Her Rehabilitation and World-Wide Apotheosis
"I beseech those that shall read this book, that they be not shocked at these calamities, but they consider the things that happened, not a being for destruction, but for the correction of our nation…. For though He chastises His people with adversity, He forsaketh them not." II Mac. Vi
An article on Joan of Arc in one of the leading weeklies, commenting on her recent Beatification by the Church, denounces what the writer is pleased to call the inconsistency of the Church which, in bygone day, condemned the Maid as a heretic, and now proclaims her conduct to have been heroic.
The tribunal which sentenced her to death cannot by any effort of the imagination be regarded as valid Ecclesiastical Court. We English, to our discomfort and discredit, know only too well that the notorious Cauchon, who presided at the mock trial, did not represent the Church but the English, who tool under Bedford he was. Joan herself, realizing the irregularity of the situation, and what was likely to be the method of procedure in her trial, protested against it, repeating again and again the cry, "I appeal to the Pope."
As a matter of historical fact the Church first vindicated the character of the matchless Maid not five centuries, but twenty-five years after her death at the stake. From Rome came the force that was to lift up for admiration the name, which had been defamed by a shameful miscarriage of justice. Pope Calixtus III listened to the petition of Jeanne’s family, beseeching him to restore her good name, which had been so unjustly slandered. On June 11th of the year 1455 a Papal Rescript, from which we give the following extract, was issued: "We grant a favorable hearing to the petition that has been made to us. There has lately been brought before us on part of Pierre and Jean de Lys, and also of Isabelle Romee, their mother, and some of their relatives, a petition stating that their sister, daughter, and relative, Jeanne d’Arc, deceased, was condemned as guilty of the crime of heresy and other crimes against the faith on the testimony of Jean Estivet, of the Episcopal Court of Beauvais; of Pierre, of happy memory, at the time Bishop of Beauvais; and of the late Jean Lemaitre, belonging to the Inquisition. The nullity of their proceedings and the innocence of Jeanne are clearly established, both by documents and the most incontestable proofs. Inc consequence of this, the brothers, mother, and relatives of Jeanne are free to cast off the brand of infamy with which this trial has falsely stamped them; and for this end they have humbly supplicated our permission and authorization to instituted a trial of rehabilitation."
The ecclesiastical trial which was to vindicate Jeanne’s blameless, character was open on November 7th 1455, under the presidency of Jean Jouvenel, Archbishop of Reims. Needless to say, after a thorough sifting of the evidence, and the cross examination of a very cloud of witnesses, including all sorts and conditions of men and women who had known the Maid under variety of circumstances, and at different stages of her career, the Court proclaimed the Maid to be altogether innocent of the baseless charges which had been alleged against her, and in consequence of which she had been condemned to death. On July 7th, 1456, the sentence of rehabilitation was pronounced in the town where the heroine had been cruelly murdered – Rouen.
Since this date the name and fame of the Maid have passed through many conflicting stages. As the Times, in an admirable leader dealing with her Beatification, has reminded us: "There is scarcely any conceivable theory of her character and conduct which has not found favor with writers of repute at one time or another."
Here we cannot pretend to summarize all that has been said for and against the Maid abroad as well as at home. But I feel that, in justice to my own countrymen, I must try and give an epitome at any rate of England’s estimate of the warrior peasant girl for whom untimely death my country was much to blame. And in the first place we many suspend our judgement instead of condemning Shakespeare for what is said about Joan of Arc in the first act of "Henry VI." Most probably that play was non of his, and even if it were, we must remember that it does not create, but only perpetuates the type of character which was part of an unfortunate English tradition about Jeanne. The fifteenth century is strongly silent about both her name and her fame, while, as Father Thurston points out, of the various English chronicles during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which refer to her, there is only one which says nothing to her discredit. John Rastell, the brother in law of Blessed Thomas More, while praising her successes had nothing to say against her conduct or character. He speaks of her as La Pucelle de Dieu, and acknowledges that she was "by the Englyshemen judged to dethe and brent." During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries English feelings grew more and more appreciative of the Maid. Some writers are of the opinion that this change of attitude in England towards Joan was in some measure due to John Wesley, whose impressions of her were not a little influenced by Scotch writers. The Scotch, almost without exception, were true to their tradition about Joan of Arc. What of course has helped more than anything else to create a true estimate of her character among our own countrymen had been the publication by Quicherat of the full body of evidence upon which the verdict of her condemnation turned. The rationalistic Hume in his "History of England" eulogizes her though eighteen pages, and speaks of the verdict against her as "an infamous sentence." Then followed in 1796 Robert Southey’s epic poem, "Joan of Arc" ; nor must one omit the name of Henry Hallam, who in his "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages" (1818), speaks surprisingly well about "the country girl who overthrew the power of England." Then there is Turner, who, in his "History of England," speaks of the Maid as "patriotic and heroic."
