Joan of Arc
by Gonzalo Álvarez Palomino
Taken from: https://posmodernia.com/juana-de-arco/
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
Christian Political Thinking from the Time of the Maid of Orleans
France, fifteenth century
Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my arms for war and my hands for battle (Ps 144)
October 25, 1415. The French royal army gets ready to crush the depleted and exhausted army of Henry V of England near the town of Agincourt. Once again, just as in the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), the English make up for their numerical inferiority with an advantageous position in a battlefield of their choice. Again, the French have to make a frontal attack against the unbeatable English archers, which are protected by elevated and fortified terrain. The French army, with a divided command and no clear chief, manifests a certain unease for the disadvantage in terrain, but puts its trust on a forceful charge by its cavalry on the left flank, to disperse the English archers before they can unleash their devastating storms of arrows. This attack on the flank, with an ephemeral initial sensation of success, ends up in disaster while the French center advances in a disorderly fashion towards the trap. Contrary to what it is commonly thought, the bulk of the French army advances on foot, foreseeing that the terrain was impracticable for a massive deployment of the heavy cavalry, something that had been learned from the humiliating disasters of Crécy and Poitiers, but are unable to advance enough. The muddy soil and the unceasing storms of arrows drench the slow French army in a bath of mud and blood from which very few will be able to escape. A new disaster has been produced again.
Henry V, as able as he is heartless, has achieved a total victory against all odds. His army, wearied, full of sickness, and scarce of provisions, now indulges in plundering and killing on a moore full of inert corpses which some instants before had been the pride of France. In the face of rumors of a second French attack, King Henry orders killing most of the prisoners, so as to be able to pick up the pace. Just one thing has saved France, the king has not been captured as had happened in Poitiers, and this is due to the fact that Constable d'Albert and French Marshall Boucicault have agreed no to take him to the battlefield, to prevent the disaster from being absolute. Even the oriflamme of Saint-Denis, the legendary battle standard of the Kingdom of France has been lost. Henry V reverted to the successful tactic used by Eduard III and his son Edward of Woodstock: that of sacking and razing the fields and villages of France with a special emphasis on cruelty exerted over the population in the form of torture, rape and mutilation. Such cruelty shook Western Europe deeply, not used to this kind of violence among Christian kingdoms. This cruel policy sought to force the French to combat in the open field, where they had been defeated time and again. The main power that during a long time had prevented these things to happen had been the Papacy, but the times of the powerful Innocence III were far behind already. Immersed in a terrible schism since the end of the XIV century, the Church was losing its unifying power and the conscience of Christendom was deteriorating.
The strengthening of the monarchies and the weakening of the Seat of Peter as a unifying force in the West in the fifteenth century takes the form of a string of civil wars that devastate the great European kingdoms: while France recovers from the Hundred Years’ War, England and Castille see themselves submerged in civil wars for questions of succession. Italy is an amalgamation of ambitious noble families disputing power, and the Holy Roman Empire, already an ungovernable entity from its origins, strives to contain its combative Hussite heretics and the always menacing Ottoman Empire. The medieval world is crumbling.
A thousand years earlier, the collapse of the Roman Empire, the soul of the West, marked five rough centuries which only by the hand of generations of extraordinary men and women could usher the establishment of the Christian civilization. As prophets sent by God to an Israel determined to forget its legacy and identity, saints appear in obscure times to straighten what has become crumpled. Among these is a young woman who accomplishes her mission in the convulsive Europe of the beginning of the fifteenth century, and who will show us a way of bearing the cross of obedience and care of the faith and the fatherland.
Current questions around the Maid of Orleans
Let not the discourse of the ancients escape thee, for they have learned of their fathers (Eccl 8, 11)
Why Joan of Arc? With a certain frequency, I have heard the bewilderment generated by this saint among certain Catholics nowadays. She died in 1431, but was not canonized until 1920. Nevertheless, she was already an icon of sanctity and heroism to the French people. As has happened with other saints, her figure has been used to represent values and ideals entirely alien to the true Joan of Arc. She is frequently made to appear as a representative of the revolutionary France, presenting the absurd image of the three-colored flag of the French Republic surrounding statues or monuments erected to that woman who was an enemy of everything the French Revolution stands for. On the other hand, he who would pretend to make her an icon of the 'emancipated woman' would become aware of his lack of truth at the moment he made an approach to her history.
To anyone who asks himself wherein lies her sanctity, it fits telling him that it is neither because of the powerful influence of France on the Church nor on account of any purely national interest; it is simply because her life is one of holiness. Joan lived under a very simple code that ruled her life: serve God above all in the faith of the Catholic Church, serve her country in loyalty to its king, and honor her family and friends, all in that order. In her, everything that all of us Christians ought to be and possess can be recognized: Faith, humility, courage, compassion, fortitude, and loyalty.
