I absolutely adore this picture…. absolute perfection. Expect it a lot in this series… Anytime I see it, I’m filled with absolute wonder and awe. It’s very fitting for the relationship we will explore in this series as well as their roles as the secondary patrons saints of France. I hope I am honoring them well in this series and hope that none of my words will displease them.
I’ve been eagerly wanting to write on this for a while the relationship between a Carmelite nun during the later 19th century and a holy French woman who saved France during the early 15th century.
How can a nun and a general separated by about 500 years have so much in common? How can they be spiritual sisters?
In thinking about and pondering this series, I had no idea where to go and where to start.
It’s a bit ironic because I went to St. Therese church for Mass. After Mass, I knelt in her chapel and asked my beloved rose, “My dear sister, I want to write about you and St. Joan. But I have nowhere to go and nowhere to start. Please help me write something that pleasing to both of you.”
I stood up, still unsure of where to go and how to start. I thought to myself, well, I think of something when it comes to me. Yet nothing popped into my mind.
That was the case until I stumbled across a quote that inspired me.
My dear readers, I have no idea how long (I’m not going to say ‘short’ in this case) this series will be. But, if I get inspired by one of the dynamic duo, you can bet Imma write up a storm.
However, I do have an idea of writing about these two. The first two posts will be on how each fills out the other’s role perfectly. You’ll see what I mean.
St. Therese the Carmelite Warrior
How can a nun be a warrior and soldier? Especially a small, frail young woman who was too sickly to be a missionary. How it must have wounded Therese significantly.
Yet, St. Therese understood that she would be fighting a war for the spirit of France, just as St. Joan had fought some 600 years before.
As St. Therese was lying in her convent’s infirmary due to her tuberculosis, her Mother Superior, who was also her older sister who raised her after the passing of their mother, Mother Agnes, said, “Our warrior is down.”
What a remarkable statement; Mother Agnes recognized that her younger sister was a warrior for God.
Yet Saint Therese knew all too well, “I’m not a warrior who has fought with earthly arms but with ‘the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. And this sickness hasn’t been able to break me, and no later than yesterday evening, I made use of my sword with a novice. I told her, ‘I’ll die with my weapons in my hands.'”
Just as Saint Joan was armed with a sword and banner to deliver France, St. Therese used her prayer and cross as her banner, offering it up for the salvation of France.
France’s War for Survival
During the life of St. Therese, France was living through the Second Republic. This republic had overthrown the Second French Empire ruled under Napoleon II.
This new republic was extremely secular and masonic in nature. It disdained the Church and sought to curb the influence of the Church. Not in the government. The government was already free from Church influence.
No, now the government wanted to stomp out the Church in the everyday life of the ordinary French citizen. In some parts of France, specifically in Paris, this was a largely successful campaign. Decadence and vice ran rampant without the influence of the Church.
But how did the French Republic go about stomping the church out?
- Control of the education system. People fail to see that Catholic Church, especially under the Jesuit Order, was a beating heart for rigorous academic faith.
- Religious instruction in all schools was forbidden. Religious orders were forbidden to teach.
- Civil Marriage, i.e., Marriage overseen by the government, was mandatory. Thus the French trying to remove one of the seven fundamental sacraments of the Church.
- Divorce was introduced, a very uncommon practice in a devout Roman Catholic country, as the church does not recognize divorce.
- Chaplains were removed from the army, thus forcing devout Catholics to leave the army for the soldiers to be devout followers of the Faith.
By 1902, Emile Combes, the Prime Minister, closes down all parochial schools in France. Then all fifty-four religious orders in France were dissolved, and 20,000 religious members left France.
1905, a law was passed that officially marked the separation of Church and state, meaning that the state confiscated all Church property. In addition, the state no longer paid religious personnel.
The government worked with Masonic lodges to create secret surveillance of all army officers to make Catholic soldiers were not promoted.
The beating Catholic heart of France was under fierce assault. It was a dark moment for the soul of France, and St. Therese knew this.
There were talks that the secular government wanted to deal a death blow Catholicism, but how?
What if they took the beating heart of Catholicism, a symbol that all Catholics could recognize, and turn this symbol into a war hero of the secular, anti-Catholic France.
The government had eyes on St. Joan of Arc. Their goal was to make Joan the Third Republic and national hero icon, ignoring the young woman’s faith, and only promoting her national zeal.
