THE UNFOLDING OF THE FLOWER JOAN'S MANNER. OF LIFE AT DOMREMY
Section I.—As She Appeared to Others
THE Pontifical Delegates appointed for the public vindication of Joan after her death, having failed to find the information procured by Cauchon at Domremy regarding her childhood and early youth, determined to send thither a committee of prudent and venerable persons, in order to gather the most trustworthy testimony possible. We have in consequence an unparalleled array of witnesses of every station of life, poor and wealthy, simple and learned, who, under oath, declare all they knew of their marvelous little compatriot. If Joan had been yet living, she would have been forty-five years of age. So, of the adult generation of her day, there are several witnesses. Those who were children, are now, at the trial, of mature age. We have the testimony of thirty-four sworn witnesses—relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, peasants, soldiers, nobles, priests —who tell what they knew personally. The appointed committee heard witnesses at Domremy, Vaucouleurs (where Joan's brother was then provost)
and at Toul, the seat of the Bishop. It is noticeable that the oath is frequently repeated in the course of individual testimony.
The general outline of Joan's young life is traced by those who knew her intimately with remarkable uniformity. The simple outward facts of her pure and pious childhood were hidden from no one. She was distinguished by special goodness and piety, very gentle and compassionate, simple and confiding, yet prudent and intelligent, extremely modest, loving labor, never impatient, not without girlish timidity, yet most constant in duty. Nothing whatsoever foreshadowed the dauntless warrior Maid who rushed into the thickest of the fierce affray. She was unusually pious at home and in the field. Morn and eve she was at Divine service in the church if she could be. She was seen frequently at Confession and Holy Communion. She used to kneel in the fields at the sound of the Angelus, or when the bell called to the church. Here she was often seen retired in a corner, or kneeling upright or lying prostrate on the ground and bathed in tears before the Crucifix or the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. Yet she was joyous; although her companions sometimes made fun of her for her piety—it is the only reproach we ever hear made. "Every one loved her," said the old man, Jean Morel. Her neighbor and intimate acquaintance, Isabellette Gerardin, testified that Joan was "simple, good, pure, devout, fearing God."
She loved to give alms, and gave the poor shelter for the night. She used to lie by the fireside and give her bed to the poor. She was not often seen on the roads, but was frequently seen in the church, whither she loved to go; and as she did not dance, she was often criticized. She was fond of work, spinning, turning up the ground with her father, doing whatever housework needed to be done, and sometimes watched the cattle." Money—and she had not much—left over from charity, she gave for Masses. Perrin, the sacristan, she gently chided for carelessness in ringing the evening Angelus; and promised presents of wool, etc., if he were more exact. She helped her three brothers in their toil in the fields; and became in turn the little village shepherdess watching the united flocks. This, however, was an exceptional employment; and as she grew older it became rarer. We must, then, renounce the poetic legend that Joan was a shepherdess. She was usually in the house as the years advanced; and was very good at spinning and sewing. She had special friends amongst the children; but preferred the company of women of prudence and piety. The dearest joy of her childhood was a weekly pilgrimage to the beloved shrine of Our Lady of Bermont. On Saturdays she used to carry garlands there, and place lighted candles on the altar. The sanctuary stood at the edge of the great oak wood, where its ruins still are seen.
At the foot of the hill was a spring, from which the children drank on their holiday rambles. Near it stood a beautiful beech-tree, the Beau Mai, or fairy tree, under the shade of which the children ate their little loaves on Laetare Sunday, probably in commemoration of the multiplication of loaves, recorded in the Gospel of that Sunday. Around the Beau Mai the little ones danced, and on its branches hung garlands of flowers. Two hundred years after, Joan's biographer, Edmond Richer, saw the tree and the same joyous games.
Of the sinlessness of Joan's life we have, besides the testimony of so many witnesses, her own direct, frank, and simple declaration before her judges at Rouen. Although her heavenly guides, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, told her to confess frequently, she never remembered she said, that she had committed any mortal sin; and "May it please God," she added, "that I never may do so."Her Saints came to her up to the hour of her death; and she believed, that if she were in mortal sin, they would not come.