And this notwithstanding, the Maid, as many other saints, clashes frontally with the thinking of many Christians these days. There are already some who think that, having devoted to war suffices to exclude the Maid from the contemporary saint days' calendar, while to some others, she is exclusively an icon of French patriotism, and has nothing to do with other Catholics, And this is because Joan of Arc is the Medieval woman par excellence; she shows us how the ancient faith of the West can shine when perfected by sanctity, without airs of superiority or of revolutionary zeal. Only in the simplicity of the traditional faith that nurtured families, kingdoms and civilizations, can we see the strength of a rectitude, a justice and a compassion that leave outside today's concepts of what is good.
In Joan of Arc we have an urgent cry for the need of the West to reconcile with itself, especially with its history. In the last decade, the discourse demonizing the history and the identity of the West has been growing tremendously, in such a way that in many of those who inhabit this culture prevails a sensation of culpability for an ignominious past, and a consequent embarrassment regarding our heritage and our ancestors. This trend has found its major force in the progressive left and its powerful communications media, like the movies and television. Inquisition, colonialism, imperialism, racism, slavery, ... the Westerner now has to be embarrassed about everything, apologize for everything. In the bosom of the Church itself, the so-called self criticism is destroying the identity of Catholics. Because if nothing good exists in your past, if nothing that you would wish to define yourself, then, who are you? This is the reason why looking back or thinking about the past, now seen as a useless attitude, is actually where we can see ourselves face to face. We are told not to look back nor think about the past because, perhaps by doing that, we will remember who we are.
The faith of the simple
Blessed be Thou, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, but hast revealed them to the little ones (Matt 11, 25)
Anyone who has been able to see the faith that in the past was transmitted within the family and marked the life of the peoples has a treasure of incalculable value. The elder among ourselves remember when everyone in town would interrupt his chores at the sound of the bell and devoted a couple of minutes to pray and worship. The experience of interrupting for a moment what you are doing to pray the Angelus at midday is also very enriching, just as was collecting donations in the streets to pay for masses for the souls in purgatory. All these petty gestures and details express a simple but very devout faith, stronger than any other, since it is the faith lived, day in and day out, as the center of everything done. This faith is the one that was transmitted by the family and the society. This was the faith of Saint Joan of Arc.
Long time before Joan had her first mystical experiences, she had been recognized already as the most pious girl in her town, And this was because she was the perfect daughter of her time: humble, modest, and homey, with no greater ambitions than doing what God expected of her. The strong mystical experiences or revelations that happen to saints are not so much a sudden arrival of God but the fruits of a simple faith and devotion planted in the bosom of the family in the midst of a healthy society, a faith that can take its time to grow. Joan, in her process at Rouen, recognized that all her prayers and pious things had been taught to her by her mother. Because of her social position, she manifested unawareness about theological and ecclesial matters, but in all fundamental aspects of the Catholic faith she can give lessons to anyone. Because the faith of the simple, as it gets perfecting, is the strongest of all.
Sadly, the secularization and de-christianization that ensued even more after the Second Vatican Council is drying up this prized field where sanctity used to be cultivated. In too many spheres of our Church's hierarchy, this loss has been celebrated. An important deficiency in part of today's Christianity consists in considering a positive thing that the faith no longer acts in society. A simple and ignorant faith was opposed to a mature and responsible one, an imposed one to one chosen one, is what they said. Quite a deception! as with too much frequency we see that the simple, social, "imposed" faith is so much stronger, mature and responsible than the faith of the chosen. There are now a sort of contemporary Cathars who mock the popular faith, of the pious devotions and traditions, because they believe their faith is more serious and more in conformity with the current times. Their pure faith does not need families or societies to be transmitted because directly it is not transmitted. These people became influential in episcopal sees and theology faculties, that see themselves as the renovating generation of new believers, that at the same time pride themselves of having brought about the drought in the faith that preceded them. To these is to whom the Father has decided to hide the mysteries of His kingdom. To prove this deception it is but to see how many priests congratulate themselves about the end of "National Catholicism" and of the religious society, but at the same time, they regret the lack of attendance to the sacraments, the lack of formation of the flock, or the dearth of vocations to marriage, to religious life, or to the priesthood.
When one hears some pastoral or vocational sermons, it seems that they place all their confidence on miracles. It is absolutely not wrong to hope for a miracle; but it wrong is to expect one to happen when you have refused to create the proper environment. I planted, Apollo watered, but it was God who made it grow (1 Cor 3,6), Saint Paul tells us. You get the sensation that it is expected to grow where no sowing has taken place. We should not expect God to harvest what we did not care to sow. Joan of Arc received her faith in a Catholic society and a pious family, and in such an environment, irrigated with the love of many generations of faithful, God made grow the miracle who was to be the salvation of France and of many people.
