Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 7
Further Visions

Angels are wont to come down to Christians
without being seen, but I see them.

Jeanne D’Arc’s Own Words.

J. E. J. Quicherat, “Condamnation et Réhabilitation
de Jeanne d’Arc.
Vol. I., p. 130.

From this time forth the Voice became frequent. Again and again she heard it; chiefly out of doors, in the silence and freedom of the fields or garden. In time the Heavenly radiance resolved itself into the semblance of a man, but with wings and a crown on his head: a great angel, surrounded by many smaller ones. The little maid knew him by his weapons and the courtly words that fell from his lips to be Saint Michael, the archangel who was provost of Heaven and warden of Paradise; at once the leader of the Heavenly Hosts and the angel of judgment.

Often had Jeanne seen his image on the pillar of church or chapel, in the guise of a handsome knight, with a crown on his helmet, wearing a coat of mail and bearing a lance. Sometimes he was represented as holding scales. In an old book it is written that “the true office of Saint Michael is to make great revelations to men below, by giving them holy counsels.”

In very remote times he had appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and commanded him to build a church on Mount Tombe, in such a place as he should find a bull hidden by thieves; and the site of the building was to include the whole area trodden by the bull. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel-au-Péril-de-la-Mer was erected in obedience to this command.

About the time that Jeanne was having these visions the English were attacking Mont-Saint-Michel, and the defenders of the fortress discomfited them. The French attributed the victory to the all-powerful intercession of the archangel. Therefore, Saint Michael was in a fair way to become the patron saint of the French instead of Saint Denys, who had permitted his abbey to be taken by the English. But Jeanne knew nothing of what had happened in Normandy.

The apparition was so noble, so majestic in its appearance that at first the little maid was sore afraid, but his counsels were so wise and tender that they overcame her fear.

One day he said to her: “Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret will come to thee. Act according to their advice; for they are appointed to guide thee and counsel thee in all that thou hast to do, and thou mayest believe what they shall say unto thee.”

Jeanne was glad when she heard this promise, for she loved both these saints. Saint Marguerite was highly honoured in the Kingdom of France, where she was a great benefactress. She was the patron saint of flax spinners, nurses, vellum-dressers, and of bleachers of wool.

Saint Catherine had a church at Maxey on the other side of the Meuse, and Jeanne’s little sister bore her name. Often had she repeated the rhymed prayer that was used in the saint’s honour throughout the Valley of Colors:

“Hail, thou holy Catherine,
 Virgin Maid so pure and fine.”

Both the saints were martyrs. Jeanne had heard their stories many times from her mother, so she awaited their coming eagerly.

It was in the woods, near the Fairy Tree, that they first came to her. It was a Saturday, the day held sacred to the Holy Virgin, and Jeanne made a little pilgrimage through the forest up the hill path beyond Greux to the Oratory of Our Lady of Belmont. With her tiny savings the child had bought a candle to burn on the altar, and also carried wild flowers to make the holy place as fragrant as the forest at its doors. She finished her orisons, placed her candle on the altar and laid her flowers on the shrine, then slowly started down the hill path. Soon, finding herself near The Gooseberry Spring, she knelt upon its brink for a drink from its pellucid waters. It was very quiet in the clearing about the Spring, and over the grassy space lay a grateful shade. The day was warm, and after her drink Jeanne sat down on a natural seat formed by the gnarled roots of a tree. Her hands lay loosely, one reposing in the other in her lap. Her head drooped, and she lost herself in thought.

All at once an odour, marvellously sweet, diffused itself on the air about her. It was a perfume the like of which she had never inhaled before. She lifted her head quickly, and drew a long deep breath, glancing around her for the blossoms that emitted such fragrance.

As she did so there came a slight rustling of leaves among the trees, and from the Heavens there seemed to shoot downward a splendid effulgence. An unearthly light that flooded the place with glory. A look of rapture came into Jeanne’s face. She rose, and crossed herself devoutly, then curtsied low as from the splendor there issued two shining figures, clad like queens, with golden crowns on their heads, wearing rich and precious jewels. The little maid could not look upon their faces by reason of the dazzling brightness that proceeded from them, but she knelt and kissed the hem of their garments. Gravely the saints returned her salutations, then spoke, naming each other to her. So soft and sweet were their tones that the sound filled her with a vague happiness, causing her to weep.

“Daughter of God,” they said, “rise, and listen. We come to teach thee to live well that thou mayest be prepared for thy mission.”

Further they spoke to her, but soon the brilliancy began to dim, and Jeanne caught at their garments.

