St. Joan Confronts Utopia

Note: To be sure, Catholics are called to be the most earnest peacemakers and never to stop working hard towards peace. Yet, alas, in our own time World War II showed again why it is not wrong to thrust out violent invaders when earnest efforts towards peace have failed.

However we must never under any pretext allow ourselves to become the invaders.

Sad to say however, “Just War” today appears to be a very rare phenomenon, if traditional Just War teachings are the criterion.



“Obviously the trouble Joan was sent to settle was no mere territorial squabble between two rival nations. At stake was the world’s equilibrium. From the Three Kings on down, all civil rulers owe allegiance to Christ the King, but foremost among them is the king of France.”

Whom the forces of False Enlightenment decapitated.

By Solange Hertz

Only divine intervention can arrest the craze for utopia, rooted as it is in the divine image in which we were created. Because it is part of our human nature to crave unity- and want things just right, putting society straight is a standing temptation. Watching the men at work on the tower of Babel, God prophesied they would never “leave off from their designs till they accomplish them in deed” (Gen. 11:3-6). Nor have they.

In our own day, James P. Warburg, scion of the international banking family, told a Senate committee meeting in 1950, “We shall have world government whether you like it or not – if not by consent, by conquest!” Unfortunately, when fallen human nature seeks political unity on its own, without reference to divine law, it goes nowhere, as should be suspected from the very meaning of the word utopia. God doesn’t confront this kind of madness by reasoning, because unbridled reason is precisely what causes it in the first place.

The lunatics of Babel, trying to reach heaven through technology and “make their name famous,” were not to be stopped by argument, but only by a catastrophic disruption of their communications systems, which struck without warning or recourse. It is therefore not surprising that centuries later, when the ambition of the English kings threatened Christendom with a new world order of their own making, God acted again in similar fashion. Without preamble He confronted the erring utopians with Joan of Arc, a sturdy peasant girl of seventeen, hardly five feet tall.


In 1429 she appeared suddenly before Charles, the beleaguered heir to the French throne, wearing men’s clothing, her black hair cut short, and there was no getting around her. She told him she had orders from God to see him properly crowned and to stop the English in their tracks. There is nothing legendary about Joan. Although no contemporary portrait of her exists she is probably the best documented saint of all time. Rather than dig for information, her biographers must plow out from under it. Volumes of testimony from her own lips and from witnesses who knew her were collected at her trial in Rouen, and still more was produced at the judicial proceedings which exonerated her a generation after her death.

We know who her family were even to her godparents, what she wore, what she ate, who her childhood friends were. Every detail of her public life, her miracles, her tears, her prowess with the lance and her love of fine armor and horseflesh are all on record. There is no human explanation for Joan’s victory over the English.

It began when Charles’ advisors finally allowed her to write them a letter. Admitting that she couldn’t “tell A from B,” she dictated it to the royal notaries. Dated Tuesday in Holy Week 1429, the letter is superscribed with the names Jhésus-Maria, and addressed bluntly to “the King of England, and you the Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the kingdom of France; you, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; you, John Lord Talbot; and you, Thomas Lord Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the aforementioned Duke of Bedford.” She summons these lords to no conference table, but to “give satisfaction to the King of Heaven.” She commands them to “deliver the keys of all the goodly towns you have taken and violated in France to” no less a person than herself, whom she designates as: …the virgin who has been sent by God the King of Heaven … Go back, for God’s sake, to your own country; otherwise expect to hear from the virgin who will soon visit you to your great detriment. King of England, if you don’t do this they will die. I am the commander, and wherever I find your people in France, I’ll force them to leave willy-nilly…and if they won’t leave they will die. I am sent here by God … to boot you out of France! King Charles, the true heir, shall have her, for God the King of Heaven wills it.

Obviously, Joan was no peacenik. She closes by begging the Duke of Bedford not to force her to destroy him, but rather to join forces with her in “the greatest feat ever accomplished for Christendom.” Unfortunately, the English didn’t take her seriously. They should have known better, for their own soothsayer Merlin and one of their saints, the Venerable Bede, contributed two of the many prophecies in circulation at the time which foretold that a virgin warrior would miraculously heal the wounds of Europe.