War and the faith
The Lord of armies is with us: the God of Jacob is our protector (Ps 45,8)
Without a doubt, the question of war and religion is the one that has been most affected from the second half of the twentieth century to our days. It is worth mentioning that the interpretation of the faith that Jesus of Nazareth brings to us is quite pacific in comparison with how it had been under Judaism since its origins, and the early Christian communities elected a strong option for non-violence, which was one of their most powerful weapons. When Christianity became a unifying force in the culture of the late Roman Empire, the responsibility it was assuming did not permit her to apply an entirely pacifist policy. But we cannot talk of the "warrior Church" until the period going from the fall of the Empire to the consolidation of the medieval Christian monarchies (fifth to tenth centuries). It is at this stage when Christian Europe sees itself threatened from several fronts: the astonishing expansion of Islam throughout the Middle East and Africa, the Magyar invasions from the East, and the bellicose pagan peoples from the North. In England and Hispania, Anglo-saxons and Visigoths wage a desperate struggle for survival against pagans and Muslims, while the Franks carry out a series of successful campaigns against the Frisians and other pagan peoples from the North. At this time, during which Christian survival hung by a thread, several generations of kings, warrior bishops, monks and nuns with great courage were able to save the Catholic West and guide it from the German Monarchies to a more cohesive cultural and, above all, religious civilization, resulting in the brilliant Medieval Europe of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, so criticized by the constant ideological disparaging campaigns that have taken place from the time of the Enlightenment to our days.
Would the Christian religion have survived without waging wars? Clearly not. In contrast to Islam, the initial expansion of Christianity was not violent, but it did have to fight later to defend and expand itself. There are many who deny admitting the overwhelming truth that the effort of many warriors allowed Christianity to be the great religion it is, forged by the peaceful martyrdom and the struggle for justice. Already Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for war and a time for peace. As we commented before, God will make great things if the faithful are willing to involve themselves. When the theologians of the Dauphin asked Joan at Poitiers why armies should be mobilized if God was for the cause of France, the maid limited herself to respond: "Soldiers fight and God grants them victory."
While the Catholic faith has always exhibited the just preference for peace, there is in tradition no opposition between the faith and taking up arms to defend the nation, the loved ones, or religion. Why then this direct condemnation of war, whether just or unjust, in so many Christian environments? After the Second World War, many currents took hold in the Church which were influenced by communist labor unions, the movement of May 1968, and other forms of cultural marxism, resulting in a frontal rejection of several key aspects of Christianity. Here is when the more or less innocent anti-militarism that has penetrated deeply in certain Catholic circles starts hatching. An irrational condemnation and instinctive panic against the military, the arms, and patriotism. Condemnation that fails to attend to reason or motives, which simply excludes from Heaven all those practicing non-revolutionary violence. This trend is also nourished from a deficiency harbored by Catholic spirituality for a long time already, a kind of neo marcionism. In the best of cases, the Old Testament has been forgotten and is not used, and in others, it is used as an example of opposition to the preaching of the Kingdom on the part of Jesus. The vision of a cruel, violent, and theocratic Old Testament confronted with the message of love of Jesus and His followers is quite common but is not Catholic. It is not Catholic because it reduces God's revelation and holds only a part of Scripture as sacred. Not in vain did the primitive Church strive to underline the two Testaments, understood within Tradition as a unity which is Holy Scripture. When spirituality is reduced to the New Testament only, or sometimes to the four Gospels only, the image of God becomes incomplete. For this reason, we Christians are clear that God is the one who forgives and loves without limit (we also have this testimony in the Old Testament), but frequently other attributes of God which Scripture brings us are forgotten: The one who is just, the one who defends His people, the one who unleashes his wrath when the wicked do damage to the weak and the innocent, the favorites of God. All this unawareness of our inherited richness runs the risk of blurring Christian morality, which has always been the morality of the knight, of justice and rectitude, to substitute it by a morality of sentimental goodness.
Does the Christian faith contribute anything to war? Here is where the medieval Christian ideal becomes a spotless reality in the figure of Joan of Arc. The situation in which she performs her mission was terrible. It had been centuries since a war among Christian kingdoms was not that cruel. During a great part of the Middle Ages, the power of the Church was a strong source of control of the violence that noblemen and kings could exert abusing their authority, but when kings imposed themselves over the nobles and the popes, nothing was left to stop their policies. In medieval military thinking, there was a double measure which marked the difference in the way of making war: depending on whether the fight was against other Christians or against pagans, infidels or schismatics. The first situation imposed many more limitations on the violence exerted, limitations that were imposed by the religious power and which were heeded with much more frequency and compliance than what many are willing to convey to us. There is also the case of honorable pacts or behaviors, even in wars motivated by religious reasons, although they were much harsher. The man of the mid-Middle Ages knows that when he fights for land or for loyalty to his lord is not the same as when he fights for the faith or for Christendom. This mentality is the one that enters in crisis from the middle of the fourteenth century and it is how it found itself in 1429 when Joan gets ready to give the last impulse to the Hundred Years’ War, where the two most powerful kingdoms of the West have been wearing down for many decades already.
