I was reading Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc… If I didn’t know otherwise, I would have thought that he was a Catholic a devoted follower of St. Joan… it’s a bit ironic that he was against religion, specifically the Catholic Church
There is a scene that struck me to the core because I so completely relate to it.
The Large Dwarf
A large French man goes AWOL after being denied permission to visit his dying wife (and returning). Well… he leaves after he found out his wife had passed away.
Knowing the penalty, he left to bury his wife and returned, hoping to be put to death. But, after losing his daughter and now his wife, he lost the will to live. He very much wanted to die.
Well, he was captured and was waiting to be condemned when Joan of Arc saw him in a cart.
She inquires about why he was bound, and the captain explained that he deserted his post.
She asked for more details, and the captain reported that he was a dutiful soldier but left his post. He returned the following night and handed himself in.
She then commanded that he be brought before her.
She saw blood seeping from his hands due to the ropes where she cut him free and proceeded to clean and wrap his wounds, much to the captain’s protest.
The man confessed his crimes before Joan, who immediately pardoned him. She asked why he returned, and he said
“Because it was dead. She was all I had. There was nothing left to love.”
Joan immediately counters with, “Ah, yes, there was – France! The children of France have always their mother – they cannot be left with nothing to love. You shall live – and you shall serve France – ”
Thus here comes the main dialogue that genuinely struck me in the heart.
“I will serve you!” The man proclaims
“you shall fight for France – ” Joan requested
“I will fight for you!” The man counters louder
“You shall be France’s soldier – ” Joan.
“I will be your soldier!” Man
“you shall give all your heart to France – ” Joan.
“I will give all my heart to you – and all my soul, if I have one – and all my strength, which is great – for I was dead and am alive again; I had nothing to live for, but now I have! You are France for me. You are my France, and I will have no other.” Man
The only thing. THE ONLY thing missing from this was Saint Joan looking at the dwarf with a warm smile and with a shake of the head, “If only God is served first. God must be served first in all things.”
How I imagine the dwarf would drop everything and serve God in a heartbeat at the request of his France. How perfect this scene would be. “I will serve God for you! I will love God with all my heart, for He sent you to me. It is through you that He gave me new life and purpose! Oh, what a blessing and treasure that He sent France to me! I will fight for God under France!”
Thus Joan accepts the captain under her watch and teaches him how to love the Lord more perfectly.
This hit me like a bullet train. And I thank God for pointing this out to me, and I thank St. Joan for the light bulb moment.
I realized that Joan was pretty much talking to me as if I and another were having a conversation. I was at the point of giving up when I found St. Joan.
When she appeared in my life, she was blatantly asking not to give up and pick yourself back up. You’ll get through this. She was asking me to come back and defend the church. Moreso, to serve the church.
I willingly agreed with all my heart and love, and more so, I said, I will not only serve the Church, but I will also serve and love God with all my heart and being. I will love and serve Mary with all my heart. I will love and serve St. Joan with all my heart.
I’m thinking to myself…. “Joan, you brought me back from the abyss. I will fight for God under your banner if you have me. So lead on, my general!”
In Mark Twain’s book, the dwarf was appointed as one of Joan’s personal bodyguards. Thus, he went from a lowly rank and file to honored soldier, not because of his strength (which was considerable) but for his desire and zeal to serve.
Would you not want to serve the one that picked you up?
You might be wondering why not just serve God? And that’s a fair question. So why are you emphasizing St. Joan?
Think of Heaven as a kingdom. Just as any earthly kingdom, Heaven has its hierarchy, which leads directly to the top, to God. In serving your superior, you are serving God. In honoring a saint, you honor their memory, but you also recognize God’s power and might manifest in their lives. Moreso now, more than ever, now that those saints are in Heaven.
Think of the Kingdom of Heaven as an army. Each unit has a captain. Each captain, a general. General to field marshals, etc., Until you get to the top of the top. Commander and Chief, Jesus. We have an Earthly army, the hierarchy of the Church that points our attention to God.
Just as Deacons might be officers and priests our captains, we need generals like the bishops and the field marshal to command and organize the soldiers, right?
Well, double that now. Because Catholics aren’t just a part of a physical army or physical kingdom, they are also members of a spiritual kingdom and army.
I can even think that our guardian angels are like the grizzly veteran teamed with us rookie soldiers. They know what the battlefield is like, and they help us in the everyday battle against evil, to say yes to God and no to ourselves.
When we choose to honor a saint or patron saint, we recognize and obey the chain of command. Moreso, the captains are so perfectly united to the Lord’s will that they will never lead us astray. They always point us back to the Lord’s banner. When we are lost in the fields of this world, we have only to look upward to find our flags.
We can then reorient ourselves and return to our captains, who will rejoice in finding a lost comrade who was lost and is now located.
Humans are physical and spiritual creatures. We have a physical body and a soul. Sometimes we need a physical presence to make sure we’re on the correct spiritual path. Thus we have the laws and precepts of the church. They aren’t to restrict our freedom but to protect us from poison.
And sometimes, we need some spiritual help. Sometimes this is our guardian angel. Sometimes a saint, but it will lead us back to our supreme commander and chief in all cases.
The Saints will point us in that direction. Sometimes we feel so disconnected from God, and that’s when they help us. And when we stray off the path, they remind us.
“Let God be served first.”- St. Joan.
They’ll point us in the right direction. Our Heavenly captains are pretty good at that.
Since encountering St. Joan of Arc, I had hope and faith in God’s love for me where it was sorely lacking. Yet, I was unable to perceive or recognize God’s love. I knew logically it was there, but I just couldn’t experience it… not with all these concerns and worries in my heart, mind, and soul.
It’s almost like trying to cross an abyss over a small wooden board in the pitch of night with no light source. You don’t want to fall, but you know you can’t stay. You are paralyzed with that fear.
Then a guide shows up and takes you by the hand, “Close your eyes and follow.” You hear.
You do as you are told to follow along. Then, trusting your companion and guide, you inch hesitantly, on wobbling back and forth, side to side, trying to gain your balance.
You start to get the groove and take more confident steps, knowing your friend won’t let you down. Soon enough, you’re across the abyss, the darkness has cleared, and you see who led you across.
You’re in the arms of Jesus, who waited patiently for saying, “I know you could do it. You just needed extra help.”
Our escort bows before us, “I’m glad I could be of service. For my King and Kingdom.”
We, recognizing the contribution of our guide, drop to our knees before God and ask, “Dear Lord, if it is most pleasing to you, I would like to serve under our friend in thanks and recognition of their help. I feel I can best build up your kingdom serving under them.”
Our King smiles, recognizing our love for him and desire to build up his kingdom. At the same time, he sees our love for our guide is a reflection of our love for Him.
So just as we serve under Mary, St. Joan, or another Saint, we are serving God. In honoring the saint, God imparts special graces into our heart, filling us with the ability to love Him even more.
Yep, I needed extra help haha.
Well, you know who fixed that. Since encountering St. Joan, I was able to embrace God confidently, in good and hard times. Some days, it’s still a challenge, and I accept that, but when I feel overwhelmed, I know my captain is right behind me whispering, “Don’t give up.” She is still gently guiding me… and at times, when I’m stubborn, pushing or pulling me along.
So just like the dwarf in Mark Twain’s book, we owe service to our captains who gave us a renewed purpose. In serving St. Joan, we serve God more perfectly.