A statue of Joan of Arc in Nanterre, France. CNS photo/Charles Platiau, Reuters

Charles Lewis: Spirit of St. Joan of Arc badly needed

  • June 24, 2020

In my own life I have often looked for inspiration from great men and women.

I am not talking about celebrities. Their fame is fleeting and, perhaps I am wrong in this, but the good they do often seems part of a pubic relations campaign.

We are fortunate as Catholics to have an abundance of saints whose deeds resound through the ages, seeming to grow stronger and clearer while lesser lights fade over time.

I turn to different saints depending on my state of mind. When I need to reinforce my understanding of the faith I will read bits of St. Thomas Aquinas. When things feel dark I will turn to Mary. When I wonder whether peace is possible there is St. Francis of Assisi. When I think humanity cannot sink lower, I look towards St. Maximilian Kolbe, who laid down his life for a stranger in Auschwitz.

But when I feel frustrated with the direction our political leaders are taking us — their obsession with death instead of healing, their lack of respect for the great Judeo-Christian heritage — I turn to St. Joan of Arc.

Not even a writer with the imagination of a Stephen King could have dreamt up her story. And if such a writer did, the story, even as fiction, would be scoffed at as fantastical.

Think about who she was and where she came from. A girl from an isolated village in France in the 15th century, she was illiterate, utterly unworldly. There is nothing about her that points to such a glorious future.

She hears voices — something that might have pegged her as being deranged. Those voices tell her to find Charles, the true heir to the throne and crown him Charles VII, king of France, and then raise an army to liberate France. And if this was not outrageous enough, she asks, and gets, an army to drive the English off her native soil.

She becomes such a great military leader that battle-hardened men give Joan their utmost devotion. To the English, she was an unworldly demon. Imagine veteran soldiers being frightened by a wisp of a girl.

I have been thinking more about her for several reasons.

I just read Joan Of Arc by Mark Twain. It is clear that Twain adored Joan. Just listen to his description of her eyes. It sounds like a love letter.

“There was never but that one pair, there will never be another. Joan’s eyes were deep and rich and wonderful beyond anything merely earthly,” Twain wrote. “They spoke all languages — they had no need of words. They produced all effects — and just by a glance, a single glance: a glance that could convict a liar of his lie and make him confess it….”

Reading about Joan of Arc satisfies several needs. In Twain’s telling there is the pleasure of reading a master of the English language.

For me, though, and I suspect for many others, there is pure inspiration — which we need a lot of today.

One thing Joan faced was the intransigence of French leaders who would find every reason to delay when action was needed. Aides to the king were jealous of Joan and the king was a coward. They formed committees and councils to talk … and talk and talk and talk. She was often left for weeks waiting for a decision to be made when military victories were within reach.

Even after she crowns Charles, he and his advisors do everything to stop her from completing her mission to sweep the English from French soil. At the gates of Paris, with the great prize in reach, the king undermines Joan by signing a deal with the English.

I sometimes feel, in some ways, we are experiencing what Joan went through. I will never understand why, with more than 12 million Catholics in this country, along with hundreds of thousands of evangelicals, we cannot win a single pro-life battle. I have written this before, but do people not find it odd that we are not seen as an important voting bloc? Why is it so few political leaders worry about getting our vote?

More than ever we need a Joan to rise up. Not to do military battle, but to stir our hearts so we can see with clarity how much of our country we have lost.

I hope she comes soon.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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