JOAN OF ARC: AN INTERPRETATION

(LíANGE JEANNE DíARC)

BY

NICOLE H. DOUGHERTY

 

ENGLISH COMPOSITION AND LITERATURE (COM 122.32)

PROFESSOR LAMONT INGALLS

EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

DECEMBER 3, 2002

 

Joan of Arc (1412 Ė1431) was to become an angel. Occasionally, in history a horseman or horsewoman appears during troubled times to lead the charge. Joan was such a rider who led a just cause against invading English. It was her destiny and the fulfillment of prophecy that a maiden girl from Lorraine would perform a miracle to save France. Fatefully, her king and clergy just wanted the win for self-preservation and never accepted her divine authority. They cared little about Joan after their victories and self-gratification. She was a tool for manipulation to achieve their desired outcome. Remarkably, Joan saved her God, her king, her clergy and her people. However, she did not tell her secret nor did she save herself. Why? Simply, she did not know her given authority, and she never realized that God was testing her too. Lack of faith in oneself led to an inevitable martyrís destiny--a lamb of God. Her test of love in God, country and family was easy compared to her relentless self-test. It is the true test of a divine messenger to accept oneís authority and mission. Joan had power over destiny and chose not to save herself by showing all the truth of her special relationship with God and his Warrior Prince of Hosts, Michael. In the Bible, it was stated to the chosen apostles, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ĎMove from here to thereí and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (qtd. in Matthew 17:20). When you apply these words to Joan, she had faith in all but herself. She accepted her mission but occasionally doubted her authority outside of battle and, therefore, historically she was labeled a witch, she-devil, heretic, whore and much later a virgin-saint. I transition to Joanís story with my heroic verse.

 

LíAnge Jeanne díArc

Armor shining in the sun, a lone soul sat upon a white war-horse tall and proud. Helmet at her side, her loose hair whipped in the wind, a youthful soft loving face peeped beneath. Her lighted eyes show wisdom that surpasses this earthly realm. And behind her a moldy damp stone castle stood erect. The smell of mold merged with the stench of rotting bodies, a bitter and unpleasant smell to inhale, but common during war. The clinging and clanking of steel against steel rang all around her as warriors strove to kill their combatants, merged with the piercing screams of terror and pain. And the relentless faint sounds of crunching bones gave way to horse hooves. Held in her right hand the young female warrior displayed a white flag. It vibrated in the strong wind, a symbol of God held above for all to see the glory of God and His angels.

 

During the Hundred Years War (1337 Ė 1453), especially after the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415, it was apparent the English would control northern France. French soldiers outnumbered the English by a factor of 5:1 (25,000 to 5,000) and still lost (DeVries 20). The French lost their pride and will to fight. Facing peril and defeat by the English a young maiden from Lorraine fulfilled a prophecy and performed a miracle to save France. The Maid from Lorraine prophecy was attributed to an English cleric and historian named The Venerable Bede (672 Ė 735) who was recognized for his work on the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" (Fraioli 61). Joan díArc was born at Greux-Domremy, Lorraine Province, France and burned alive at Rouen, France. She was the maiden who would perform that miracle. She was somewhat handicapped militarily and educationally because she could not read or write and had no experience in battle. However Michael, the Archangel and Warrior Prince of Hosts, groomed the reluctant warrior of 13 years in military affairs (DeVries 39). Joan had visions of and spoke to St. Catherine and St. Margaret, both virgin-martyrs, who were similarly persecuted and executed because they refused to deny their Christian faith. They counseled and comforted her in strength of character during her trial (Trask 99). She claimed supernatural experiences in her youth with these saintly beings that eventually prepared her at 17 years in 1429 to accomplish her divine destiny. Also, she claimed hearing a single voice followed by brilliant light that shone in her eyes for all to see. The Church believed that all voices that came to Joan were the echoes of her own willfulness (Shaw 110). I suspect these encounters to be the words of Christ through the Counselor, Holy Spirit, followed by Christ showing her the truth/light about His divinity. This may be the secret between the Dauphin, later King Charles VII, and Joan that no one else knew or could know except God (DeVries 39-48). At this moment of light, Joan was chosen a messenger of God. Her timely rise to stardom in France was determined not by these spiritual experiences but mainly by a royalty under siege and a clergy facing schisms. The pragmatists Dauphin and his clergy went along with the maiden prophecy when confronted by an English defeat and a nation whose soldiers adored Joan. Thereafter, victories followed and the Dauphin was crowned King Charles VII of France in Reims on 17 July 1429. The French clergy felt a new confidence about the kingís support and Joan became expendable and met a hereticís fate. Bishop Cauchon, Joanís paradoxical executioner, reinforces Charles capacity for treachery by saying, "Poor, deluded Joan. She has no idea the monster she has put on the throne. These are my last words to you as your spiritual advisor, Your Majesty" (qtd. in Joan of Arc: Movie).

