THE GREATER MISSION
After twenty days of probing, without tangible result, Cauchon and his advisers determine to reach Jeanne by the sure theological process. They cannot fail here, being masters of this sort of knowledge; and her natural sense will not avail her to pierce its obscure subtleties. Delafontaine takes up the question.
"Since your Voices have told you that you would be saved, do you believe that you may not be able to sin mortally?"
"I know nothing of that, and I trust myself to Our Lord."
"That is an answer of great weight," remarks the priest, for he knows it may be construed as impinging upon the rights of the church.
She responds, "Yes, and it is for me a great treasure."
Fille de Dieu, so her Voices have called her; if she may not trust in them, what is left for her?
The inquisitor holds the clue. He follows it up. "Do you need to confess yourself now, since you believe in the revelation of your Voices, that you will be saved?"
"I believe that if I were in mortal sin Ste. Catherine
and Ste. Marguerite would abandon me at once."
At the next session she is asked point-blank if she will submit herself to the church militant (represented by this tribunal) upon what she has done, whether good or bad. She feels the danger and draws back, asking time for reflection. But they will give her no time to reflect, they press the terrible question :
"Will you submit your words and acts to the decision of the church?"
"My words and acts are all in the hand of God; I trust myself in all to Him. I would do or say nothing against the Christian faith. Send me a priest Saturday, and I will answer with the help of God, and it shall be put in writing."
They agree to this, but meantime they hope to reach her by a detour, and they probe her concerning the Voices. She answers with a beautiful simplicity and touching candor that are lost upon those enraged pedants:
"Above all things, St. Michael told me to be a good child, and that God would help me to come in aid of the King of France. I have already told you all this. He related to me the great pity there was of the Kingdom of France."
They pursue her into the prison, raging for an answer that shall deliver her to their judgment:
"Will you submit yourself to the authority of the church?"
"I submit myself to God who has sent me, to Our Lady, to all the saints of paradise. In my opinion all
is one, God and the church, and nobody should make difficulty about it. Why do you make yourselves difficulty?"
Simple though divinely gifted Jeanne, have a care! They would snatch from thee thy pearl of price, thy liberty of soul. It is Death they bring thee, not Life!
Harassed without mercy by her priestly persecutors, Jeanne at this time made herself a touching prayer as follows, and on demand recited it before her judges:
"MY VERY SWEET GOD, IN HONOR OF YOUR HOLY PASSION, I BEG YOU IF YOU LOVE ME, REVEAL TO ME WHAT I SHOULD ANSWER TO THESE PEOPLE OF THE CHURCH."
Of her many wonderful, inspired expressions this is not the least notable. It signalizes the greater role reserved for her, that of a true reformer and regenerator of the faith of Christ. These words of Jeanne signify the death of mere formalism and lifeless dogma, which was the religion of her persecutors, and a call to the pure worship of the spirit. Her martyrdom was of supreme value to the life of the church, for dying she gave a mortal wound to the stupid scholasticism of which she was the victim. Further, her enthronement upon the altars of the church is a pledge that there shall be no return to the cult of obscurity and word-worship, as well as the sordidness and pursuit of material ends that produced the Cauchons and the Loyseleurs of her time. In all this
we may well believe she was unconsciously fulfilling the divine purpose.
I return to the trial. Her interrogator explains the dogma upon which he counts to enmesh her.
"There exists a church triumphant in which are God, the saints, the angels, and the souls redeemed. There exists another church, the church militant, in which are the Pope, vicar of God upon earth, the cardinals, the prelates of the church, the clergy, all good Christians and Catholics. This church, regularly assembled, cannot err, since it is ruled by the Holy Spirit. Are you willing to submit yourself to this church which we have defined for you?"
Jeanne replies: "I came to the King of France by the command of God, of the Virgin Mary, of all the saints of paradise and of the church victorious above. To this church I submit all my good actions, all that I have done and shall do. As for submitting myself to the church militant (she truly understands it to mean Cauchon and her persecutors), I shall make no other answer."
This decides her fate. The judges hold her now and see their course plain before them. At the following session Jeanne, apparently upon a hint slipped to her, makes appeal to the Pope. Cauchon pretends to ignore it, but it is nevertheless recorded.
Cauchon then puts an end to the secret hearings. The judges decide to make an extract of all that Jeanne has said, and communicate it to the doctors and masters for their decision (Cauchon's plan of
dividing up the responsibility). They read rapidly to Jeanne the reports of the several examinations; she agrees to same, while making some remarks thereupon.
Now occurs a dramatic incident. It is Palm Sunday, and she begs to be allowed to hear mass in her present costume, and to receive communion at Easter, similarly dressed. Cauchon refuses, unless she will discard her male attire. Jeanne entreats: "Shall I not then be permitted to hear mass as I am? I desire it ardently. As to changing my dress, I cannot do that—it is not in my power." Again the bishop refuses. Jeanne renews her petition in words even more impressive:
"I cannot change my dress, and I am then to be deprived of the viaticum (Eucharist). I entreat you, Monseigneur, permit me to hear mass in this costume. The vestment does not change my soul, and it is not contrary to the laws of the church." Cauchon finally denies her request.
