its course and became favorable. They previously had been unable to bring the boats to the city; suddenly they could sail with ease.

Dunois never got over this moment. It had a lasting impact on him. At Joan’s trial of rehabilitation some 25 years later, where the King of France and Joan’s mother set about to officially clear Joan’s name (and from which the Pope’s representative declared her a martyr, condemning the clergy of her inquisitional trial), the now-aged Dunois testified on her behalf:

“I believe that Joan was sent by God and that her deeds in the war were the fruit of divine inspiration rather than of human agency…And this is why: firstly, I was at Orleans, which was then besieged by the English, when a certain rumor went around according to which a young woman called The Maid had passed the town of Gien…as I was in charge of the city, being lieutenant general in the field I sent …for fuller information about this Maid.” (Dunois then tells the story of her arrival and the wind).

“That is the reason why I think Joan, and all her deeds in war and in battle, were rather God’s work than man’s; the sudden change in the wind…”

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Well, Dunois eventually goes on to share many other reasons for believing Joan was sent by God. And others would tell of greater deeds still. Yes, there is no shortage of stories when it comes to Joan of Arc! We will hear more as she defeats the powerful English Army, captures Talbot and anoints a King! We will perhaps even tell of far greater marvels at her death.

But for now, on this day, April 29, let us simply stand for a moment with a war-wearied soldier, leading a city with no more hope, knowing that it is he and his army who stand as the last possible defense against the fall of the entire Kingdom of France. Let us stand by him as he takes a scolding for his lack of faith from his new leader, a seventeen-year-old young lady. Let us then continue to stand with him for a moment as he looks suddenly up and around. He, and we with him, sense that with Joan’s words something is already beginning to change. The wind has turned and this girls’ army may now move forward to its ultimate and glorious destiny. Let us forever stand with The Bastard and feel just a glimmer of hope resurrected in our hearts, the first glimmer of hope we have felt in months, if not years.

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Let us now watch with Dunois in silent joy and awe as Joan of Arc crosses the river with that wind at her back. Joan is entering Orleans.

Tomorrow – Our Maid engages in her famous yelling match with the English Army and their leader, Sir William Glasdale… should the English prove to be uncooperative, it promises to get a little rough…

StM

(Sources: Pernoud, “Joan of Arc, her Story” and “The Retrial of Joan of Arc.”)