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Thursday, January 27, 2011

St Joan La Pucelle

Dominique-Louis Papety (1815-1849),
Jeanne d'Arc devant le roi Charles VII à Chinon, répond aux prélats qui l'interrogent, février 1429
Joan of Arc before King Charles VII at Chinon replies to the clerics who question her in February 1429
(1837)
Oil on canvas
94cm x 107cm
Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 1780 - 1867
Jeanne d'Arc au sacre du roi Charles VII dans la cathédrale de Reims
Joan of Arc at the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims Cathedral
Oil on canvas
2.4m x 1.78m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Paul Delaroche 1797 - 1856
Jeanne d'Arc malade est interrogée dans sa prison par le cardinal de Winchester
An ill Joan of Arc is questioned in prison by the Cardinal of Winchester
(1824)
Oil on canvas
2.77m x 2.17m
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen


The Arrival of Joan of Arc at Chinon
15th Century
Tapestry d'Azeghio (manufactured in Germany)
Musée historique et archéologique de l'Orléanais, Orléans

Anonymous
Joan of Arc
c.1450
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Musée de l'Histoire de France, Paris

Georges-Henri Rouault (1871-1958)
Jeanne d'arc (Harmonie verte)
1929
Ink, gouache, oil on paper
48cm x 33.5cm
Musée national d'Art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Paul Leroy 1860 - 1942
Appearance of Jeanne d`Arc holding the standard and protecting a group of dragoons (24th Regiment): in the rear, the Archangel Saint Michael 1914
Oil on canvas
3.3m x 2.5m
Musée de l'Armée, Paris

Franck Craig 1874 - 1918
"La Pucelle ! "Jeanne d'Arc à la tête de son armée 1914
Oil on canvas
1.5m x 3.415m
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Jacques Auguste Regnier 1787 - 1860
Joan of Arc vowing to restore France
Oil on canvas
Chateau at Fontainebleau



Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884)
Joan of Arc
1879
Oil on canvas
254 cm x 279.4cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Henri Semiradsky 1843-1902
Joan of Arc
Oil on canvas
136 by 90cm
Private collection


Shakespeare`s characterisation of St Joan of Arc (or Joan la Pucelle) in Henry VI, Part 1 was not very complementary. It is not often performed and is not well regarded.

Shakespeare portrays Joan La Pucelle so that her only source of power come from witchcraft, and in the end she is forced to lie and beg for her own life

It was first performed in 1592 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I a few years after the Armada had been defeated. The French are portrayed as corruptly Catholic and the English as attractively Protestant.

It depicts the beginning of the end of the English Empire in France. The last part of that Empire - the town of Calais - was only recaptured by the French in 1558 in the time of the Catholic Queen Mary well within the memory of many in the audience.

In 1756 Voltaire published his satirical epic poem La Pucelle d'Orléans which savaged Joan and by extension the Catholic Church. In his portrayal she was no virgin.

Centuries later there were further characterisations of the Saint in English. The first was by Mark Twain in 1897 in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

However the major modern characterisation of St Joan in English was George Bernard Shaw`s play Saint Joan, first performed in 1923, after the First World War. He portrayed her as a real flesh and blood character with a stubborn streak which led to her downfall. His St Joan refused to accept the authority of the Cathoic Church, and he portrayed her as the first Protestant.

In his Preface he wrote:

"Though a professed and most pious Catholic, and the projector of a Crusade against the Hussites, she was in fact one of the first Protestant martyrs. She was also one of the first apostles of Nationalism, and the first French practitioner of Napoleonic realism in warfare as distinguished from the sporting ransom-gambling chivalry of her time. She was the pioneer of rational dressing for women, and, like Queen Christina of Sweden two centuries later, to say nothing of Catalina de Erauso and innumerable obscure heroines who have disguised themselves as men to serve as soldiers and sailors, she refused to accept the specific woman's lot, and dressed and fought and lived as men did."

Unlike Shakespeare`s version, in Shaw`s play, there are no villains in the piece

The Preface is well worth reading in full. In many ways it is quite a remarkable defence of Catholicism for its time and Shaw`s rather idiosyncratic views

Shaw`s play came as a result of the resurgence of interest in St Joan. She was designated Venerable in 1904; declared Blessed in 1908 by Saint Pope Pius X; and finally canonised in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV

The resurgence in interest came from France especially after the defeat of Napoleon and as a result of the campaign by Bishop Dupanloup in the 19th Century. In times of national struggle such as after the Franco Prussian War and the First World War, the Catholic St Joan trounced the Republican Marianne as the French populace`s pin up and source of inspiration.

In her native land Jeanne d'Arc (ca. 1412 – 30 May 1431) has been a political symbol as well as her powerful and noble martial might and struggle.

