What concerned her was the rights of God. Her sole consideration was the supreme rights of Christ the King over civil society. These she secured by unabashed use of force, putting the lawful male successor on the French throne where he belonged as designated lieutenant of Christ. The banner she carried was white, spangled with fleurs-de-lys. It bore the figure of Christ the King seated in glory holding the world in His hand, flanked by two angels and the names of Jesus and Mary. Joan had it made to order by a Scotch painter in Tours called Hamish Power, to a pattern brought to her from Heaven by St. Margaret and St. Catherine.
Joan introduced herself to the king as Jehanne la Pucelle. Usually rendered as “maid” in English, the medieval French word pucelle was then the ordinary word for virgin. Under this title Joan informed him she had orders from on high to drive the English from France and crown him at Reims. She was barely seventeen, hardly five feet tall and illiterate. Even then she was wearing masculine garb at heaven’s behest, not only because she was about to lead troops into battle, but most of all because she would have to preserve her virginity among soldiers in the field. The king took the precaution of requesting his mother-in-law Yolande, the Queen of Sicily, and her ladies to verify both Joan’s sex and bodily integrity.
The rest is history. Unfortunately Joan’s admirers, dazzled by the extraordinary éclat of her active life, have so far dwelt almost exclusively on the military aspects of her mission, viewing her somewhat as a holy tomboy. Her deeper side, glimpsed in her long hours of prayer, her fasts, her miracles, her charity to the poor and her copious, ever ready tears, rarely comes to light. Little or no cognizance is taken of her prophecies. The fact that it took 500 years to canonize her should lead us to suspect, however, that she may be a saint reserved in some special way for our latter days. When she was burned at the stake in Rouen her mission may have barely begun.
Perhaps another reason Joan put on men’s clothes was to show the world as graphically as possible exactly what it means to be a woman. Astride her white charger in full armor, she could be the final answer to feminism – a heresy which began with Eve, and which is now destroying society by warping the family beyond recognition.
We have Queen Yolande’s word for it that Joan was indeed a woman. Her cheerful elegance, her sweet woman’s voice and modest demeanor are dwelt on at length in a famous letter which a contemporary French lord wrote to the Duke of Milan. Volumes of depositions at her trial and at her formal rehabilitation after her death testify that she was feminine in every way and attractively so. There is even evidence that an unsuccessful action for breach of promise was brought against her by a disappointed suitor her parents had picked out for her.
Throughout her short career she made it clear that she would rather be home spinning in Domremy than leading men into combat, but she had to do God’s will. It was her motto that He must be served first. Indeed a lady at her trial quoted her as saying “her impatience was so urgent that the time seemed to her as long as to a woman great with child.” Even before meeting the king, Joan was furthermore heard to prophesy that she would be the mother of a Pope, and Emperor and a king. What she meant by this cryptic utterance is only now beginning to be suspected. When she was asked for an explanation, she replied that the time had not yet come, but that the Holy Ghost would see to it.
What is known from her remark is that she knew her vocation to be a woman’s and not a man’s. Despite her military genius, Joan was no Amazon, no suffragette, and certainly not a man-hater. It was not women, but men whom she led into battle against other men. Her objective, furthermore, was to put a man on the throne of France. In doing so she vindicated to the full the old salic law which allowed rights of royal succession only to the male line. Her main purpose was to dislodge the English who for nearly a hundred years had occupied France by claiming the throne for themselves through the female line.
Not that there should be any confusion about woman’s role in the world. God clearly defined it when He created mankind male and female, and it has never changed. Declaring that “it is not good for man to be alone,” the Creator made for Adam “a help like unto himself” (Gen. 2: 18). The whole vocation of woman rests in being God’s help to man, to whom she is united indissolubly in one human nature. Her raison d’etre is first and foremost motherhood, of one kind or another, bearing either physically or spiritually the children man begets. It is a duty which extends to all his works.
Ectype of the Holy Ghost, woman is on the human level the paraclete par excellence, who never acts independently, but perfects the operations of father and sons. When man falters or disappears, by her very nature she steps into the breach. Our latter days have witnessed significant interventions on the part of the Mother of God, whom St. Maximilian Kolbe called the nearest thing to an incarnation of the Holy Ghost. One of her titles is “Help of Christians.” In Genesis we were promised that she would eventually crush the head of Satan, so we may believe that in itself warfare is in no way incompatible with woman’s vocation. It was Joan’s prerogative to present it to us in the plainest possible terms, fully armed and with a lance in hand!
