May 30th - Joan of Arc
The saying goes that one man's garbage is another man's treasure.
Beloved by the French reviled by the English in her time and yet, because we are all Catholic, she is today celebrated by the whole Church.
She is a conundrum though. When the noted agnostic George Bernard researched and wrote his celebrated play "Saint Joan", he was hard pressed to find any "bad guys" or "good guys" for that matter (of course, it may have been because he was British).
But we see with the eyes of Faith and an understanding of human sinfulness. What the story of Joan teaches us is that we must not be parochial in our thinking but be catholic. We must follow God's will in all things. She was a mystic, called to overcome injustice and deny roles and expectations in order to call all to love and honor regardless of nationality or political necessity. There are no borders for us; we must respect the rights of others, not because we are benevolent rulers but because we are brothers and sisters. Sometimes our conscience (God's voice within us) guides in ways that seem contrary to Church law or teachings, but upon closer examination, if we have truly given ourselves over to Him and not our own vanity, God's will is done, despite opposition from the well-intentioned. How many saints and religious orders and reformers have trod that path!
We ourselves must hear the words of Jesus, when he defends his teachings “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” (John 18:20-21) A clear conscience gives us strength - there is no need for explanation.
The text below is from the rather one-sided English trial against her, but I think speaks to her nature, which today we interpret one way, but at that time they interpreted in another.
After Jeanne had been admonished in this manner and had heard these exhortations she replied thereto in this way: "As for my words and deeds, which I declared in the trial, I refer to them and will maintain them."
Asked if she thinks she is not bound to submit her words and deeds to the Church Militant [the Church on Earth] or any one other than God, she answered: "I will maintain that manner of speech which I always said and held in the trial."
She said that if she were condemned and she saw the fire and the faggots alight and the executioner ready 'to kindle the fire, and she herself were in it, she would say nothing else and would maintain until death what she said in the trial.
...On Thursday after Whitsuntide, May 24th of the same year, we the said judges repaired in the morning to a public place, in the cemetery of the abbey of Saint-Ouen at Rouen, where the said Jeanne was present before us on a scaffold or platform. First we had a solemn sermon pronounced by master Guillaume Erart, a distinguished doctor of sacred theology, for the salutary admonition of the said Jeanne and of the great multitude of people present.
...The said doctor began his sermon by taking for his text the word of God in the fifteenth chapter of St. John: "A branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine." Then he solemnly explained that all Catholics must abide in the true vine of Our Holy Mother Church which Our Lord planted with His right hand: he showed how this Jeanne had cut herself off from the unity of our Holy Mother Church by many errors and grave crimes, and how she had frequently scandalized the Christian people. He admonished and exhorted her and the multitude of people by salutary doctrines.
When the sermon was over he addressed Jeanne in these terms: "Behold my Lords your judges who have repeatedly summoned and required you to submit all your words and deeds to Our Holy Mother Church, showing and pointing out to you that in the opinion of the clergy many things are to be found in your words and deeds which it is good neither to affirm nor uphold."
To which Jeanne replied: "I will answer you. Touching my submission to the Church, I have answered them on this point. Let all that I have said and done be sent to Rome to our Holy Father the Pope to whom after God I refer myself. As for my words and deeds, they were done at God's command." She said that she charged no one with them, neither her king nor any other; and if there were any fault it was hers and no other person's.
Asked whether she would revoke all her words and deeds which are disapproved of by the clergy, she answered: "I refer me to God and to our Holy Father the Pope."
-- The Trial of Joan of Arc, May 23-24.
What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.
-- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I, 1
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