There have been countless depictions, interpretations and re-interpretations of her in art, theatre, film, television, music and even video games. She is a fascinating individual who has stirred the imagination of countless millions.

In art, the banner is the most frequently used attribute for Joan of Arc. It is said to have depicted God holding the world, pictured as an orb, flanked by the kneeling figures of Saints Michael and Gabriel, each presenting a lily.

Joan of Arc carried the banner in every battle she fought, and would later state “I loved my banner forty times more then my sword”.

In May 1428, she heard the voices of Saints Catherine, Michael and Margaret instructing her to drive the English out of France and bring the Dauphin, later Charles VII, to Rheims for his coronation. How the "voices" are depicted in visual form has tested the ingenuity of many artists


On 26th January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stepped into the arena and spoke about her. It was part of his Wednesday catecheses on important "powerful" women Catholics in the Middle Ages.

Unlike the other women blesseds and saints discussed by Pope Benedict XVI there are no writings of St Joan to discuss.

However there are statements of what she said at her trial. These have been cited and quoted with approval in the Catechism.

For example:

Para 223 The Implications of Faith in One God

"223 It means coming to know God's greatness and majesty: "Behold, God is great, and we know him not."Therefore, we must "serve God first".(St. Joan of Arc)"

Para 435 The Name of Jesus:

"435 The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words "through our Lord Jesus Christ". The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one word "Jesus" on their lips."

Para 795 Christ and the Church:

"795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity: ...

A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter.""

Para 2005 re Grace:

"2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits" - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges:

"Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there."
"

In his talk Pope Benedict uses these bases in the Cathechism and develops these ideas further in his characterisation of Saint Joan.

First of all he sets the historical context in which St Joan lived:

"Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431. This French saint, quoted many times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is particularly close to St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy and Europe, of whom I spoke in a recent catechesis.

In fact they are two young women of the people, lay and consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and of the world of their time.

They are, perhaps, the most characteristic examples from among those "strong women" who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly took the great light of the Gospel to the complex vicissitudes of history. ....

In her times, the Church lived the profound crisis of the great Western schism, which lasted almost 40 years. When Catherine of Siena died, in 1380, there was a pope and an anti-pope. When Joan was born, in 1412, there was a pope and two anti-popes. In addition to this laceration within the Church, there were continuous fratricidal wars between the Christian peoples of Europe, the most tragic of which was the interminable 100 Years War between France and England."

But then he goes on to describe her qualities which set her apart from her time, and made her a memorable figure in the History of the Church, what made her timeless. His characterisation is of a saint not a military or nationalistic figure:

"We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, his mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied him three times"

Exceptional praise from a Pope who is not given to overstatement.

How did this figure arise from obscurity ?

Her parents, her early religious education, her early religious devotion and the grounding of her faith in Christ and his mother Mary:

"Joan was born in Domremy, a small village located on the border between France and Lorraine. Her parents were well-off farmers, known by everyone as very good Christians.

From them she received a good religious education, with notable influence from the spirituality of the Name of Jesus, taught by St. Bernardine of Siena and spread in Europe by the Franciscans.

To the Name of Jesus is always joined the Name of Mary and thus, in the framework of popular religiosity, Joan's spirituality was profoundly Christocentric and Marian. From her childhood, she showed great charity and compassion toward the poorest, the sick and all who suffered in the tragic context of the war."

Her devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is emphasised by the Pope:

"On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8. ...

[S]he died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435). ...

Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the centre of her whole life.

The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbour in Jesus and for Jesus.

This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223)."

Of the "voices" and her political mission, the Pope is quite clear that the vision of St Michael was true and real and that its reality can be judged by its good effects. It had a profound religious effect on Joan. Contrary to Voltaire, Joan was firmly a virgin and dedicated to purity There was no side to her. She was what she said. She did what she said. There was no "gameplan", ulterior motives to her acts or political manipulation or deceptions. Contra Shakespeare she was not in league with the Devil and her courage came from her faith. Contra Voltaire, she was chaste yet remained able to command the soldiery. There was no "spin" with St Joan.


"From her own words, we know that Joan's religious life matured experientially beginning at the age of 13 (PCon, I, p. 47-48). Through the "voice" of the Archangel St. Michael, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and also to commit herself personally to the liberation of her people.

Her immediate response, her "yes," was the vow of virginity, with a new commitment to sacramental life and to prayer: daily attendance at Mass, frequent confession and Communion and long periods of silent prayer before the Crucified or before the image of the Virgin.

The compassion and commitment of the young French peasant girl in face of the suffering of her people became more intense because of her mystical relationship with God.

One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission.

After the years of hidden life and interior maturation, the brief but intense two-year period of her public life followed: a year of action and a year of passion.