I won’t lie… reading this… it was hard for me to understand. There was no way St. Joan could be separated from her faith, yet that’s what the government sought.
St. Therese would not allow this. In 1888, the Little Flower knelt before the feet of Pope Leo XIII, and pleaded for the canonization of the Young Made of Orleans.
Thus, Pope Leo XIII dealt the Republic a stinging defeat. He marked 1894 “the Joan of Arc Year” in France and elevating the future saint to the status of Venerable- declaring that St. Joan had good and admirable faith that inspires all Catholics.
The Third Republic would not take this lying down and declare after the Catholic Church’s proclamation that May 8 would be a national holiday. This holiday marked the victory of St. Joan’s victory at Orleans.
The French Republic and Church had two separate days that celebrated Joan of Arc, The victory of Orleans on May 8, and May 30, the day of her death.
St. Therese wrote a power prayer, the Canticle for the Canonization of St. Joan, on May 8, 1894, praying to God that Saint Joan of Arc is recognized as a Saint for her heroic deeds and death. At the same time, the prayer pleaded that Saint Joan of Arc watch over and protect her beloved France.
What stunned both the freemasons and the secular governments was the religious support that St. Joan had on May 8. Instead of attending parades to honor the Republic led by their secular Joan, the French people celebrated the holiday by honoring St. Joan of Arc’s faith by attending church. The French people still remember the pious woman and sought to honor her and her remarkable faith.
The Church would ultimately have the final victory. For in 1920, with the genuine possibility of a Communism revolution in France, Pope Pius XI, canonized Saint Joan of Arc in 1920. Remarkably enough, in acknowledging the deep-seated connection between St. Joan and St. Therese, the Little Flower was canonized a Saint five years and one day after her hero Joan of Arc was canonized.
On the day of St. Therese’s canonization, Pope Pius XI addressed a group of French Pilgrims, calling the Little Flower “A new Joan of Arc.”
During WW2, Pope Pius XII name Therese the secondary patron of France, the equal of her heavenly sister, Joan of Arc.
The Victory of the Little Flower
The young Carmelite had won the battle over the memory and soul of her heavenly sister. Through prayer and faith, St. Joan will always be remembered as the devout Catholic Saint of France who will always defend her country in times of hardship.
Saint Joan of Arc prays for all those going through trials and tribulations. We give her honor by remembering that Joan of Arc was faithful to God and Church, even to the point of death. She will always be in our hearts as the humble woman who saved her country from imminent destruction.
Just as St. Therese was the noble warrior who fought for France’s spiritual survival, we can learn something from both of their sacrifices during these uncertain times. A warrior nun won the soul of France by taking up the cross and fighting. Fighting for survival doesn’t always mean physically, but it can also be on the spiritual battlefield.
St. Therese, help us to be mindful that all our actions have ramifications on the spiritual battlefield that you knew all too well.
Next time, we will be looking at the spirituality of St. Joan of Arc and how it is so easily reflected and enhanced by St. Therese. I want to end this article with a prayer that St. Therese wrote after seeing a statue of her saintly sister.
O Lord God of Hosts, who hast said in Thy Gospel: “I am not come
to bring peace but a sword,” arm me for the combat. I burn to
do battle for Thy Glory, but I pray Thee to enliven my
courage. . . . Then with holy David I shall be able to exclaim:
“Thou alone art my shield; it is Thou, O Lord Who teachest my
hands to fight.”
O my Beloved, I know the warfare in which I am to engage; it is
not on the open field I shall fight … I am a prisoner held
captive by Thy Love; of my own free will I have riveted the
fetters which bind me to Thee, and cut me off for ever from the
world. My sword is Love! with it–like Joan of Arc — “I will drive
the strangers from the land, and I will have Thee proclaimed
King” — over the Kingdom of souls.
Of a truth Thou hast no need of so weak an instrument as I, but
Joan, thy chaste and valiant Spouse, has said: “We must do battle
before God gives the victory.” O my Jesus! I will do battle, then,
for Thy love, until the evening of my life. As Thou didst not will
to enjoy rest upon earth, I wish to follow Thy example; and then
this promise which came from thy Sacred Lips will be fulfilled in
me: “If any man minister to me, let him follow Me, and where I am
there also shall My servant be, and … him will My Father
honour.” To be with Thee, to be in Thee, that is my one
desire; this promise of fulfilment, which Thou dost give, helps me
to bear with my exile as I wait the joyous Eternal Day when I
shall see Thee face to face.