“Oh, do not leave me,” she cried entreatingly. “Take me with you.”

“Nay,” came the answer. “Thy time is not yet, Daughter of God. Thy work is yet to be done.”

Joan in the Garden - Warrior Maid

With these words the gentle forms disappeared, and Jeanne flung herself upon the place where they had stood, weeping in an anguish of tenderness and longing.

The saints visited her nearly every day after this. She met them everywhere; sometimes in the woods, or near the Spring; often they appeared in the little garden close to the precincts of the church, and especially did they come when the bells were ringing for matins or compline. It was then that she heard the sweet words that they spoke most distinctly. So she loved the sound of the bells with which the voices mingled. Soon she grew to call the visions “My Voices,” for the appearance of her visitors was always more imperfect to her than the message. Their outlines and their lovely faces might shine uncertain in the excess of light, but the words were always plain.

The piety and devotion of the girl deepened into a fervid wonder of faith. She put aside the gayety of girlhood, and lived a simple, devout, tender life, helping her mother, obeying her father, and doing what she could for every one. It seemed to her that she was one set apart, subject to the Divine guidance. Nor did she tell any one of her experiences, but locked the Divine secret in her heart, showing forth the tenderness and gravity of one who bears great tidings. She became so good that all the village wondered at her, and loved her.

“Jeanne confesses oftener than any of you,” the Curé told his parishioners reprovingly. “When I celebrate mass I am sure that she will be present whether the rest of you are or not. Would that more of you were like her! Had she money she would give it to me to say masses.” The good man sighed. Money was not plentiful in Domremy.

But if she had not money the child gave what she had: flowers for the altars, candles for the saints, and loving service to all about her. She was an apt pupil in the school of her saints, and learned well to be a good child before she conned the great lesson in store for her.

“Jeanne grows angelic,” Isabeau remarked complacently one day to Jacques. “There never was her like. So good, so obedient, she never gives me a bit of trouble. And what care she takes of her little sister! Catherine has been hard to attend this summer, so fretful and ailing as she is, but Jeanne can always quiet her. I know not what I should do without her. I am the envy of all the women in the village; for, they say, there is not another girl so good in the valley.”

But Jacques D’Arc frowned.

“Too quiet and staid is she for her age,” he remarked. “Have you marked, Isabeau, that she no longer dances with the other children? Nor does she romp, or play games with them. And the praying, and the church-going! There is too much of it for the child’s good.”

“Jacques!” exclaimed his wife in shocked tones. “How can you say that? The good Curé commends Jeanne for her devoutness. That can only do her good.”

“Then what is it?” demanded the father impatiently. “Could it be that some one is teaching the girl letters, that she is so quiet? Learning of that sort works harm to a lass.”

His wife shook her head emphatically.

“She knows not A from B, Jacques. Everything she knows is what she has learned from me. I have taught her the Credo, the Paternoster, the Ave Marie, and have told her stories of the saints: things that every well-taught child should know. She is skilled, too, in housework. I have seen to that. And as for sewing and spinning, there is not her equal in this whole valley. There is naught amiss, Jacques. If there is, ’tis more likely the harm that she has received from tales of bloodshed which every passerby brings of the war. Often do I wish that we did not live on the highroad.” The good dame shook her head as she glanced through the open door of the cottage to the great road where even at that moment creaking wains were passing laden with the cloths of Ypres and Ghent.

Often instead of wagons there were men-at-arms, and Isabeau feared the glitter of lances. In war it is not assault and plundering that takes the heart and saps the courage, but the ever present dread that they will happen. Fugitives from the wars stopped for bite and sup, and recounted their stories which were often of great suffering. Such tales have effect, and Isabeau herself being influenced by them did not doubt but that her children were moved in like manner.

“The children hear too much of battles, and the state of France,” she added.

“Nay; such things make no lasting impression upon children, Isabeau. It is well that they should know something of what goes on beyond the valley. Perchance the child is threatened with the Falling Sickness. She wears no charm against it.”

It was an age of superstition. That Jacques D’Arc should believe that a charm could ward off epilepsy was only what all men believed at the time. He was an austere man, but fond of his family, and his daughter’s quietness and growing devoutness had aroused in him a feeling of uneasiness.

“There is naught amiss with the child, Jacques,” spoke his wife, consolingly. “She would come to me with it if there were. She is becoming more thoughtful as she grows older; that is all.”

“I like it not,” grumbled Jacques, shaking his head as though but half convinced. “I much fear that something is wrong. It is not fitting that so young a girl should be so pious. Is not that a Friar turning in from the highway, Isabeau?”

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 8 Warrior Maid

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