“I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it out. Will you follow where I lead?”Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc
These few short sentences struck a chord in me. It resonated in my heart, and I went to bed pondering those words. If you are unfamiliar with where this quote comes from, don’t worry; I’ll tell you. It’s a quote from Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc, when she talks to a soldier and self-proclaimed knight following her on the road from Vaouculier to Chinon.
She confronts this bold man, full of pomp and pride, yet Joan looks past all that. She looks into the heart of one of those soldiers following her. There is potential in this young paladin, and she sees it. We, in some aspects, are like that proud, haughty Paladin, full of words, full of tales of success fighting for King Charles VII. We are marching to our own drum to a field unknown to fight for some timid human king.
However, we are on the wrong path. We must be marching to see the King of Heaven rather than an earthly king. It is a long road, full of ambushes, traps, and enemy armies. Soldiers grew fatigued and decided to go home. Soldiers are caught in these surprise attacks and perish. Worse yet, soldiers maybe even turncoat and join the enemy ranks.
Yet Saint Joan of Arc turns to you, yes, you, and asks, “You began badly, but improved. Will you follow where I lead?”
Well, where is she leading us? She desires to lead us to victory. Joan leads us to our Lord and his Queen Mother, who eagerly awaits his faithful soldiers to fight. This king is a different sort of king. He isn’t full of pomp and circumstance; this King loves each and every single soldier in his army. He wishes that we will join Him in celebration, everlasting once the enemy is defeated.
What of his mother, the Queen? She is a kind and gentle soul to those who love and honor her Son and Her. She is the Mother of the Kingdom, looking after not only her subjects, but her children.
There is where Saint Joan is leading us. She is leading us to the King, and sometimes we need a guide, and she is offering to be our guide in this life.
Dear readers, we find ourselves waging an unceasing war in the material and spiritual worlds. We find ourselves beset by the world, ourselves, and Satan himself. This battle is the most decisive one that we will fight. It is for our soul. Our enemies are numerous and treacherous, brazen and cunning, using subterfuge and outright attacks to assault our bastions of faith.
During these dark moments, how easy it is to feel alone. How easy it is to fall into despair and destitution as these enemies laugh at our feeble counterattacks. In these dark times, we need help, unceasing help. We need reinforcements to give us relief and peace. We need time to prepare and rebuild.
That is when our Lord and King of our hearts and souls send one of His most trusted captains and shepherd… or shepherdess in this case. No other than the Saint Joan of Arc. The remarkable, famous, humble, and pious young woman who restored France from its darkest hour.
The Point of a Retreat
A retreat or pilgrimage is a time of reflection and recollection. It is a time for an individual to put down the cell phone, log off the computer, and become more familiar with themselves. It is undoubtedly a daunting task now more than ever. Our world is filled with so many lights and flashing screens, each vying for control over our attention. We move from one thing to another without really taking stock in ourselves or the Lord.
That is why I think retreats are essential now more than ever. How can we possibly know ourselves or the Lord if we are under constant bombardment from the world? Whether it be the t.v., computer, or workplace, each one of these things tries. That’s why I ask that while we follow Joan’s lead, we turn off all of these distractions and let Jeanne guide us back to the Lord.
We know His call, for we are a part of His flock, but sometimes we become lost and confused. We hear His voice, but we don’t know how to traverse the chasms and pits of the world to come back. That is when the Lord, in all his wisdom, sends one of his helpers to guide us back on the path.
Often this journey, following a particular helper, is transformative. This, I believe, is the retreat, where we are led back to the pastoral grounds. This retreat aims to contemplate and follow Saint Joan back to the Lord and change something in our lives when we officially end the retreat on the tenth day. What purpose does it gain someone to go through a withdrawal then goes back to the former life they lived?
Let us make this path together, following in Saint Joan’s footsteps, changing something, or anything. Ideally, I hope that this retreat will foster, cultivate and deepen your relationship with Joan, who will lead us to our Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Blessed Mother. For the end goal is always our Lord.
All of the Saints in heaven are cheering for us. They all want to see us accomplish the race, yet they are people too. Sure, they are no longer with us physically on Earth, but they are with us spiritually. This spiritual bond, which can only occur in the Body of Christ, is one of the most profound bonds we can experience, for it is just scratching the surface of the bond that we will share with the Lord once we are in Heaven, God willing.
