La Pucelle: Nine Day Retreat with Joan of Arc-Chapter 1

Hello, my dear readers! I wanted to mix things up again. This is a segment out of the book I am currently writing, La Pucelle: Nine Day Retreat with Saint Joan of Arc.  This comes from Chapter 1: Over the Hills and Valleys of Domremy.  

I hope this inspires you- I know it’s a bit different from my usual tone and style of writing. It’s supposed to be contemplative by nature and really take us back in time and to really meet and form a friendship with St. Joan of Arc.  

If there is interest in this, I might continue to post little excerpts and reflections. Anyway! Let’s meet St. Joan

Chapter 1: Over the Hills and Valleys of Domremy

It was one particular morning we look out from the window to see the snow completely gone. Instead, we are greeted with vibrant and sage greens from the trees. Opening the window, we are met with the fresh and warm air of springtime.  

“Dear friend.”  

Turning around, we are greeted by Joan in a simple hazel work dress and shoes. As usual, she was the first one in her family up. So we shouldn’t be surprised. “Ah, good morning Joan,”

Our friend bows her head in greeting, “Would you like to accompany me while I tend the sheep. We must find greener pastures for the little ones.”   

We nod, for we don’t wish to leave a friend alone. Yet unexpectedly, she takes our hand and practically drags us out of the house. There is no point in trying to slow Joan down. Once she has an idea in her head, there is no changing it. We put on our morning cloaks and head outside to the animal pen.  

Opening up the gate, Joan calls out each sheep by name. The animals file out like orderly soldiers, looking to their fearless shepherdess for their marching orders. It’s odd to see the sheep waiting patiently for their leader. Just as the Lord said, “My sheep know my voice.” 

Well, Joan’s sheep know her voice. That is clear to see. Once the herd was out, we close the gate and walk with our friend. The early risers of the village greet the maiden, “Ah, Joan is tending her’s father sheep again!” 

The people of Domremy were acquainted with the sight of Joan and her sheep as she waved at her neighbors and friends. “I much prefer to be with the sheep,” Joan confessed as we continued through the village. “I don’t mind spinning, but there is just something refreshing in being with the animals.” She smiled towards the herd that followed her. 

“Being outdoors helps, too.” We add.

Joan looks up to us with a smile and nods, “Yes, it’s so easy to find God’s Hand in nature. With the sheep, in the trees, skies, and streams.”  

Upon leaving the village, we come across a large sprawling tree that hung low with drooping leaves. Upon closer inspection, we see blue, and violet ribbons are tied around the lower branches. “What is this?”  

Joan pauses and approaches the tree. She waves her crosier towards her lamb. The herd comes to life and scampers across the field and past the stream. Taking a seat up against the tree, Joan leaned up against the smooth bark of the tree. Joining her, we sit down beside our friend. 

“This is the Fairy tree.” Joan explained, “We come here during Feast days.”

“Why?”

Joan shook her head with a knowing smile, “Some of the more superstitious people believe this is where the fairies live. It’s not good to believe in such superstitions, though.” 

“Do you come here often?”  

The girl nods as her watchful eyes are focused on the sheep, “Yes, though it’s only to be with my friends. But, I can’t say no to freshly baked bread and churned butter.”

“Yeah, that’s a valid point.” We laugh, “That sounds pretty good about now.”

A comfortable silence falls between us as we watch the sheep graze. It is good to be in the presence of a friend where you don’t feel like you need to break the silence. Sometimes the most delightful experience is being in the presence of your trusted friend.  

Isn’t that the essence of prayer? Of course, we should always have vocal prayers and meditations. But deep prayer, what we call the prayer of the heart, is resting in the presence of the Lord. No thoughts, no worries, just relishing in the fact that we are with the Lord. Our most faithful friend and companion.  

We, too, can experience this moment with our closest friends, children, spouses, and yes, even the saints. You don’t need words to express your love and admiration (though it is always good for the other person to hear it.) It’s a blessing to experience these moments. Just being in the presence of someone you know who loves you and cares for you deeply. No words are needed.

I’ve experienced this with several of the Saints. There have been a few times where I am reciting a novena, and my mind stops. The words in my mouth fail me. I am overcome with the feeling that the Saint is genuinely listening. I can feel their eyes watching over me. My heart whispers to them, “Thank you, dear friend, for just listening.”  

Those moments, I looked up to Saint Joan as she looked down upon me. There was a moment where I couldn’t express my words. It’s just overwhelming gratitude. So yes, we can have companionable silence with our patron saints.  

Ask Saint Joan, “My dear Saint Joan, be near me always, guiding me closer and closer to the Lord.” And ponder that phrase for a moment. Then, realize what you are asking and believe in what you are requesting. You will be stunned to feel her presence in your life, guiding you closer and closer to your truest of true friends, Jesus.  

“My friend.”

Snapping out of our reflection, we look to Joan, who had a solemn look about her.  

