March 12, 2009
St. Joan of Arc pray for us.
One of the truly remarkable aspects of Roman Catholicism is the incredible view, that is, the world view through which we judge our state of happiness. As I stand in the Church and look out, I see panoramic landscapes with beautiful vistas that include roaring rivers, mysterious forests, contemplative plains, majestic mountains, and deep echoing valleys. It is a world that seems at times to be magical, only everything here is truly very real. The person who tells me that my God is a fairy tale does not so much profane God as he does manifest his own disdain for fairy tales and wonderment! (Chesterton; Orthodoxy) I do not see different things; I see everything the materialist sees only more. The materialist sees the material world, and so do I. The materialist studies Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and marvels at its implications for understanding the universe, and so do I. The materialist calls it quits right there; I do not. The Catholic not only pursues the question of “How” with Mr. Einstein, he pursues the question of “Why” with St. Peter. My materialistic and skeptical friends cut their joy far too short.
That is why I can never leave this land, no matter how much I spoil and pollute the scenery with my sins, and no matter how much pollution comes in through the sins of others. So many refuse to journey through this marvelous land because of the sins of its inhabitants; I refuse to leave despite these same sins. The land is beautiful and life-giving; I don’t want to leave, I only want us to take better care of its environment! It would make no sense to leave, for at the end of the journey is heaven, a place and the reality long forgotten or ignored by the modern mind. Reaching the end of this journey is the only point of life. The modern mind is too busy creating “man made” religions like atheism, New Age, and skeptical philosophy in conjunction with materialism, consumerism and “power” careers to enjoy the surety and simplicity of dogma that guides us through the mysterious land of Catholicism, a path founded not by man but by a “God-man”! And this is not an invective or cynical accusation made to our atheistic or skeptical friends; it is, by definition, a true and logical statement. If there is no God, then atheism can only be defined as a mere man made philosophical invention. Your own reason will tell you that. In clear contradistinction, Catholicism is not a man made invention (can you imagine something as strange as Catholicism being thought up by men?), it is handed to us as revelation by the God-man.
One of the most startling discoveries I made in this inspiring land was other people. I am referring not just to people we see everyday walking down the streets of New York or Chicago, but people whom we call saints. Saints are very real people. They were created like us to walk the path of dogma before us and have reached that reality called heaven. And the King of Kings, through whom all things were created, the savior of the human race, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, true man and true God, gives us the help and friendship of these wonderful souls as we make our journey. We walk not alone, but in the reality of friends here in our material world, and also with our friends in the heavenly world, that is, the saints. St. Therese of Lisieux, who died in 1897, saved my life in 1984. That is the wild world of Roman Catholicism. Wear your seat belt if you decide to take the trip.
And with all this in mind, I would like to say a few words about Joan of Arc. This astounding person lived one of the most intriguing lives in all of human history. An unlettered girl of seventeen, she was given command of the armies of France (though Vita Sackville-West claims that she was not officially given this command, but the reality either way is that she DID command), defeated the armies of England, and led Charles VII through enemy territory to Reims to be crowned king. She did all of this in obedience to the voices of Saint Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who represented the King of Kings. There is really no one comparable to her in all of history, save Jesus Christ himself and the Holy Virgin who gave him birth (for what can compare to the motherhood of God – not even the miraculous life of Joan of Arc!). Afterwards, her reward was to be tried for heresy in a corrupt, English and Burgundian kangaroo inquisitional court, while Charles VII, the king whom she had just miraculously crowned, sat idly by doing nothing to save her. She was cruelly burned at the stake, 20 odd years later declared an innocent victim by the Church, and 500 years later declared an official saint! You thought Catholicism dull.
It took me twenty-two years to finally make the repentant, conversion of my will to Catholicism that I made with my intellect and heart in 1984 under the influence of St. Therese and the Virgin Mary. But when I did make this conversion and act of true repentance (though sin is still an ugly and “polluted” part of my life), the King and the Queen of heaven sent dear Joan of Arc to lead me. Joan of Arc has inspired me with hope and courage to move forward on my journey with St. Therese as my sister, the Mother of God as my mother, and the Lord of Lords as my brother, and, well, Lord. Joan of Arc lived a life of evangelical simplicity while accomplishing astounding miracles in God’s name. The awful and terrifying Hundred Years War was, in only seven weeks, permanently crippled by her victories, or, as I like to say it: Jesus Christ ended the Hundred Years War through the life sacrifice of Joan of Arc (the war did not actually end for another twenty years, but historians will point to Joan of Arc as the decisive moment that brought about its end).
Joan of Arc is my hero. Not only am I in awe of her life, but I live in deep gratitude for her role in my own life today as I stumble along joyfully on the path of the dogmatic creed of Roman Catholicism. Joan is a sister, a friend, a spiritual leader. She was given to me by the Virgin Mary to guide me according to the will of her Son. My sins still befall me. I fall every day and get dirty. But my friends here on earth and from the heavens beyond are here to help drag me up, clean me off, and set me back straight until I wander off again. I think the reason I have been given this help is that I am simply too weak and confused to do it myself. And I say God bless that. I would not want to make this journey alone anyway.
Well, that is a little about Joan of Arc. As I travel along with her, I simply wave and jump up and down, trying to get others’ attention, to see if they too would like to travel the mystical but very real and adventurous path of Roman Catholicism. You have friends waiting to help you too.