She herself testified, “Hasn’t it been foretold that France, lost through a woman, would be saved by a woman?” The woman who ruined France was Isabelle, daughter of the French king Philippe le Bel and wife of Edward II of England. By claiming the French throne for her son Edward III in defiance of salic French law – which recognized no succession through the female line – Isabelle started a dispute between the two countries which developed into the Hundred Years War.


The French recognized this war as a divine chastisement, brought on by the sins of Philip, who had gone so far as to drag Boniface VIII from the papal throne in his attempt to subject the Church to his political ambitions. After 75 years of humiliating defeats and foreign occupation, the French were reduced to public prayer, penance and processions. Finally, in 1412 Joan was born in the little village of Domremy in the marches of Lorraine. The day was Epiphany, feast of the Three Kings, the world’s first monarchs to acknowledge Christ’s royal supremacy.

Extraordinary signs accompanied her birth, and she began enjoying mystical experiences at a very early age. When she was thirteen Saint Michael the Archangel informed her that she had been chosen by the King of Heaven to save the kingdom of France. He also told her that she must wear masculine clothing, because “You shall bear arms and become the head of the army; all things shall be guided by your counsel.”

Alarmed by such a communication, the girl told no one, but it was only the beginning of a long series of visions which continued to the day of her death five years later, when she was burned at the stake in Rouen. St. Michael was joined by hundreds of angels, but principally by St. Catherine and the primitive St. Margaret, who transmitted the orders from heaven. Asked at her trial why they didn’t speak English, Joan retorted, “Why should they, when they were on the French side?” As to whether or not St. Michael appeared to her naked she replied, “Do you suppose our Lord didn’t have the wherewithal to clothe him?”

Sharp repartee and sound common sense of this kind characterized all Joan’s utterances. She had arrived at the eleventh hour, for France was perishing as a nation, bled white from prolonged warfare on her soil. Her worst problem was intestine for many of the French lords, following the lead of the regent, the powerful Duke of Burgundy, were openly collaborating with the enemy. With constant pillaging and looting on both sides, crops couldn’t be sown or harvested, and famine threatened. Joan’s own village, loyal to the king, was burned at least once by Anglo-Burgundian neighbors.


Morality was at low ebb. As the king of England remarked to his French prisoner, the Duke of Orleans, “I hear that such sensuality, sin and evil vices have never been seen as now in France … It’s no wonder God is wroth.” Joan was eight years old when the worst happened: after the French rout at Agincourt the Treaty of Troyes was signed between Henry V of England and Charles’ father, poor mad Charles VI. Juridically, France was terminated, for according to its terms, Henry V would marry Catherine, daughter of Charles VI, on whose death France and England would merge under the English crown.

When Charles VI died two years later, England promptly entered into legal possession. Further resistance on the part of the French was hampered by the fact that the heir Charles VII was himself uncertain of the legitimacy of his succession. Presumably with his mother Queen Isabeau’s acquiescence, the treaty had actually referred to him as the “so-called Dauphin,” as if he were a bastard excluded from public affairs.

At this point, like a bolt from the blue, the little peasant girl’s Voices told her it was time to acquaint Charles with heaven’s plans. As Joan’s admiring contemporary, the lyric poetess Christine de Pisan would put it, “In 1429 the sun began to shine!” Her meeting with Charles was, to say the least, extraordinary. Forewarned of her purpose, he was understandably wary. He disguised his royal person as one of his own courtiers, but Joan easily picked him out of the crowd and informed him, “Gentil Dauphin, my name is Jehanne la Pucelle,” literally, “My name is Joan the virgin.” The word gentil in that day did not mean” gentle” in the modern sense of “gentleman,” but rather “national,” or even “racial.”

It is You

Without more ado she told him, “The King of Heaven sends me to you with the message that you shall be anointed and crowned in the city of Reims, and that you shall be the lieutenant of the King of Heaven, who is the King of France.” Charles insisted she was mistaken and pointed out one of his lords as the king. “In God’s name, noble prince,” Joan exclaimed, “it is you and no other!” On the spot she assured him, “I tell you in the name of our Lord that you are the true heir of France and the son of the King!” In one sentence she disposed not only of his doubts regarding his legitimacy, but she made it clear that heaven upheld the salic law forbidding succession through a female line.

The Treaty of Troyes Joan dismissed as null and void, for the simple reason that the king of France had no authority whatever to dispose of his crown, which under the national constitution established by King Clovis belonged not to him, but to Christ.