Man inherits a congenital defect from his father Adam, who at the outset failed to assert his proper authority over Eve. When, doing what comes naturally, she came forward to help him at the instigation of the serpent, Adam allowed her to usurp his role and thereby plunged humanity into misery and death. The same thing occurs in society wherever there is a breakdown of authority, which by natural law is intrinsically masculine. Woman automatically comes forward to help. If she is not supernaturally motivated, she takes over as Eve did. Society becomes matriarchal or worse. Where women are corrupt, men are bereft of their nearest temporal help from God, and society falls into ruin.
A supernaturally motivated woman effects just the reverse. Joan bolstered a wavering king, defeated his enemies and set him on his throne. By re-establishing masculine authority she saved a whole people, its laws and even its faith. She had to be a woman, for the nation was literally reborn in her. Certainly she was not the first inspired woman to come forward in a time of crisis. The old Testament proposes for our admiration the judge Deborah, the beautiful widow Judith, Queen Esther, Jael and many others like the unknown woman who struck down the wicked Abimelech with a piece of millstone at Sichem.
St. Catherine of Siena recalled Popes to their duty and healed the Great Schism. St. Teresa reformed the Carmelite Order. Both were Doctors of the Church, doing what women do best by helping men to do what they should. The two virgin saints sent by heaven to instruct Joan in her mission had in earthly life been similarly engaged in setting men straight. St. Catherine of Alexandria is supposed to have been martyred on the well-known St. Catherine’s wheel for besting the Byzantine Emperor’s pagan philosophers in open debate. The Roman St. Margaret was a popular patroness of childbirth.
When they appeared to Joan, they never addressed her as anything but Jehanne la Pucelle, literally, Joan the Virgin. Once her public mission began, Joan herself never used any other name. It was thus all her letters were signed. Her worst enemies at the University of Paris wrote of “that woman la Pucelle.” Even Bishop Cauchon, the judge who condemned her to death, cited her in court as “a woman by the name of Joan, commonly known as la Pucelle.”
This puts Joan into a class by herself, for until she entered history, none but the Blessed Virgin was ever accorded such a title as her very name. In this regard she is unique among saints. The Immaculate Virgin Mary, as Mother of the Son of God and His Mystical Body, occupies a position incomparably beyond that of any mere saint. She alone is Virgin-Mother of the Church and of all the elect in the supernatural order. Yet, the Offertory of Joan’s Mass applies to Joan a text ordinarily reserved to the Blessed Virgin: “You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the honor of our people.”
Far from being a nun, Joan had no religious vocation in the accepted sense. All due proportion kept, if her unique title is rightfully hers, and that she is indeed “the Virgin,” it is indeed her prerogative, but strictly in the temporal order. It would seem Joan is destined to bring forth, certainly not the Church, but the renewed civil society of Christ the King, the society over which He promised St. Margaret Mary He would reign in due time as supreme Lord, despite all His enemies. At the right hand of the Virgin Mary, the incomparable Theotokos, may therefore be found her faithful handmaid the Virgin Joan, the Politokos, virgin-mother of the Christian state.
“Wouldn’t she who received virginity as her very name from heaven be thereby destined for a mission of the first order?” asks Cardinal Pie. Borrowing the language of St. Augustine, he noted:
God was coming to us once again by a virginal path. He came in Joan and through Joan, no longer, of course, to give us the Savior, but to tell us what the divine Savior must be among us: the King of kings and Lord of lords…The Holy Pucelle, come to earth to restore the notion of the royalty of the Son of Mary, the Son of God, had to die, had to offer the sacrifice of her life to insure the appearance of this notion in the full splendor of its truth at the hour marked by divine Providence, so it could impress itself on minds and penetrate into the whole of society.
The Epistle of Joan’s Mass, taken from the book of Wisdom, closes with the words, “I shall set the people in order, and nations shall be subject to me. Terrible kings hearing shall be afraid of me; among the multitude I shall be found good and valiant in war.” In Paschaltime the Alleluia sings, “Fecisti viriliter!” taken from the book of Judith: “You have done manfully, so now pray for us, because you are a holy woman and fear the Lord.”
Isn’t this woman’s work? Wouldn’t she have to act like a man to do it, having been made a “help like unto himself?” For good or ill, whether they like it or not, women are the mothers of civil society.