Nineteenth century writers go on increasing with the years in favor of blessed Jeanne. Even the encyclopedias in their successive editions keep growing in appreciation, as they develop true knowledge of her incomparable personality. In an article entitled "Joan of Arc," in the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, we read the following climax termination the biography: "Indeed the greatness of her career did not consist in her military achievements, but in her pure, true, and ardent character, which made her a pathetic victim to the mean and groveling aims of those in whose cause she fought with such simple sincerity of faith."
I wish time and space permitted me to refer to the many charming and excellent present-day English biographies of our heroine. Among the writers of them Mr. Andrew Long stand out in boldest prominence for his masterly treatment and exposition of her call, career, and character.
I cannot perhaps better conclude this testimony to Jeanne’s rightness and worth than by quoting from a modern writer the following passage summing up what she achieved as the Maid of France: -
"The work wrought by this girl" says the writer, "may fairly be regarded as ranking with any recorded in history, when one considers the condition under which it was undertaken, the obstacles in the way, and the means at her disposal. Caesar carried conquest far, but he did it with the trained and confident veterans of Rome, and was a trained soldier himself; Napoleon swept away the disciplined armies of Europe, but he also was a trained soldier, and he began his work with patriotic battalions inflamed and inspired by the miracle –working new breath of liberty breathed upon them by the Revolution – eager young apprentices to the trade of war, not old and broken down men-at-arms, survivors of an age long accumulation of monotonous defeats; but Joan of Arc, a mere child in years, unlettered, a poor village girl, undknow and without influence, found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and broken under an alien domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened and dispersed, all spirit torpid, all courage dead in the hearts of the people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage and oppression, their King cowed, resigned to his fate, and preparing to fly the country; and she laid her hand upon this nation, this corpse, and it rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory. She turned back the tide of the Hundred Year’s War. She fatally crippled the English power, and died with the earned title of Delivered of France, which she bears to this day."
We open this chapter with the statement that the Catholic Church had never changed her attitude towards the Maid of France. Her pleading cry, "I appeal to the Pope," was answered, as we have seen, by Calixtus III five and twenty years after what we may call her martyrdom. It was the privilege of this Pope to rehabilitate her stainless character, while in our own day, five hundred years later, Pius X has raised her to the altar, declaring Jeanne d’Arc to be for ever Blessed.
Referring to the solemn ceremony of her Beatification, formally pronounced in St. Peter’s by His Holiness the Pope, surrounded by seventy French Archbishops and Bishops, and a vast concourse of sixty thousand worshippers, met before her illuminated picture, the Daily Telegraph in its leader on that occasion exclaims: "Shall we not agree, even from the modern point of view, that Jeanne d’Arc triumphs among the great souls, whose example remains for all humanity an inspiration never to be extinguished?"
I conclude this little volume tracing the call, career, and character of Joan of Arc, with the fervent hope that the perusal of her life’ story may stir in the hearts of many reader the fires of true religion and of true patriotism. No one familiar with the actual state of England will venture to deny that these are the fires which most of all require to be rekindled in our midst. Our people are beginning to forget the meaning of these old-world virtues. We are a nation at play, and as we are playing at other things, so too are we playing at religion and patriotism. (This could easily be said in our day and time and encompass our entire Western culture of 2008! VF) We need some strong personality, some noble character, to awaken in us enthusiasm both for creed and country.
To whom can we more appropriately point in this democratic age then to the peasant girl from Domremy, who though she could neither read nor write, became the savior of her country in the hour of its most dire distress? What she accomplished we too in our measure may achieve, if like her we are borne forward on the wings of religion and patriotism.
O matchless Maid! Vitalize us with thy spirit, and inspire us with they enthusiasm, that both in life and in death, with our forefathers, we may be true to our time-honored motto:
PRO DEO, PEGE, ET PATRIA.
O Shepherdess, like David called
To lead war’s flocks in pastures red!
Meek peasant girl from field and stead
Whom court would not nor camp appalled!
What made thee thus do, dare endure?
The vision God gives to the Pure!
Savior of France, the Savior’s fate
Was thine – defeat, the stake, renown!
Now France’s golden lilies crown
They life of love inviolate –
Love that was gold fired tried – and thou
Wearest God’s aureole on thy brow!