Three Requests

The bystanders reported that Charles, after speaking with her, looked as if he had been visited by the Holy Ghost. Privately she had reminded him of three requests he had made of God on All Saints Day, requests he had not discussed even with his confessor. Thunderstruck at the revelation of his most secret thoughts, Charles was convinced of her authenticity. It has been surmised that he had asked, first, that if he were not the true heir, he should no longer be the cause of prolonging the war; second, that he alone, and not the people, should be punished if the present adversities were due to his sins; and third, that if the sins of the people were the cause, that they should be forgiven. Despite her guarantee that St. Louis and Charlemagne were praying for him before the throne of God, Charles was not one to act rashly. His mother-in-law the Queen of Sicily was enjoined with her ladies to verify the sex and virginity of Joan, who was furthermore subjected to lengthy questioning by learned doctors and divines of the University of Poitiers. One of the inquisitors tried to trip Joan by remarking, “You say your voices tell you that God wishes to free the people of France from their present calamities. But if He wishes to free them, it’s not necessary to have an army.” To which Joan, out of patience, retorted,

“In God’s name, the soldiers will fight, and God will provide the victory!” The military campaign which ensued has no counterpart in history. Leading the king’s troops to Orleans, under siege for over six months by the Duke of Bedford – who was financing his campaign with funds given to the Cardinal of Winchester by Pope Martin V to fight the Hussites – Joan struck like lightning. Her overall strategy, an unrelenting offensive allowing the enemy no time to rally, achieved its objective primarily by dissolving his morale.

Between the time she was presented to the king on March 10, and when he was anointed at Reims on July 17, she reclaimed not only Orleans, but seven other towns, and captured the Earl of Suffolk and Lord Talbot as well. Joan was known to remain in armor for six days running, a feat hardly equaled by the toughest knights. A master tactician, she excelled in the deployment of artillery. Seasoned veterans were astounded at the accuracy of her judgment in combat.

Military experts have studied her methods without being able to unlock her secret, yet her secret is an open one: she acted only under orders from heaven. On one occasion, when her captains had decided among themselves to await reinforcements before launching a major at- tack, she declared,

“Well, you’ve had your meeting, and I’ve had mine. And believe me, our Lord’s advice will produce results, whereas yours will produce nothing!” And so it happened. She possessed infused knowledge, discernment of spirits and the gift of prophecy to a high degree. She even raised a dead child to life. The very sword she carried was a mysterious one discovered by her revelation, buried behind the altar of the church of St. Catherine at Fierbois, believed to have been the one by which Charles Martel repelled the Mohammedans. After she broke it on the back of a camp follower (prostitute) she was driving away from the men, it could never be repaired, and disappeared from history.

Long Hours of Prayer

It is regrettable that her military exploits overshadow her long hours of prayer, her fasts, her charity to the poor and her abundant tears. She habitually prepared her men for battle by requiring them to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion. When she approached Orleans riding a favorite white charger, it was to the singing of the Veni Creator.

Before her went her banner, no mere national emblem or royal colors, much less a battle flag, but a standard hung at center from a pole, like those used in religious processions. It had been made to order by a Scotch painter at Tours named Hamish Power (in French, Hauves Poulvoir). On a white field spangled with golden fleurs-de-lys, alongside the names Jhésus-Maria, was enthroned the figure of Christ the King holding the world in His hand and flanked by two angels. At her trial she deposed, “I loved my sword, but I loved my standard forty times more. The whole thing was ordered by our Lord, by the voices of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, who told me ‘Take up the standard for the King of heaven. Take it boldly, and God will help you.’”

St. Joan of Arc Church church Indianapolis

Orleans was delivered within the octave of the Ascension, the feast which above all others commemorates the victory of Christ the King, for it is on that day He entered heaven to claim His eternal throne. A miraculous flooding of the river Loire which kept the English at bay, had allowed the French to enter the city and provision it, and on the vigil of the feast the first enemy fortification fell. Ascension Day was spent, not in battle, but in prayer, and by the next Saturday the last cordon was breached and the city liberated…

Joan urged Charles to press immediately to the capture of Paris and the rest of northern France, but grown confident with success, he soon began listening to treacherous advisors who counseled him to turn ….”

Read the rest. Get the book… “Utopia Nowhere” by Solange Hertz