A saint in need is a Saint indeed! After execution and later declared innocent of all crimes in 1456, Joan never received the worldly recognition that was due her until the 20 th century. I believe an angel hardly concerns herself with such small matters, but the living do. Still, two events occurred that would change her history on earth, post mortem. First, France encountered another enemy along its northern border led by Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and the Triple Alliance of World War I, composed of Germany, Austria-Hungry and Italy. So again, France needed someone to rally a call to arms. A brief history of WWI indicates the Germans were stopped in France: rival armies engaged in trench warfare that utilized improved artillery, machine guns and poison gas during repeated assaults without any lasting advances (World War I). An armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. The French and its allies invoked Joan of Arcís memory to the extent that they needed Joanís name to help support their war effort. Moreover and second, the Pontiff Leo XIII was seeing visions as Joan did almost five centuries earlier. (Saint Michael Center) Juxtapose these events, Leo XIIIís vision of St. Michael and a battle between good and evil led him to write "Prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel" in 1888 (Leo XIII). During his ecclesiastical leadership (1878 - 1903), the St. Catherine of Alexandria church was built in 1882 next to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and at Bois Chenu, France, the Basilica of Saint Jeanne díArc commenced construction in 1881 and was consecrated in 1926. Thence, WWI and Leo XIII brought Joanís lifetime accomplishments to the 20 th century forefront and eventually led to her expeditiously being canonized St. Joan of Arc, Virgin and Patron Saint of France. Joan was declared "Venerable" in 1894 by Leo XIII, beatified by miracles in 1905 by Pious X and canonized Saint Joan, Virgin by Benedict XV on 16 May 1920.

I conclude Joan, the maiden from Lorraine, would be an angel. "And thus he [angel] can incline the will to the love of the creature or of God, by way of persuasion" (qtd. in Aquinas). Throughout her tribulations and the seven-year period from ages 13 to 19, she steadfastly remained devoted, devout and determined to love Godís and to do his will. Therefore, it may be stated, "Öas one angel enlightens another, so does he cleanse and perfect another." (qtd. In Aquinas). She was a chosen disciple not because of her academic or religious credentials but for her love of God, France and people, and dedication to truth. She was uneducated with seamstress skills who fulfilled Celtic prophecies of a rural maiden who was to save France by a miracle. Most difficult for her was not the acceptance of her divine role by clergy or her acceptance by soldiers in battle but self-doubt of her authority that her angelic selection entails. Essentially, the king, clergy and military used her until their win was secured and then condemned her to death to support their tenure and authoritarian status. She was tormented by visions of her own brutal death that was silently condoned by the very king, soldiers and clergy she saved from extinction. Without any understanding, education or experience in government and church affairs, her fate was sealed and she humbly accepted her death as Godís will. In addition, Joan was a self-made martyr for cause because she understood that she had the courage to win battles and to accept her destiny. After her victories on the battlefield, she remained silent when asked to reveal the secret that she told Charles VII. Ultimately, she sacrificed herself as Catherine and Margaret did because she refused to submit to her jailers and executioners (Thurston). I conclude by declaring that Joan depicted her truth on her battle standard in a picture worth a thousand words. Angel Joan designed her original battle standard that was tailored by Houves Polnoir in 1429 at her direction prior to the English siege on Orleans (Saint Joan of Arc Center). Sown on a field of lilies, it contains the words Jhesus: Maria and pictures God, Our Lord, on a throne holding the world and sided by two angels (Trask 26). I presume Michael, the Archangel and LíAnge Jeanne díArc. Only a French angel could offer a fleur-de-lis to her Lord. Finally, I end by describing my self-designed Coat-of-Arms for Joan. I highlight her accomplishments with a sword, Michaelís symbol, rising and culminating into a victory crown, King of Kings symbol, within a field of fleur-de-lis, Trinity symbols. Franceís national colors, red-white-blue, are shown with a red chevron to indicate a winged warrior who shed her blood for her God, nation and people. I had hoped to place Joan of Arcís picture next to my crest but no image existed and no description of her resemblance was ever recorded during her lifetime. Pictures sometimes distort in time but Joanís deeds transcend time. Joan became an angel in the Order of Michael, the Archangel.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, St. Thomas. "Whether one angel moves another angelís will?" Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online Edition. 2002 Ed. Knight, Kevin. The Summa Theologica, Second Edition, 1920. 2 Nov. 2002. <http//www.newadvent.org/summa/110602.htm>.

 

DeVries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Phoenix Mill: Sutton Publishing Limited, 1999.

 

Fraioli, Deborah A. Joan of Arc: The Early Debate. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2000.

 

Leo XIII, Pope. "Prayer to Saint Michael." PetersNet Doument Database for TrinityCommunications. 7 Nov. 2002 <http://www.petersnet.net/browse/544.htm>.

 

Matthew. Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 1984.

 

Joan of Arc: Movie. Director Christian Duguay. With Leelee Sobieski. Artisan Entertainment, 1999.

 

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Joan of Arc." Trans. Mark Dittman. Online Edition. 1999 Ed. Knight, Kevin. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 5 Nov. 2002 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08409c.htm>.

 

Saint Joan of Arc Center. "St. Joanís Battle Standard, Pennon and Banner." Comp. Virginia Frohlick. 21 Nov. 2002 <http://www.stjoan-center.com/topics/standard.html>.

 

Shaw, Bernard. Saint Joan: A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue. Ed. Dan H. Laurence. London: Penguin Books, 2001.

 

Saint Michael Center. "How The Prayer to St. Michael Came to be Written." 19 Nov. 2002. <http://www.smcenter.org/prayerhistory.htm>.

 

Trask, Willard. Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words. New York: Turtle Point Press, 1996.

 

"World War I." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth Edition. 2001. 22 Nov. 2002. <http://www.bartleby.com/65/ww/WW1.html>.