Everybody recognizes that war brings out the worst of the human being, but few have the deepness to recognize that it also brings out the noblest; wheat and tares grow together. When one gets caught in the spiral of violence which is war, it seems cruelty to be inevitable, but Joan shows that there is no space through which sanctity cannot forge its way. She had it very clear that they were fighting an enemy that had sacked and destroyed her loved France, and that, in spite of his claims of legitimacy, it was an invading force that was where it should not be. The English had to leave France or be expelled, simply because they did not belong there and God had manifested it so to the Maid. Not in Joan's entire ministry nor in anything she herself manifested to her judges is there the most minimal sign of hate of the English; hence Joan´s constant preoccupation to warn her enemies and send them letters asking for their retreat, so as to prevent the shedding of Christian blood, because she considered them as Christian as her own people. She held them as enemies of her kingdom because of their condition of invading force, but nothing more. This is why he who approaches Joan of Arc's history and testimonials, sees entirely understandable what was said of her: that in her presence and in the army under her command, slaughters, mistreatment of prisoners, sackings or destruction were not allowed, and that she was often seen helping, consoling and requesting confession for wounded French or English combatants alike.
Service to God and country in the battlefield became for Joan a privileged place where her sanctity would be cultivated. In this way, it is certain that Joan brought compassion and nobility to a war that had lost almost all of its chivalry a long time before, but if we were to present our saint as an atemporal force bringing light to a time of absolute barbarism, we would be being unfair with history. The main deficiency one finds in narratives of saints written after the Second Vatican Council is the eagerness to present them as persons alien to their time, with a force fully colliding with their circumstances, mainly to highlight what an extraordinary or current quality is present in their figure. While this is understandable, it is not necessary. A given saint cannot be properly understood if his time is not understood, and this is no problem for him to be a source of current inspiration. Saint Francis, Saint Dominic, Saint Benedict, Saint Claire, Saint Monica, Saint Bernard and all those you may wish to think about were children of their time, and only a time like the one when he lived could have given the world people like him. Therefore, we would not make justice to history nor to Joan of Arc if we were not to present her the way she was, a medieval woman in the best sense of the word. This not only is far from preventing that she and the rest of the saints be an example for our time, but also teaches us the important and salutary reason of valuing the historical moment that led these persons to be what they were.
The compassion and goodness of this humble woman represent the noblest of what the Western mentality of the late Middle Ages can offer us, and we see it is not little. She had that Crusader spirit that could be found in the heart of every Christian, who regretted the fratricide wars in which the Westerners saw themselves required to fight, aware that the real challenges lied in confronting the enemies of Christendom. Long time had passed during which Christian kingdoms waged harsh wars against each other, but the hearts of those people harbored a wish to go back to the thirteenth century, to the time of the great Crusades, and a desire for all Christians to form a strong religious unity. For the knights of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and even of the beginning of the sixteenth, the aspiration of every Christian was to defeat the Saracens and recover Jerusalem. But as time went by, that was becoming more of an ideal rather than a possibility. Joan was quite clear that, even though expelling the invasors from France was urgent, Christendom's war effort should be centered on stopping the muslims and on defending against heresies. When she would admonish the English in writing for them to retreat, she would make it clear that if they were willing to fight, they should go fight the Saracens; and the letter that she herself wrote to the invincible Hussite heretics shows what Joan's great preoccupations were.
God has given us very many saints, for us to lean on in our wandering. All of them have a special lesson to teach us. The common one of them is obedience and devotion to God, but Joan of Arc is a fundamental inspiration for any Christian who wages any kind of battle. She demonstrates that compassion and goodness are also possible in deadly or hatred situations without that signifying total renunciation to fighting. If the Christian fights, he has to assume the responsibility for trying to prevent his fight to fall into unnecessary cruelty: something quite difficult to understand considering that hatred is a natural reaction against someone who intends to do damage to what one loves. It is frequent to hear someone say that religion is a causative of wars. No one has his hands clean, but nevertheless no motive of dishonor is that a cause has been loved so much and by so many as to bring about the willingness to fight and die for it. The most brutal wars the West has lived through are the ones resulting from the liberal revolutions, every time with lesser religious sense. It is evident that the nobility like the one Joan displayed at war derived exclusively from the faith, countering the view of those who speak of religion as a major source of violence. The Catholic faith of the saint is an example of how religion adds rectitude where a merely political struggle has no motive to abide by principles. The Christian has to have clearly in mind that peace flows only from justice, and that such a non violent situation which is sustained by fear, threat or oppression is far from constituting peace. God is not an impartial spectator turning His back on those who fight to defend what is theirs and much less on those who fight to defend their faith.
God, king and nation.
