Saturday, May 24, 2014

Joan of Arc: A Saint for All Soldiers

As we remember our soldiers this year during Memorial Day Weekend let us also remember that Saint Joan of Arc is the patron saint of all soldiers for good reason.  I can think of no better person to be the patron saint of soldiers than Joan because her own military career gave her intimate knowledge of what it means to live and die as a soldier.  While everyone seems to remember Joan’s great military victories few seem to know that she also suffered the agonies of war having been wounded on three separate occasions as well as having been captured and kept as a POW for over a year before she was executed.   Because of her own experiences as a soldier Joan can truly empathize with what all soldiers go though during war.   One episode from Saint Joan’s life that best demonstrates her own great love and compassion for soldiers and demonstrates why she is indeed the perfect person to be the patron saint of all soldiers occurred just after her greatest victory at the Battle of Patay. Coming across a mortally wounded enemy soldier Joan dismounted from her horse and held the man’s head in her lap and comforted him as he died. In reflecting upon this incident from her life one can only wonder as to the mysteries of God and how through His grace the likelihood that Saint Joan has continued to comfort dying soldiers on many battlefields down through the years in a similar way as their loving patron saint. This year on Memorial Day let us remember Saint Joan and her example as the ultimate soldier: strong yet merciful, courageous yet loving. A true soldier of God!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Joan of Arc's Victory at Orleans on May 8th

On Sunday May 8, 1429, Saint Joan of Arc achieved complete victory at Orleans and fulfilled the promise she had made only few months earlier to liberate the city.  On the morning of May 8th following the previous day's spectacular storming and taking of the fort Les Tourelles by the French, the English defenders remaining around Orleans left their siege positions and assembled in order of battle in an open field near the city.  The French forces came out of Orleans to oppose the English and for an hour the two armies faced each other.  During this time Joan called for mass to be held.  A citizen of Orleans, Jean de Champeaux, later testified as to what happened next:  "The masses completed, Joan said to look and see whether the English were facing them.   'No, the English are turned towards Meung' someone replied.  'In God's name,' Joan replied, 'They are going. Let them go, while we go give thanks to God and pursue them no farther, since today is Sunday."  And thus total victory was achieved at Orleans as the English retreated away from Orleans.  Joan and her army returned to Orleans and celebrated with the citizens of Orleans, a celebration that is renewed every year on May 8th in honor of the "Maid of Orleans."
Video of Annual Celebration in Orleans honoring Joan

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

St. Joan of Arc, Easter and Communion


“At least in your final hours, you once again enjoyed the Church’s
mercies in preparing your soul.” from book Maid of Heaven 

Thursday is traditionally the day during Holy Week of Easter when Christians remember the “last supper” of Jesus by receiving communion so I thought I would share a personal story that helped me to better understand just how important communion was to Saint Joan of Arc and how every Christian should value the “Eucharist” just as she did as one of our Lord’s greatest gifts and blessings. While I was writing the final part of Maid of Heaven several years ago about Joan’s imprisonment and trial I was asked to help serve communion at the little church where I attended services. As I helped to serve the bread I began to think about Joan and how she had been denied communion during all those long months she had been alone in prison. She had repeatedly asked the priests who helped guard her to receive communion but they had been ordered by the chief judge at her trial Pierre Cauchon to refuse her requests probably as a way to further punish and torment her while she was on trial. As I passed out the bread during our service I thought about how desperate Joan had been to receive what I so easily received and took for granted. I really felt like crying when I thought about how special communion was to Joan and how much it had hurt her to not be able to receive the Lord’s body. Finally, during her final hours after she had been condemned to death and shortly before she was sent to the stake, she was allowed to receive communion. What joy it must have brought to Joan even though she knew she was to die just a short time later. Martin Ladvenu was the Priest who served Joan her last communion and he later described it in this way: “On the morning of Joan's death, by permission and order of the judges…I heard Joan's confession and administered our Lord's Body to her, which she received with such humility, devotion, and copious tears as I could not completely describe.”

May God Bless everyone with a great Holy Week and Easter this year.

