Thursday, August 26, 2010

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 7)

One remarkable aspect of exploring the life of St. Joan of Arc through this novena is all the characters I have discovered; folks who helped her to achieve her mission or who played a role in letting the world know about it. I've met Yolande of Aquitaine, a royal dynamo who was among the first to believe Joan's visions were divine, and Étienne de Vignolles , the crude knight she convinced to join her cause and whose heart she converted.

Just last night I met Venetian-born poet, mother, widow and nun Christine de Pisan, (above) who challenged the prevalent misogyny of medieval times and was its most prolific female writer. Hers is the only record of St. Joan of Arc that exists outside of court documents of her trial.

Born into an educated family 47 years before St. Joan, Christine de Pisan was married at age 15 and widowed with three children by the time she was 25.  She turned to writing to support her children. Her patrons were members of the French nobility. She began by writing love ballads but quickly expanded into other genres.

"Her writings in prose and verse soon gained her great renown. Her contemporaries compared her eloquence with that of Cicero and her wisdom with that of Cato. Prompted by necessity she wrote incessantly. She declares herself that "in the short space of six years, between 1397 and 1403, she wrote fifteen important books, without mentioning minor essays, which, compiled, make seventy large copy-books."  In her mid-fifties, Christine of Pisan  entered a Dominican convent where her daughter was a nun. Sher wrote her final work, The Tale of Saint Joan,  at the convent while St. Joan led successful military campaigns. Here is an excerpt.


When I reflect upon your state,
The youthful maiden that you are,
To whom God gives the force and strength
To be the champion and the one
To suckle France upon her milk
Of peace, the sweetest nourishment,
To overthrow the rebel host:
The wonder passes Nature's work!


But as for us, we've never heard
About a marvel quite so great,
For all the heroes who have lived
In history can't measure up
In bravery against the Maid,
Who strives to rout our enemies.
It's God does that, who's guiding her
Whose courage passes that of men.


And Esther, Judith, Deborah,
Those ladies of enormous worth,
Through them it was that God restored
His people, who were sorely pressed;
Of many others I have learned,
Courageous ladies, valiant all,
Through whom God worked his miracles.
But through the Maid He's done much more.

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection...(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.