PREFACE BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
We have waited long for a book that should take up for us and unravel the tangled skein of controversy that still involves the judicial trials of the Maid of Orleans, a book that can be fascinating as it is convincing. Though concerned with plots and courts and documentary evidence, the story here told reveals to us in all its simplicity of appeal the heroic central figure of Joan of Arc — so young, so brave, so loyal, so truly maiden hearted, and withal so wise in her replies as to confound the deepest cunning of her adversaries.
Nor was there one trial only, but rather a whole succession of trials, before her death, after it, and even in our own day when, almost five centuries later, she was raised to the honors of the altar by that Church to whose head on earth she had in vain demanded that her case should be appealed.
The great mystery story of all history we may well call the particular phase of Joan's life treated in this book. But connected closely with her trials there quickly pass before us here the peaceful days at Domremy spent in shepherding her flock; the breathless moments when she listened to celestial voices whose prophetic words were fulfilled in every syllable; her marches and her hardships and her battles in what seemed to be a hopeless cause; her glorious victory ending in the crowning of her king; and finally, her capture, no less clearly predicted, and her pathetic death by "fagot, stake, and torch," with the name of Jesus as the last word uttered by her lips.
Once more, it might appear, hell had triumphed, as when Christ hung dead upon the Cross. But for Him there was to be a Resurrection, and for her a Rehabilitation and a Canonization. And yet, in spite of all this vindication, and to clear up much newly caused modern bewilderment, there is great reason for this admirably written book. But more than this. With Edna St. Vincent Millay we cannot help but turn to her, and in pleading words adjure her:
Have no voices spoken plain: France has need of you again?
France? Most assuredly; but not France alone! All the world has need of her — not for the crowning now of a mere earthly monarch, but for the winning of mankind's due and rightful recognition to be given in this hour of distress to the one sole King of all the ages. Of what avail are battles fought and victories won and treaties signed, if He is not enthroned in the hearts, the minds, and the lives of men, as King of kings and Lord of lords? He alone can be our Peace.
And here a final word of tribute to the author of this book. In quick succession Finis has been written both to his noble volume and to his devoted, scholarly life. In his defense of what is right and good and pure his priestly heart beat high while writing these pages, and his trust in God was firm with the fortitude that he admired in the Maid of Orleans. He has fallen into the hands of a better judge and One in whom his heart delighted.
JOSEPH HUSSLEIN, S.J., Ph.D.,
General Editor, Science and Culture Series
Of the making of books about St. Joan of Arc there is no end. The astounding career of this girl, who was leading troops into battle when she was seventeen years old, and, after remarkable military successes, was captured, tried, and executed soon after she was nineteen, has been dealt with by poets and historians, good, bad, and indifferent, of every tribe and nation under heaven, by believers and skeptics, by military experts, learned priests, and romantic ladies.
Every aspect of her life, every fact, circumstance, or tradition, remotely relating to her and to everyone connected with her, has been made the subject of patient research and the theme of countless monographs. St. Therese of Lisieux showed her devotion to Joan by a series of poems, from one of which the title of this book is taken. She has been portrayed, by Anatole France, as a weak-minded tool of priests, and by Jehanne d'Orliac — after the bewildering statement that "so far Joan of Arc has been approached from one point of view only" — as the pawn of the Dauphin's mother-in-law. Schiller imagined for her a death on the field of battle. It has been elaborately argued that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Orleans, that she was not burned at Rouen, that she was a spiritualistic medium. A certain Abbe Misset wrote a series of pamphlets to prove that Domremy, her birthplace, was in Champagne rather than Lorraine. And all these elaborate theories have been elaborately refuted.
What remains to be said after piety and scholarship, not to mention prejudice and fantasy, have so voluminously said their say? Why should this mass of literature, in which so many admirable works are to be found, be increased by another? From the present writer's viewpoint the answer is a simple one. As a Catholic I am particularly interested in the question of St. Joan's relations with the Church. Now there is a great deal of material specially devoted to this subject in French, notably the massive studies of Canon Dunand and Father Ayroles; but these works are hard to find, and, because of their prolixity, almost as hard to read. In English I know of nothing at all adequate. Yet surely there is great interest in the subject among English-speaking Catholics, especially since the thesis of Joan's "Protestantism" has been so widely popularized by Mr. Bernard Shaw — though he did not, as we shall see, originate it.
It was Shaw's play which first made me wonder, as many other Catholics must have wondered, whither a thorough investigation of his thesis might lead. Was Joan really a heretic? Was she honestly and legally tried and condemned? Was the rehabilitation of 1456 really as worthy of ridicule as Mr. Shaw would have us believe? Must the Church accept Mr. Shaw's patronizing congratulations for having canonized in 1920 an ultra-Protestant martyr whom she had burned in 1431?
Investigation of these questions has led to the writing of the present book. It does not profess to be another biography of St. Joan, for which the reader must go elsewhere. If he is pressed for time, he may choose Hilaire Belloc. If he has plenty of time, and knows French, he cannot do better than read Gabriel Hanotaux. If he is content with history in the form of fiction, he will enjoy Mark Twain.
Furthermore, this book will avoid controversy concerning the voices and visions, which inspired Joan's, mission; though it will have many occasions to allude to them. Such controversy, besides being outside my scope, would be wasted on those who refuse to consider any evidence for the miraculous; while for others it is unnecessary.
The subject which this book does propose to discuss, if not exhaustively, at least clearly, is that of Joan's relations with the doctrinal and disciplinary authority of the Catholic Church. It will also consider the Church's judgment on these relations after Joan's death. Other matters will be dealt with only in so far as they seem relevant to the main theme, or necessary for its elucidation.
"That our present judgment may proceed from the face of God, who is the weigher of spirits, and who alone knoweth His revelations perfectly and judgeth them most truly, who breatheth where He will, and often chooseth the weak that He may confound the mighty ... "
— Decree of Rehabilitation of Joan of Arc 1456