“Yes, Joan?” We ask somewhat hesitantly. It was certainly strange to see our friend having a grim look about her. 

“I must tell you something that has been weighing heavily upon my heart.”  

She looks up at us with a surreal expression, her brow creased and her voice low with an almost uncertain look. “You know how our beloved France is torn by war and cruelty.”

We nod, unsure where she is going with this. For a child, she now had the voice of a wise sage. 

“I must tell you; I have a mission.”

“A mission?”  

The girl nodded as she exhaled, closing her eyes, “You will not believe me if I tell you.”  

This is the first test of any friendship. Friends share good times. That’s absolutely true. However, when a friend is troubled with something, and they open to us, we have an opportunity to strengthen the friendship. When a friend trusts you and opens up to you, they are taking a risk. For when we talk about struggles, we are showing our vulnerability.

Yet, there is something surreal when a friend trusts us with problems and concerns. It shows that they value us and our input. It shows trust, and that is one element that is universal in any deep and meaningful friendship. Just as Joan tells us her secret, we can rest assured that she will most certainly listen to our concerns. 

It is good to thank Saint Joan for her prayers and intercession. It is better to tell her what weighs on your heart. Sometimes we just need to express ourselves. We can do with the Lord, his Mother, our Guardian Angel, and yes, our Saints, as well. First, though, make sure you thank them for listening and make sure you don’t tell them about all the bad, but also all the good.  

We must reassure our friend that we want to hear what she says, just as she would do for us. “Joan, what is on your mind?”

“Saint Michael appeared to me.”

Let’s not let our emotions get ahead of us, “What did he say?” We do our best to keep our tone level. However, it is best not to jump to conclusions and listen to the story to its completion.

Joan seems to relax a little as she looks at us. She is more at ease knowing we aren’t going to dismiss her outright. “I am to lead the French army and escort the King to Reims for the coronation.” Her hazel eyes study us closely.  

It is hard to believe that God would choose a peasant girl to turn the tide of a century-long war. If one didn’t know Joan, we would risk saying she was insane. Yet for the time we have known her, Joan was level-headed, calm, contemplative even. She abhorred lying and did all things with grace and humility. So why would she lie about St. Michael or leading France?

Did not a shepherd defeat a goliath? Didn’t a simple peasant maiden give birth to God? Didn’t God take the form of a poor servant and die for humanity in order to redeem us? Why would this be any different?  

Our friend has just confided in us something that she guarded so tightly in her heart. Yet, she trusts us with this information. We could say, “Oh, that sucks…” or “good luck with that.

What a cruel and cold response! Many hearts have been broken and devastated by such careless words. 

Or it is being met silence. A silence that wounds and strangles the heart of the other person. Were they wrong to trust us? It is better to say something than nothing.

We could say, “Is there anything I can do?”

And that’s a noteworthy sentiment. It might be true. We are asking how we can help. Yet, with someone telling you something heavy, it’s an overwhelming challenge for the person to ask for open after opening themselves up like that.  

So what is the best response?

Take up, and share that cross with them.  

“Well…” We start, choosing our words, “Wherever you go, I go.”  

Joan nods with a humble smile, “Thank you. I knew I could count on you.”

And we can count on Joan. The Lord made this friendship possible. The Lord brought two friends together, outside of time, through prayer. With Him and In Him, all things are possible. The Lord touched the heart of Joan. He has commissioned her. In her first-hand accounts, she told no one about her mission while in Domremy. The only people who knew her mission in Domremy were God, Saint Michael, Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and herself.

It is easy to see that Joan would have accepted this mission. She might have been nervous or confused at first, but she trusted in God. Through God, all things are possible.

Yet it must have been a heavy burden to carry that cross, unable to share it with her. It hurts to carry laborious things in our hearts without being able to admit them. Moreso, how much more difficult would it be to carry on with our lives and fulfill our duties in life? It is possible that our young Joan might have felt overwhelmed at first?  

However, since her voices spoke to her, she followed their guidance. At first, it was how to be a good Christian, but these changed slowly as her time drew closer. During that time, the Lord was shaping His general to lead France.  

Yet the Lord allowed two of Joan’s heavenly sisters and patrons to come down and aid the young girl. It is easy to imagine how much love and affection for each other. Because they communicated every day, it is easy to say the relationship between St. Joan, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret was the truest of friendships.

We, too, can have that kind of relationship. Sure Joan might not be speaking to you directly like your friend you would meet at a coffee shop. But they can inspire and push us through their lives. I dare say they can even help us by giving new ideas, suggestions, and thoughts. Their touch is soft, leading us back to the Lord.   

All we have to do is talk to our patron Saint. Not just in times of stress. Thank them for their prayers and tell them about their successes. Ask them to help you build a relationship with them. But, remember, they have a choice too.  

Introduce yourself and ask the Lord to help you. The Lord will bridge the gap between the both of you. The Lord saw how desperately I needed a friend, as did St. Therese.  

Well, the Lord provides.

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