Sharp are thy arrows, you subject the peoples, the king's enemies lose courage. (Ps 44,6)
Now we enter the field of politics, the complexity of which can only be equalled to its importance. He who says that the faith has nothing to do with politics does not understand the faith. Christianity is a community project and has social aspirations, because the faith has its sense precisely in the influence it exerts on all aspects of human life. Those who have intended to prevent a relationship between faith and politics, and those who accept preventing it, at bottom intend to prevent the faith from having any effect. When religion is enclosed within the personal and individual, it ceases influencing the way believers live, and remains only awaiting its disappearance. This is why the most subtle enemies of religion have not been those who have persecuted it violently but those who get to convince the believer to put his faith aside at the time of acting and thinking. Sanctity is not possible if the ways of the faith are not followed when acting in the time and place it has been one's lot to live.
Joan of Arc saw all her life and her action in the framework of the ministry entrusted to her by God for her country. It is evident that there was nothing in her way of looking or her acting that was not moved by her love of her religion and her God. And in this vision, France and her legendary throne had great importance. Yes, for Joan, France is unthinkable without the Crown. But before delving into this matter, we shall see what was the political situation of Joan's France.
Already prior to the disaster of Agincourt in 1415, the king of France, Charles VI had sunk into a deep madness, and the government of the kingdom was being disputed by the two most powerful individuals: Louis of Orleans, the king's brother, and his uncle Philip II, Duke of Burgundy. The two branches of the House of Valois were about to collide. Louis was assassinated in Paris prior to Agincourt, many seeing the hand of the Burgundians behind such an act. The tension between the two French factions was one of the causes of the lack of leadership in the army, that plunged France into the disaster before England's Henry V. In 1419 John I of Burgundy was brutally assassinated by order of the Dauphin Charles, the future Charles VII and son of Charles VI, the mad. This led to the agreement that established the defeat of France, the Treaty of Troyes of 1420. In it, king Charles VI accepted the English claim to the throne of France, naming Henry V of England his successor, and arranging for his daughter to marry Henry. The Burgundians, rich and powerful owners of a great part of France, accepted the Treaty, and their Duke, Philip III, avenged the assassination of his father, recognizing the English dynasty as the legitimate owner of the throne of France. The Dauphin Charles, son of the king, was fully removed from the line of succession, in this way his demented father indicated that his was an illegitimate son.
The humiliation to a kingdom that for decades had been struggling for its legitimacy was absolute. The king himself in his madness had delivered France to the English, and the most influential persons in the kingdom, the Burgundians, supported him fully. In a short period of time, the Anglo-Burgundians became the legitimate owners of the kingdom, they had more than half of the French territory under their power, including the capital, Paris. The event that prevented this treaty from thriving was that a group of knights, soldiers and clerics opposed the plan of the legitimate king of France because they would not accept the way their country had been sold; those loyal to France were now a faction of rebels. They supported the officially delegitimized Dauphin Charles as the authentic king of France and formed a parallel state South of the Loire. To this desperate group of warriors, situated between fidelity and rebellion, God gave a gift in the form of a courageous girl consecrated to the Lord.
From the 'current' point of view, Joan's mission was not religious in the absolute but political. To her, as a fervent Christian, such distinction had no place. The progressive separation of religion from politics and its conception as a merely personal and dispensable attribute that marks no difference, is what has led Christianity to become a religion with a practically null social influence. That is, it has lost its capacity to change the world. A religion without such strength is intranscendental, merely one more way for personal self realization.
The expulsion of the English and the coronation of Charles as king of France was Joan's mission, and that meant that France and her Crown would occupy the position that God had planned for them. It has been attempted to see in Joan an example of a national fervor, exceeding that of the kings and lords, to incarnate a higher idea of the kingdom as nation and fatherland. This is entirely wrong, since the French loyalists (Armagnacs) had violated the Treaty of Troyes understanding that the authority of a King is not sufficient to defeat a nation. The fifteenth century is supposed to be an advance for the European kingdoms, founded by the barbarian monarchies which now are heading to become the modern states, with great royal authority but at the same time with a concept of kingdom much more advanced than that of the rest of the Middle Ages. Thus, France required a king but at the same time France was something more than the king. This patriotism bears an equilibrium between loyalty to the king and loyalty to the nation, a very delicate equilibrium that in this case was supported only by the faith. And it is that, to the Maid of Orleans, France did not belong to the king nor to the Frenchmen either, not even as an aggregate. France belonged to God and to him that He should entrust her care.
The case of Charles VII is odd. Legitimate king of France by God's will, and apparently an undecided and weak man, he nevertheless brought about excellent fruits for his kingdom. When Joan could finally meet with him at Chinon, he was a discarded candidate, with no ambition or hope, thinking about taking refuge in Castille, with many people ready to fight for what he represented, but without the fortitude for he himself to stand for it. And by the time when Joan dies in Rouen a little more than one year later, he has become the most powerful man in Europe. He was not a king like those who lead their people in battle, he was not a leader nor a warrior like the, by that time dead, Henry V of England, but he proved to be more capable than what anyone might have thought. His figure should be analyzed with caution in the time when he coincides with Saint Joan of Arc, since it would not be the first case of a good king overshadowed by a great figure of lower birth but with an exceptional legend behind. To us Spaniards, a closer example would be that of the great king Alphonsus VI of Castile and León, who made of his kingdom a great power but nevertheless is remembered only for his disagreements with Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the Cid, a capable warlord with his own army and ambitions, and a poem to aggrandize his figure. Are we in the same case with Charles VII the Victorious? Even when he never took part in battles, his kingdom put an end to the Hundred Years' War, expelling the English definitively (with the exception of Calais) in 1453, over twenty years after the death of Joan. During that time, he achieved success, now without the Maid as a leader on his side, but undoubtedly as an intercessor. It is undeniable that an incompetent king would not have put an end to the conflict in the manner that Charles VII attained it.