At the beginning of the year 1429, Joan began her work of liberation. The numerous testimonies show us this young woman who was only 17 years old as a very strong and determined person, capable of convincing unsure and discouraged men. Overcoming all obstacles, she met with the dauphin of France, the future King Charles VII, who in Poitiers subjected her to an examination by some theologians of the university. Their judgment was positive: They did not see anything evil in her, [finding] only a good Christian.

On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8.

The other culminating moment of her political action was the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims, on July 17, 1429. For a whole year, Joan lived with the soldiers, carrying out among them a real mission of evangelization. Numerous are the testimonies about her goodness, her courage and her extraordinary purity. She was called by everyone and she herself described herself as "the maiden," namely, the virgin."

But unlike Shaw, Pope Benedict`s tale of St Joan has villains. His villains are the theologians who were advising at the first trial of St Joan. HIs criticism is sharp and it is severe. He has voiced this criticism before on a number of occasions. He re-affirms that God`s mysteries are revealed to those who perhaps have little education but "the hearts of little children" and who are not afflicted by any trace of pride.

He reminds us of the simplicity of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, made a Doctor of the Church by the Blessed Pope John Paul II and who had a great devotion to St Joan and wanted to live and die like her.

He perhaps could also have reminded us of St Bernadette and the visionaries at La Salette.

At the same time perhaps the Pope is also criticising those clerics who wish to seek political power or office and restating the incompatibility of holding clerical office in the Church at the same time as holding public office in the State.

"Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake.

It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants.

They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission.

This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" ("Lumen Gentium," 8).

It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake.

As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God.

Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint.

Joan's appeal to the pope's intervention on May 24 was rejected by the court. On the morning of May 30 she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market.

She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession.

Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435).

Almost 25 years later, the Trial of Nullity, opened under the authority of Pope Calixtus III, concluded with a solemn sentence that declared the condemnation null and void (July 7, 1456; PNul, II, p. 604-610). This long trial, which includes the statements of witnesses and judgments of many theologians, all favorable to Joan, highlights her innocence and her perfect fidelity to the Church.

Joan of Arc was canonised in 1920 by Benedict XV"

In his conclusion he fully expounds what is heroic and great about St Joan.

Unike Shaw, for Benedict, this was not a young lady who would have gone on to great things at the London School of Economics, got a PPE and then become a leading member of the Fabian Society and gone into Parliament.

She did not go into public life for self interest or some political ideology. Contra Shaw she was a faithful daughter of the Church. Other members of the Church did not have the same fidelity. She went into public life because it was her religious mission. No wonder perhaps that Shakespeare, Voltaire and Shaw either vilified or underestimated her true character. In British politics and in modern European politics a figure like St Joan woud be regarded as dangerous demagogue or ideologue who would have to be isolated from exercising any type or form of political power. A modern St Joan would terrify the political establishment.

Consider the contemporary reaction to Margaret Thatcher in the early years of her leadership and in the early years of her premiership. Perhaps such figures are only appreciated and only tolerated in times of national emergency and for the emergency only

"Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the center of her whole life.

The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbor in Jesus and for Jesus. This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223).

To love him means to always obey his will.

She said with total confidence and abandonment: "I entrust myself to my Creator God, I love him with my whole heart" (Ibid., p. 337).

With the vow of virginity, Joan consecrated in an exclusive way her whole person to the one Love of Jesus: It is "her promise made to our Lord to protect well her virginity of body and soul" (Ibid., p. 149-150).

Virginity of soul is the state of grace, the supreme value, for her more precious than life: It was a gift of God that she received and protected with humility and trust.

One of the best known texts of the first trial has to do with this:

"Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there'" (Ibid., p. 62; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2005).

Our saint lived prayer as a form of continuous dialogue with the Lord, who also enlightened her answers to the judges, giving her peace and security.

She prayed with faith:

"Sweetest God, in honor of your holy Passion, I ask you, if you love me, to reveal to me how I must answer these men of the Church" (Ibid., p. 252).

Joan saw Jesus as the "King of Heaven and Earth." Thus, on her standard, Joan had the image painted of "Our Lord who sustains the world" (Ibid., p. 172), icon of her political mission.

The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations.

Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the "triumphant Church" of Heaven, and the "militant Church" of earth.

According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one "whole" (Ibid., p. 166). This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her.

In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction.

I am pleased to recall how St. Joan of Arc had a profound influence on a young saint of the modern age: Thérèse of the Child Jesus. In a completely different life, spent in the cloister, the Carmelite of Lisieux felt very close to Joan, living in the heart of the Church and taking part in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

The Church has joined them as patronesses of France, after the Virgin Mary. St. Thérèse expressed her desire to die like Joan, pronouncing the Name of Jesus (Manuscript B, 3r); she was animated by the same love for Jesus and her neighbour, lived in consecrated virginity.

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church"