HE IS RISEN!!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

St. Joan of Arc & The Epiphany

I have spoken before about the many spiritual lessons I have learned from St. Joan of Arc but one that is very dear to me is how I learned to more fully celebrate Christmas because of St. Joan's own birth on the Epiphany.  Like many Christians at Christmas I had focused primarily on Christmas day without understanding that the full celebration lasts until Twelfth-night or the Epiphany.   The reason the Epiphany is so important is because that is when we celebrate the actual revelation of God to man in human form in the person of Jesus Christ.  It is on this day that the three wise men following the star in the sky arrived in Bethlehem and found the baby Jesus which completed the revelation to the world that the savior to mankind had been born.  One of the most detailed descriptions I have ever seen about the full story of the birth of Christ including the Epiphany is contained in the first 59 pages of the famous novel Ben Hur and I would encourage anyone wanting a more complete understanding of the full Christmas story to read these pages as I have now begun doing every year to celebrate Christmas.  You can find this book online at:  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2145/2145-h/2145-h.htm

And to better understand about the significance of St. Joan of Arc's own birth on the Epiphany I would recommend reading a paper I wrote two years ago to celebrate her 600th birthday titled:  Saint Joan of Arc: A Brilliantly Shining Light of God - The Significance of Joan of Arc's Birth on the Epiphany

Thank you once again St. Joan for teaching me more about the great God that you love and serve so well as one of His Saints.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Joan of Arc's Crowning Achievement

“Huzzah after huzzah swept the army from van to rear; and as for Joan, there where she sat her horse gazing, clothed all in white armor, dreamy, beautiful, and in her face a deep, deep joy, a joy not of earth, oh, she was not flesh, she was spirit! Her sublime mission was closing – closing in flawless triumph.”  from Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

On July 17, 1429, Joan of Arc fulfilled her primary mission to have Charles VII crowned and anointed as King of all France. Joan had predicted that she would lead Charles to his crowning in Reims when she had begun her mission only a few months earlier in 1429. What had seemed impossible to everyone except Joan occurred that summer day in late July of 1429 in the Cathedral of Reims when Charles VII was crowned King of France.  Many people, including historians, have a hard time understanding the strategic brilliance of Joan in focusing upon getting Charles VII crowned in the traditional way so that the people of France would view him as their legitimate King. Joan understood that to achieve ultimate victory over England it was necessary to unite all of France behind one King. Unfortunately for Joan the crowning of Charles VII also marked the pinnacle of her career. But Joan had changed the course of history and the man she crowned King of France would ultimately lead France to complete victory over the English.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Battle of Patay Anniversary: Joan's Great Victory!

On June 18, 1429, Joan of Arc achieved her most overwhelming victory in her military career when her forces annihilated an English army of over 6000 that had been sent to stop her after her victory at Orleans the previous month. This battle was a very lopsided affair with the English losing almost their entire army while the French suffered a loss of only a handful of men.  The devastating effect that this battle had upon the English and their leadership is best seen in their actions after this battle.  Never again would they aggressively challenge Joan to fight as they had done prior to Patay but instead would seek a course of political maneuvering in order to try to stop her from driving them out of France.  Unfortunately in recent times Joan does not seem to get the credit she deserves for this impressive victory with many modern historians diminishing her role in the battle.  What may be the best argument for Joan's true role in the great victory at Patay is probably the very actions of the English leaders after Patay because it is very clear that Joan is the one who they feared after their devastating defeat at Patay.  To learn more about the Battle of Patay and about what a great military leader Joan of Arc truly was please read the paper I wrote several years ago about Joan of Arc & the Battle of Patay.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

St. Joan of Arc's Feast Day: Her Memorial Day

"Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends"

Every year on Memorial Day we remember our fallen soldiers and their sacrifices in the service of our country.  In much the same way I always remember St. Joan of Arc this time of year because the anniversary of her death is either on or close to when we observe Memorial Day each year. St. Joan was perhaps God's greatest soldier and her sacrifices in defense of her country and people exemplify what Jesus spoke of when he taught that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

This Thursday, May 30th will mark the 582nd anniversary of St. Joan's death when she was burned to death at the stake by her enemies.  It was a horrible way for Joan to end what was such a brilliant life of service to God and to her people.  But even in the midst of this "horrible business," as one eyewitness later put it, Joan continued to serve God until the bitter end crying out the name of Jesus with her very last breath.   The heroic way that Joan died was described by an eyewitness as causing everyone present including even some of Joan's enemies to have "recognized God's hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end."

The anniversary of the death of Saint Joan is celebrated each year by Catholics as her feast day which is a way to remember her life and service to God (The special page at MaidOfHeaven.com can be found at Feast Day). Let us all take a moment this year to remember Joan and honor her for her service to God in the same way that we remember and honor all our soldiers on Memorial Day.  Ultimately, Joan was fighting for God and gave her last full measure of devotion so that all of us are able to receive the true freedom offered only though God's son Jesus Christ. 

Vive la Jehanne!