The problem is that almost all of the Maid's biographies blame the king for turning his back on her during her most ambitious campaign, the liberation of Paris, and also for forsaking her once she was captured. We cannot know whether the king calculated that Joan could not bring him any more benefits but problems instead, or whether his lack of action was simply due to the passive character he displayed at least during the early years after his crowning. We do know that Joan never questioned the king, not even after the disappointments she suffered on his part. She liberated him at Orleans, cleaned up the Loire of his enemies, and culminated her campaign with the glorious battle of Patay, the 'French Agincourt' with the only purpose of taking Charles to be crowned at Reims, which she did achieve, and marked the peak of Joan's short but intense career, which from then on would precipitate toward her being neglected, and ended up in her capture. After this, Charles rewarded her with titles and honors that she never used, and after that, he limited himself to entirely undo the costly but promising siege on Paris which she and the Duke of Alençon had achieved with great effort. It is also evident that Joan would have not suffered such process or death had Charles taken some interest. Some speak of the envy of Charles VII and others of his mere passivity; we don't know; but the case is that Joan died forsaken by the king for whom she herself had obtained the crown, Clearly, Charles was not loyal to Joan as she was loyal to him, but ended up achieving that for which France had fought for 116 years. Joan pulled him out from the losers and put the war in his hand, but then he himself was able to culminate the victory.
Joan of Arc had it quite clear that the first to whom she responded was God, to whom she referred as the King of Heaven. After Him, her unconditional loyalty was to Charles VII. Undoubtedly, Joan had to experience the conflict between the divine mission entrusted to her by God, and her obedience to king Charles. After his crowning, Charles began a policy that pretended to resolve the conflict by means of pacts and negotiations with England and Burgundy, while Joan knew that it was necessary to take advantage of the emotional moment to expel the enemies of the kingdom by force. It is possible that, had the Maid's opinion prevailed, the war would have ended much earlier than 1453. Aware that the king was not in favor of the task of continuing the hostilities, Joan kept on fighting because her mission prevailed over the royal opinion; God must be obeyed before obeying men (Acts 5, 29). Nevertheless she never disobeyed Charles VII directly; she even stopped the attack on Paris at his order, not without pain and frustration. Even at her last moments, in front of the stake, with the executioner ready, Joan raised her voice strongly to defend Charles VII when one of the judges accused him of being an apostate and schismatic. Not in the worst of situations did Joan consider herself with authority to judge the king for his behavior or decisions, even when on more than one occasion they could be a cause for great disappointment to her. We know this with certainty because if Joan's biographies were to have been motivated by a republican patriotism of the nineteenth century, her absolute loyalty to the king would not have been even mentioned and if, on the contrary, they were to have been motivated by a purely monarchic interest, her having been abandoned by Charles VII would have not been so clear to us.
The lessons we can learn here from Joan and her people are valuable. An undeserving king does not make a kingdom or the Crown undeserving, and this even when Charles VII is far from being counted among the most undeserving kings, despite his clear forsaking of Joan. We Spaniards know quite well what is an undeserving king, maybe better than in any other kingdom, as more or less centuries can be counted since the Spanish monarchy is not up to the stature of what it should represent. This notwithstanding, and aware of this situation, many Spaniards have never ceased to defend the monarchy, because it forms an essential part of what Spain is. When Spain is deprived of the crown, it ceases to be Spain, she becomes something else; the same way that the French Republic born in 1792 is not the true France, the one founded on the Frank monarchs and the Catholic Church. Therefrom derives that the French politicians and nationalists ridicule themselves when they wave republican flags around monuments to Joan of Arc: the flag of a secular republic before the monument to a woman who knew that France was a design of God entrusted to a Crown. In addition, anyone who approaches history with a sincere mind, can see that France, Russia, and more recently, Spain, are some examples of the rule that republics have always led to terror, cruelty and division. The Maid used to say that Charlemagne and Saint Louis were constantly before God to intercede for France. This is why we must be clear that, above all, what constitutes a nation is God, because power only comes from God and only he to whom God grants it occupies it legitimately: Nations do not belong to kings nor to parties nor to citizens as a whole; nations belong to God.