It is not true to say that Joan knew nothing of her faith but the Pater, Ave, and Credo. Her entire life shows the contrary. She was very well instructed, indeed, in all that concerned the excellent ordering of a Christian life, and in the doctrines and practices of the Church. Would that all Christians know the mysteries of Our Lord’s life as she did!
Who know Heaven better? She knew at the age of twelve what a vow of virginity meant; and she understood the position and authority of the Pope far better than Bishop Cauchon and all the Doctors of the University of Paris. The witnesses declared that she was "sufficiently instructed in the Catholic faith as girls of her age and condition usually were." She herself said that her mother was her only teacher; and the mother was best.
Joan went sometimes in the evening to sew with her little friends in their humble homes; and if they were ill, she had a special gift of consoling them. She had two little companions who were especially dear, Mengette and Hauviette. They used to sew, spin, and do the housework together. Hauviette heard the parish-priest say that Joan went to Confession too frequently; and often she saw her blush when people said she was too pious. This little friend, when she heard that Joan had gone away, wept bitterly; for, she said, "I loved her very much for her goodness, and because she was my companion." But she bade good-by to Mengette, and commended her to God, as she herself was going away to Vaucouleurs. Jean Waterin, who was employed as a laborer by Joan's father, tells how, when others amused themselves in free moments in the field, Joan went aside to pray, and they made fun of her.
"I grew up with Jeanne La Pucelle," said Simonin Mushier, "and I know she was good,
simple, devout, revering God and the Saints. She loved the church and places consecrated to God, and frequented them much. She used to console the sick, and used to give alms to the poor. I know this by experience; for when I was a child, she came to see me when I was sick, and raised up my heart." He tells how she used to break the clods of earth in the field with a spade or hoe, and guided the plow beside her father.
Thus by rude toil was the hardy little maiden prepared for the harder life of camp, and battle. How we love to contemplate the saintly youthful figure preparing the ground in spring with her father and brothers, or in prayerful solitude watching flock or herd, or in autumn in the toil of the harvest! In fancy we see her kneeling as the church bell rings over village and field, or leaving her occupation to attend Divine worship. The parish-priest said he saw her there whenever he performed the sacred functions; and that he thought she went too often to Confession—because, no doubt, she had so little to confess. She declared under oath at Rouen that she obeyed her parents always and in all things, except in the matter of the marriage which they tried to force her to, citing her even before the Bishop; and in the matter of her vocation to save her country. When the rumor spread that she was going away, because she had already been to Vaucouleurs, her parents kept her, she said, "in great subjection," but she still obeyed them.
Her faith had nothing of the mere child in it; it was astonishingly strong and robust. "I would do nothing," she said, "against the Christian faith; and if the priests pointed out anything in my life against the faith established by Our Lord, I would at once renounce it." "Would that Heaven had given me a child like this," said the Chevalier Albert d'Ourches, who had known Joan as she began her military career.
Section 2.—Her Heavenly Visitors
The whole course of Joan's life was inspired and guided in all its details by her heavenly visitors, St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. She was more in communion with heaven than with earth. Her own unwavering assertion, a hundred times repeated, and the otherwise inexplicable series of extraordinary events, reveal the supernatural guidance that never failed. Joan's honesty of thought and speech have never been questioned. Her singular good sense, and even shrewdness when needed; her freedom from any tinge of superstition or craving for the preternatural; her great and decided reserve and prudence when speaking of her " Voices "—whether to friends or foes—all this makes as certain as human testimony can make the fact of heavenly guidance from her childhood to the hour of death. Her Voices, or Saints, appeared and spoke several times each week; often daily; and in
critical, fateful moments, almost constantly. Deny her declaration regarding these Voices, and we have no longer Joan of Arc, but a girl without sense, continually under gross illusion, yet doing everything well and perfectly, and performing a succession of martial deeds unsurpassed in human history. Ever wisest in counsel and most prudent in action, foretelling constantly what was about to come to pass, changing the course of French and English history, crowning her hopeless king and expelling the irresistible invader-explain all this on the theory of illusion, if you can.
