Thursday, November 10, 2011

Saint Joan of Arc and Veterans Day

How appropriate it is to remember Saint Joan of Arc on Veterans Day as she is the Patron Saint of Soldiers and was herself one of the greatest soldiers to ever live. Veterans Day began as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day and is celebrated every November 11th on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice to end World War I. During World War I there were many reports of Saint Joan appearing to soldiers to inspire them onward in their duty as soldiers for God and country. The picture below is from the book The Broken Soldier and the Maid of France which is a fictional story based loosely upon some of these reports.

One episode from the life of Saint Joan that best demonstrates her own great love and compassion for 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 in a similar way as their loving patron saint.

This Veterans Day let us remember Saint Joan and her example as the ultimate soldier: strong yet merciful, courageous yet loving. A true soldier of God!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last Great Victory for Joan of Arc

"I am not alone! I have fifty thousand of my own company to fight with me!"

In the autumn of 1429, Charles VII seems to have been completely under the influence of his advisors who urged negotiation rather than battle. In light of this policy Joan of Arc was used in only a limited role when it suited the King and his advisors. For whatever reason they decided to send her to the strategically insignificant town of St. Pierre le Moutier where Joan once again showed her military brilliance by capturing the town despite having limited troops and supplies with which to overcome a stout defense.

During the battle when it appeared that all was lost and her men were retreating Joan again showed her courage and great leadership in completely turning the course of the battle. Joan’s aide-de-camp(my modern title) Jean d’Aulon describes the scene later at her trial of rehabilitation: “After the Maid and her soldiers had maintained the siege before the city for some time, an assault was ordered and made and all did their duty. But because of the great strength of the place, and also the great resistance made by those within, the French were forced to retreat. At this hour he who speaks, being wounded by an arrow in the heel, as such without crutches I could neither move nor sustain myself, saw that the Maid had remained behind with very few soldiers indeed. Fearing what might follow I mounted a horse, and hastily riding to her I asked her what she was doing there alone and why she had not retreated like the rest of the men. But the Maid, lifting the face guard of her helmet replied: ‘I am not alone! I have fifty thousand of my own company to fight with me and retreat I will not until I have taken this town.’ Whatever she might have said she had not with her more than four of five men, as I know for certain as do several others who were looking on, so I urged her to retreat like the rest. Then she told me to tell the men to bring faggots and brush to make a bridge across the moat which she yelled to the rest in a loud voice.”

Shortly thereafter the moat was filled and the town was taken by assault with little resistance to the amazement of d’Aulon. St. Joan of Arc once again prevailed against impossible odds however this was to be her last great victory. While she continued until her capture to have military successes she never again stormed and captured a city the way she did that day in early November of 1429 at Saint Pierre le Moutier.

***(Joan's words at St. Pierre le Moutier are very similar to those of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 6:23-24 about the unseen army of God all around us.)