The Maid of Orléans, Jeanne d'Arc, was an extraordinary woman by anyone's measure.
To many members of the clergy then (and now), she was (and is) considered quite dangerous. Whether it was because she had the audacity to dress in men's clothing while leading the French Army in battle against the English, or merely because she led the French Army into battle, or because God had the nerve to speak to her (a mere woman!), or because they were jealous of her, or because she would not submit to her forced recantation permanently, or because they just wanted to put women back where they thought they belonged (barefoot, pregnant, always submissive to men, and without any sentient capacities, or any possibility of receiving divine grace), or perhaps some combination of these factors (as well as others not mentioned here) - who can say for certain?
The clergy of her time were willing to violate the Golden Rule to ensure that she would end up burnt at the stake. The clergy of our time - would they have done the same? The indications are clear - some so-called "fundamentalists", who seem to believe that rape and incest should be made legal, that women should be submissive to men, barefoot, and pregnant (and silent) forever, would do so without any second thoughts about whether they would like to be treated in this way. (Any comment, Marion Robertson, Jerry Falwell?)
To those who analyze her military achievements, Jeanne d'Arc was not known particularly for her strategic abilities, nor her tactical prowess. However, if Norman Schwartzkopf was trained in 15th century warfare (in the medieval equivalent of West Point), he could not make the same derogatory comments about Jeanne's military competence that he did about the competence of Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq, during the Persian Gulf War.
Jeanne d'Arc was not a technical military leader. Rather, she was known for her abilities to motivate the French troops which were under her command to do what seemed to be impossible (particularly after the battle of Agincourt, when it seemed to the French that the British had introduced the medieval equivalent of the atomic bomb - the longbow). Whether Jeanne d'Arc was inspired by God or not, it does not matter. Great military leaders throughout history needed, at times, to motivate their troops. Whether by showing interest for the welfare of the troops (by trying to make as certain as possible that they were prepared in all ways), or by inspiring them by example, great leaders get their troops motivated to get their task done. In this respect, Jeanne d'Arc is in fine company, joining the likes of such able generals as Alexander the Great, Robert E. Lee, George Patton, Matthew Ridgway, and Erwin Rommel.
To those who look at the ordeal that Jeanne d'Arc endured, it is quite clear that she had a strength that few others, regardless of gender, possessed. By all accounts, if she was afraid, she did not let her fear overwhelm her. A year imprisoned, mentally tortured, facing what, in reality, was her certain fate - burning at the stake - Jeanne d'Arc held up far better than any nineteen year old woman could be expected to, should be expected to. (For that matter, she held up far better than anyone on earth could be expected to.) If she did occasionally cry, that did not signify weakness - wouldn't you cry if you were in her shoes? Alone, with only God on her side, facing a certain, horrible death, knowing that she would never experience love, never hold her husband in her arms, never care for her own child, whom she had nursed at her breast . . You would probably not endure nearly as well as she did. I know that I wouldn't.
A word about the phrase, "Sans peur et sans reproche". The English translation of this French phrase is, "Without fear and without reproach". Certainly, Jeanne's captors tried to cast her in a light that would place her irretrievably in reproach (although, given the gender climate extant then (and now), one must wonder why Jeanne's captors did not attempt to humiliate her using their ultimate weapon for that purpose - rape). They failed this, and they failed to make her submit to fear.
Certainly, Jeanne d'Arc was inspired by God. Certainly, Jeanne d'Arc was strengthened by God. Certainly, Jeanne d'Arc was God's gift to France. And certainly, Jeanne d'Arc was called by God to His side.
However, God was not merely using Jeanne d'Arc. She clearly was made of a much more durable mold than many of us, of much more durable materials. Jeanne d'Arc was an extraordinary woman, an extraordinary person.
But, did Jeanne d'Arc have to be burned at the stake in Rouen, on that fateful 30th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1431?
I do not know for certain.
What I do know is this: Those who believe that it is man's right to judge whether a miscreant should be put to death can seem to take comfort in Jeanne d'Arc's death - particularly the way she was executed.
For those of you who meet this description, remember this: God will settle all accounts.
If you cannot ensure that capital punishment is carried out justly and fairly - something that is not being done now, and was not done at the time of Jeanne's death - you may not like what may occur when you stand before God, all alone, facing Him in all of His glory. Guess who will be standing nearby?
La pucelle d'Orléans - sans peur et sans reproche, armor polished as bright as the sun with Skyway Kwik-Brite Armor Polish . . .
May God have mercy upon you if you see Jeanne d'Arc in this situation.
If God consigns you to burn for all eternity, see if you can face your fate with as much savoir faire as Jeanne did hers . . .
An excellent Joan of Arc site - elle est ici...
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