The Maid of Lorraine
So the question that needs to be asked is, why Joan of Arc? Who is she, and why should we care about her?
This question has bothered me a great deal. Not in the ways you might imagine. This saint introduced herself to me in such a brilliant way. It was after studying Saint Therese and praying to her, that Joan came barging through the door. I often joke that Saint Therese knocks, and Joan kicks down the door. How true it is.
See, each saint has a particular personality. Even though they might not be with us physically, they are still with us spiritually. Just because they are in Heaven, doesn’t mean they don’t have their unique personality. One might be joyous and eager, another quiet and contemplative. Studying Joan and Therese, I found the two were linked in the most extraordinary of ways. Everyone knows of St. Therese’s Little Way. We need to remain trusting and child-like in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Yet, I found in Saint Joan. The Little Way amplified to do great things. She was a great and powerful general who marked the end of the 100 Years War. Yet, deep down, she was humble and pious in all things. She practiced the Little Way before Saint Therese codified and expanded upon it. Saint Therese wrote the spirituality behind the Little Way, and Saint Joan put it into practice.
Saint Joan eagerly motivates us to put our faith in God and to let Him work through us. It is her prayers that push us to put in the extra effort. Her intercession instills in us a specific desire to fight in the Lord’s army, to be a proud soldier while staying humble child of God.
In designing this retreat, we will look at the life of Saint Joan. We will see her spirituality in action, in her words, and in the words of those that knew her. At the same time, we will prayerfully contemplate her life. We will put ourselves in her life as a friend and soldier in her army.
Just as the Paladin started off badly, we are all in different stages in the road, and Joan sees this. She calls us to march under her banner, saying, “Follow me, and I will help you turn into the person God calls you to be.” It’s a hard thing to accept such a call. A humble nineteen-year-old girl is asking us to follow, obey, and know her.
Why me? You might be asking, or why do I need her? Why does she need me?
Well, let me answer the latter question first. The truth is you don’t need her. You can make this journey by yourself, or under Mary, or by any other Saint, but it leads to the same place, hopefully to the Lord. But let me pose a question back to you. Why would you reject a young, kind, gentle-hearted woman who seeks to be your friend? This woman sees the person who you are and whom you are meant to be, and it grieves her just as much as it grieves her Lord how often we fall due to our blindness.
Our beloved Lord and Queen sent out his trusted captain to whip us back into shape. Joan doesn’t see those under her banner as just soldiers but as the dearest of friends and companions. She sees the potential in all of us, and she asks us to follow along closely. She turns to you and says, “You have just started, and you have stumbled many times, but I will help you, my dear soldier, for I wish for us to become intimate friends.”
I choose to accept the offer of help, not necessarily because I want the help. Instead, I accept the help because it’s coming from a person who truly seeks to be one of my closest friends. And together, we shall all march under Saint Joan’s banner proclaiming Jhesus and Maria loudly and joyfully.
So my challenge to you, my dear reader, is not to fall behind and be lamented by young King Charles VII. We have many worries that ache our hearts. We face in surmountable challenges of the day, or we may find ourselves trapped in a palace of mundane comforts of routine and habit as our kingdoms are chipped away piece by piece. Let us be vigilant and mindful of all things that we do. Let us take stock of our kingdoms, and look at the trajectory it is heading. Let us not be like lulled into a false of security or despondent with fear and anxieties. When we have a young humble asking you, “Will you follow me where I lead?” I hope you too will nod and accept the offer.
Hello dear reader, I apologize for my delay in posting. It’s been a hectic period. I am currently in the middle of transitioning between jobs, hence the lack of posting, but it seems I will have a new job. Though it will pay significantly less, I feel like the Lord is calling me to take it on. As such, I started my red bubble store. If anyone wants to support me there, I have only two designs, but more will be coming!
This excerpt is from a book I am currently working on La Pucelle: A Nine Day Retreat with Joan of Arc. I will be posting some sections until it is completed.
What I do ask is if you could spread the word about this blog and my store. If you know anyone who might be interested, any help at all would be greatly appreciated! Click hear