Christians who keep committing themselves to the fight for their faith and for their country these days should not exclude Saint Joan of Arc as a referent and protectress. She experienced the desperation of an ancestral country that saw its days numbered; the passivity and lack of nobility of a king for whom many were ready to fight, treason committed by an important and influential part of the nation for ambition motives, the complexes of the ruling class and their fear of being marked as bellicose or impulsive; even disbelief, in the form of blasphemous compatriots and cowardly clerics without strength or fire. To us Spanish Catholics, all this is terribly familiar; nonetheless, this is not a sufficient reason to make the saints, or those who turn to God through their intercession, capitulate. An undeserving political or religious authority does not suffice; a powerful, inflamed enemy with the world in his hands is not sufficient; one or one hundred unbelieving or unpatriotic generations are not sufficient.
Joan of Arc, the Saint.
Be holy because I, the Lord your God am Holy (Lv 19, 2)
The common thing that can be traced behind every saint is his full commitment to the divine cause, a cause that very often ends up destroying them. Joan, as did her Lord Jesus Christ, left her home to fulfill the mission that God had clearly entrusted to her; she kindled love and envy among her people, and ended up dying accused of treason and heresy. Martyrdom is the culmination of sincerity and commitment with what was done and said while alive. This is why God grants holiness to people.
Holiness, ever since the ancient Hebrew tradition, is God's principal attribute. What has been touched and blessed by God sheds holiness, and an impeccable life in conformity with the precepts of the ancient people of Israel was what made the faithful resemble God and made them, like Him, holy. This is why it is truly said that God only is holy, since the persons of whom such an attribute is recognized are those whose life is the reflected presence of God. What concept of sanctity do we have today? In general, it is usually reduced to a moral category in a religious frame. There is no doubt that sanctity derives necessarily into a moral rectitude, exemplary for all, but it is more than that; indeed, we could state that the moral strength of a saint is not a cause but a consequence of his holiness. What would define sanctity is rather the total closeness, trust, and obedience to God, and that turns itself into words and deeds.
Religious zeal is what is behind all acts of saints, both the most tender and the most severe. This way, the infantile and irresponsible do-goodism preached by the dictatorship of the progressivist world has no place in the Christian faith. A gaze that, in order to pass itself off as good avoids responsibility, takes ignorance and simplicity as virtues and refrains from seeing the reality, is not the gaze of a saint, is not the gaze of God. True goodness aims not to be seen but to be fruitful, and commitment to it may sometimes lead to situations where others put it into question. The Gospel constantly shows that he who speaks with sincerity for a just motive is exposed to rejection, as it happens with Jesus. On hearing, many said: This saying is hard and who can hear it? (John 6,61). This is why tolerance and consent to the ultimate extremes are not Christian virtues. Like Jesus, Joan of Arc showed herself sweet and respectful when it had to be that way, and implacable and tough when that was required. Step by step, Joan of Arc is a frontal defiance to all those values that the world of 'progress' wants to impose on us.
Joan's humility never translated into an inability or hesitation to act. The key is that it simply was about a Christian maid with no complexes. The number of complexes that burden so many catholics as a result of assimilating the intense, ideological, discrediting campaign against the traditional structures that form the spirit of the West, is impacting; this campaign has taken seat in the progressivist politics with which the Christian and Western legacy are attacked. Through movies and television, through public education, through advertising, and through many other forms, we are being bombarded with their radical leftist ideology. The great movements of cultural and historical revenge that destroy the form of life of our predecessors are now at their strongest. Cultural marxism has entrenched itself in the spaces from where it reaches our youth to preach to them the revenge of the poor against the rich, the cruelty of men against the perfect innocence of women, the oppression of the white man against the purity of the black men. In the face of this offensive, the general response of so many Christians is silence, consent, or assimilation, because we have a problem with our complexes.
A complex translates itself into fear, fear into passivity, and passivity makes one an accomplice. All these contemporary complexes which have been imposed on us, European Christians, distance us from sanctity because we become afraid of being faithful. If we preach our faith sincerely, we will be accused of hatred, of offending, of being discriminatory; the fear of offending paralyzes us. Did Jesus fear offending someone? Did Joan fear offending when she slapped someone who had blasphemed, or slapped prostitutes to drive them away from the army? The fear to provoke offense is a scourge which is dangerously near making us lose entirely the sense of Christian mission. So as not to offend, ever fewer pastors of the Church raise their voice when feminism converts the denial of the right to life into a basic human right, or when the racial revenge movements raze churches and statues of all those who did not share their exact thinking patterns, although these are less inclusive. In many other cases, we directly get to see Christians and even bishops happily approve of these currents of destruction of the culture, accept toleration of blasphemy as something good, or pretend not to hear when the genocidal and torturing regime of the Second Republic in Spain is presented as a perfect model of liberty, thus humiliating those who still remember the victims to which the freedom fighters tortured and murdered for no other reason than their social or religious position. It would seem that do-goodism has made us believe that sin no longer has the capacity of making souls, nations and civilizations become lost. So as not to appear to be radical, we have lost respect for evil, considering it a small accident with no importance, as though it were something God doesn't care about. And where there is no belief in the force of evil, no space is given to the need for salvation. Consequently, faith and salvation get relegated to mere unimportant symbolisms, which count nothing for salvation, because what only counts is 'being good'.