The proces d’office or official trial is now ended; the proces ordinaire or ordinary trial begins immediately after Palm Sunday. It is merely a rehash and review of the former proceeding, equally stupid, but more definitely conducting to the fatal end.
Jeanne maintains her firmness, makes no concession, affirms her mission. Touching the revelations made to her, she declares that she has asked counsel of no one—"bishop, priest, or other."
They are now about ready to pronounce the formal condemnation, but this will prove nothing unless
they can get from her a retraction or abjuration, which they resolve to do by hook or crook. Cauchon will have no holes in his bon proces. Has he not pledged his word to Bedford and the king?
On March 31 they make a special interrogation in her prison, Cauchon and the six delegates from Paris heretofore characterized. All have but one mind to overcome her and lead her to destruction.
Again they attack her upon the question of submitting herself to the church, that is, to their authority. She adheres to the position already taken, and she confirms it by an extraordinary declaration, the greatest and most inspired of her utterances. It was led up to as follows:
She agreed to submit herself to the church militant, provided that it asked of her nothing impossible, such as avowing that her words and acts in connection with her visions and revelations were not of God's bidding. "That," she added, "I shall never allow, for anything in the world."
"If the church militant tells you that your revelations are illusions or things diabolical, will you not submit yourself accordingly?"
"I will submit myself to God. In case the church should prescribe the contrary, I shall submit myself to no man in the world, but to God alone whose commandment I shall always follow."
"You do not then believe yourself subject to the church of God which is upon the earth, that is to say, to the Pope our lord, to the archbishops, bishops and other prelates of the church?"
"Yes, I believe myself subject to them, but in serving God first. I answer nothing of my own head: what I say is at the command of my Voices. They do not bid me disobey the church—BUT GOD FIRST SERVED!"
This is her most profound, her greatest, truest word. Spoken in the shadow of death, it is assured of remembrance, of cherishment, even unto the most distant ages. Addressed to the priests who, betraying Christ, condemned her, it contained the remedy for evil conditions from which the church was then perishing, the recipe for its future regeneration.
The greater Jeanne d'Arc, the higher mission, were to arise from the prison and the scaffold.
The Maid’s Defense
Pour la grande pitie au royaume de France.
Then must I die, and by the bitter fire,
This body pure and free from sin to burn
In slow and cruel torment, and the dire
Shame of mocking eyes that still return
To plague me with their malice?
What desire, What fault was mine to earn this foul mischance?
Not for my good I strove nor station higher,
But all for pity of this land of France!
You English seek my death, you priests but aim
To give those their revenge, for that I made
Fair war upon them, yet to mercy's claim
Was never deaf but turned aside the blade
That sought the helpless foe: my maiden fame
You dare revile but not so my vaillance;
For surely I have beaten you to shame,
And all for pity of this land of France!
A simple maid, I feared the thought of war,
And marked its traces with a tearful eye,
The pillage and the burnings near and far,
The poor unsheltered 'neath the winter sky.
Then spoke a Voice and Michael like a star
Appeared and bade me to the field advance—
"Go, daughter of God, and I thy warrior
Will help for pity of this land of France!"
My gentle God, thou knowest how for long
I fain would struggle 'gainst thy holy will,
E'en tho' thy angels aye on me did throng
Ah, blessed thought! they come unto me still.
And when I prayed at eve or matin song,
Shrinking from war or sight of war's rude chance,
Their Voices bore upon me loud and strong—
"Thou must, for pity of this land of France!"
E'en so I went and came unto the King,
And showed him proofs that he will not gainsay,
Tho' now he recks not of my suffering,
And leaves me to our enemies a prey.
I freed the noble city from the ring
Of English forts that held it as in trance;
And if you call it great or little thing,
'Twas but for pity of this land of France!
But one pure joy is left to comfort me,
In this my dungeon pitiless and drear,
'Tis that I brought my King the victory
Ah, thinking so, my woeful state is dear.
And when in royal Reims I bent my knee,
He, crowned, anointed, said with grateful glance,
"Thou hast done nobly, Jeanne, for God and me—"
'Twas all for pity of this land of France!
Now I must go and by a cruel way,
But they who send me forth have much to rue:
On me they break, nor distant is the day
When they the conquerors shall as conquered sue.
I see them pass, the lordly English crew,
And all the hopes of their great dominance
Perish through me who shall their strength undo,
Even for pity of this land of France!
So let me bid farewell to this short life;
Alas! how short for me who ne'er have known
The thoughts of love in maiden bosoms rife,
The light caress, the fond, endearing tone.
My thoughts were given unto God alone,
And to this work that made me shield and lance:
Ah, 'twill not pass—the future shall atone
And hail me Glory of this land of France!