The heavenly visits began in her thirteenth year. At her trial in Rouen, when she was nineteen years of age, she said. "It is now seven years since one day in summer, near noon, in the garden of our house, on the right hand side, towards the church, St. Michael appeared," the first of all her supernatural visitors. He was not alone, but accompanied by many angels of paradise. "I saw them with my bodily eyes as well as I see you yourselves (judges of Rouen). When they went away I wept, and wished indeed they would take me with them." She told her judges that there were many things told by her Voices which she would not reveal; and when Bishop Cauchon insisted, she simply told him to pass on to something else. "I have told my king," she said; "but I have no permission to tell you." Her courage, self-possession, and wit are delightful.
They asked her if St. Michael were clothed. She answered, "Do you suppose God could not give him something to wear?" And when they foolishly inquired if he had any hair on his head, she retorted, "Why should they have cut it off?" "I will answer," she continued, "what concerns your Process; but you have no more, even though you cut off my head." That very day of her trial, she admitted, her Voices had spoken to her at morning, noon, and evening Angelus.
When St. Michael first appeared, she was very much frightened. After a third visit she knew it was St. Michael. "The Voice was venerable," she said; "and has always protected me well, and I have understood it well. It taught me to lead a good life and frequent the church; and it told me that I must of necessity go into France." Two or three times a week the Archangel came, telling her, no doubt fully enough about "the pity that was in France"—the fearful state of the unhappy country; and that she would raise the siege of the city of Orleans, and that Robert Baudricourt of the fortress of Vaucouleurs would give her guides to lead her. After her first heavenly vision she made a vow of virginity "for as long as it would please God." Incidentally we learn from her answer to her judges that she was fasting on that day of her vision (when she was not yet quite thirteen years of age), which appears to have been the eve of the Ascension. They
asked then also whether she had fasted all the actual Lent, notwithstanding all the ill-treatment she endured in her prison at Rouen. She answered affirmatively. Joan often spoke of the strength given her by St. Michael, the Prince of the heavenly host. It was needed for her heroic career, her invincible constancy, her fearful martyrdom. The heavenly visitants came in the fields, the church, the sanctuary of Bermont—wherever her duty or piety called her—never in the mysterious oak wood.
The Angel of the Incarnation, St. Gabriel, also visited and imparted fortitude to Joan. But most frequent of all the visits of St. Catherine and St. Margaret. These were promised by St. Michael, and the little disciple was bidden obey them in all things. The philosopher Saint Catherine of Alexandria, so popular in the East, and in the West in the Middle Ages, confounded the Roman Emperor Maximin and all his wise men. After the horrors of imprisonment and torture, she was beheaded at the age of eighteen. St. Margaret of Antioch had to flee from a pagan home for the sake of her faith. Her heroic constancy in preserving her virginity brought on her fearful sufferings. Uninjured by the flames into which she was cast, she was beheaded, about the age, apparently, of Joan of Arc. These two Saints appeared to Joan with crowns of ineffable splendor. They were charged specially with
her formation and protection. They showed the greatest familiarity to their little sister of earth, so that she embraced them with unutterable affection, and touched them with her rings. Her parents and her brother had given her two rings, on which were engravers the names of Our Lord and His Mother. These she loved to look at. At the close of her days, Cauchon, her unjust judge, took one; the Burgundian traitors, the other. She used to offer votive candles and garlands for the statues or altars of her beloved patron Saints. When they were long absent, she prayed, and they came. When afflicted at resistance to her mission, she used to retire to pray, and her Voices consoled and counseled her. She speaks of her great joy at the presence of the saints; and "she was wonderfully thrilled," said Dunois, when she spoke of their visits and message. They promised to bring her to heaven—it was all she asked. And she did nothing, she repeatedly affirmed, without their command. She would have preferred, she solemnly declared, to be torn apart by wild horses than to go into France on her mission without the command of God.