I burn in zeal for your cause, Lord God of the armies, but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well. (1 Kings 19, 14).
The cry of Isaiah the prophet could be that of many of us and in it is shown that the more adverse the situation is, the greater the fire of love for the cause; cause forsaken, trodden, and blamed in a traitorous fashion for the faults of humankind. Joan of Arc consecrated her body and soul to this cause, which at the time was not passing an easy moment either. The Church of the fifteenth century was full of divisions and scandals, and lacked the strength to straighten out the great problems of her time. The national churches began gestating strongly, as a symbol of the royal power that was distancing itself from Rome. Gallicanism and the Hussites were less successful attempts than what Luther was able to achieve in the following century, that is, create a Christianity without head or unity, at the convenience of each region. When many people saw in the Catholic Church only corruption or interference in the sovereignty of kings, Joan was a zealous defender of the Universal Church. She wanted to battle the Hussites, and would have opposed the Protestant rupture had she lived at that time. In her trial, her appeal to the Pope and to the Council of Constance, to whom she asked to subject herself fully in her case, was ignored. Why did Joan so blindly trust an entity that was losing her prestige and strength every day? Because, as any extraordinary person, she could see beyond, and knew that corruption, scandal and division are not enough to delegitimize the Church; that the human cannot drive out the divine. She proclaimed that God and the Church were for her one and the same thing, all this in the trial that would lead her to the stake. We should fully discard that she could be an opponent of the despotic and corrupt Church, and who so affirms cannot give a greater sign of ignorance about the Maid. However, she is a victim of a party of clergymen totally sold out to a political cause, All this, due to the weakness of the Papacy, because when the Universal Church is not strong, it is inevitable that she will follow behind the dominant currently in vogue.
And it is well known that this is not the first time that the Church hierarchy turn their backs to those who have stood up for them. In the Thirteenth century, Joan's martyrdom could not have taken place through ecclesial channels, but in Joan's days, Peter's Chair could hardly guarantee the universality of the Church; evidence of this weakness is that Rome was only able to declare the process null, but was not able to prevent it; and all this only when France was raising as the clear victor in the conflict in 1453. Joan had refused to submit herself to her judges as she would not recognize them as legitimate ecclesiastical judges but as clerics loyal to the King of England, clergy that a century later would support almost unanimously Henry VIII’s break with Rome and assumption of control over the Church in England so as to be able to enter a second marriage. Instead, she appealed to the Pope and the Council of Constance, where the authority of the Church was legitimately assembled under their own power, not that of any concrete monarchy. She had also been examined by clerics loyal to Charles VII in Poitiers and they were unable to declare anything against her, even when she had not yet achieved any victory and there was no partisan motive to commend her; rather, they were assuming a risk in blessing the mission of a devote peasant who was only bringing promises.
A woman who at thirteen decides to devote herself entirely to serve God and remain a virgin and be obedient is not a model to which today's women and men look up for their aspirations, but she is the kind of people who God chooses to leave their mark in history and to carry out His salvific plans. It is important to stress that persons as she, the saints, cannot be claimed by anyone who does not share in their cause. Neither Liberalism nor feminism, nor godless patriotism can appropriate Joan of Arc, because during her entire life she showed to be quite a saint of the Church.
Any intent to understand this saint from a faithless reasoning is useless. She, as any other saint, in the eyes of any faithless person would not cease to be other than someone with a strong psychological unbalance. Mad, fanatic or radical, are some of the adjectives with which the unbeliever explains those persons who are extraordinary for their faith. This is why ignoring the saints or granting them lesser credibility in conformity with individual preferences is a signal of a faith needing polishing. Joan is a perfect image of what Western Christians could get to become before the so-called Enlightenment and her children began to slowly extirpate the soul of our nations, cultures and persons, and of what we still can be if we are strong enough to reject the poisonous prejudices which have been heaped on all of us. She reclaimed not only individual rights, she did not demand for her nor for anyone absolute liberty that exempts responsibility, she did not wish to take up all the disgraces of humankind on herself or on her sex to make themselves ideological victims, she did not pretend to put upside down the world that had given her the faith, all this because she loved her God and His kingdom before herself.
There are always motives for hope. The devotional aspects of Joan and her martyrdom have been shared by many saints in many ages, but also before and after her, there have been people like her, holy warriors; as when Christianity has to fight one way or another, people like her will be produced as long as there is faith. The Church does not err in recognizing her saints, but many are those that are not recognized, many are the bodies that ended destroyed by the enemy after the fight and even with the weapon in their hand, bathed in the snows of Russia, the fogs of th North of Europe, or the sands of the Middle East, defending their people and the faith in their God. There are no motives to surrender; Saint Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, offers herself as a powerful intercessor of those Maccabees that at all times have risen to put themselves between the enemy and the people of God.