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Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
JOAN OF ARC
Ezekiel, Chapter 11, Verse 8
You fear the sword—that sword I will bring upon you—oracle of the Lord GOD.
Christ said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Mt. 26:52)
Violence begets violence and takes us away from the will of God. For violent men death and damnation is the usual final outcome. John Pridmore is the exception by the grace of God. John says of himself:
I had what I thought was everything. Money, power, girls, drugs the lot. But yet there was something missing... This struck me more than ever, when I thought I had killed someone. I knew I had to change my life... I now work full time for God. No one pays me. I live completely off his providence, telling my story all over the Earth.
Sampson himself was also a violent man, who was born endowed with great physical strength started out following God but failed to continue walking in the spirit of He that Is. John Maxwell points out that like many men they failed toward the end of their life because they dilute the vision God had given them, and have become too comfortable with their success and lack the self-control to overcome their weaknesses. John’s advice to leaders is to be self-disciplined using a quote from Plato, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” John points out a five-step plan to develop self-discipline in your life.
1. Develop and follow your priorities. Time is a precious commodity, do what’s really important first and release yourself from the rest.
2. Make a disciplined lifestyle your goal. Set up systems and routines to ensure you feed the mind, body, spirit and love of neighbor daily.
3. Challenge your excuses. We all make them; push the envelope.
4. Remove rewards until you finish the job. Eat your vegetables first.
5. Stay focused on results. Focus on the outcomes and not the difficulties in accomplishing it; envision the change.
Our model for transformation: Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)
John McCain notes in his study of leadership that Saint Joan of Arc (feast day: May 30) was an example of leadership that was characterized by authenticity. At the command of voices that only she could hear, she rode to battle and saved her country. SHE COULD NOT READ OR WRITE, BUT SAINTS AND ANGELS SPOKE TO HER. Michael the Archangel, and Catherine and Margaret, the patron saints of France, commanded the thirteen-year-old peasant girl to pray vigilantly and attend Mass regularly. She is remembered as very beautiful, a slight seventeen-year-old girl with black hair who could ride for long hours in heavy armor without any sign of discomfort. She kept silent for long periods but could be roused to great anger at men swearing or behaving in some other sinful manner.
She prayed and fasted often and seemed most comfortable in the company of poor priests. Before they embarked, she had dictated to a priest a letter for the English commanders in Orléans, warning them to “go away back to England . . . or I will drive you out of France.” This is the first the English had ever heard of Joan of Arc. To the French, and their dauphin, who now placed their trust in her, she was becoming a saint. As they marched to Orléans, she saw to the spiritual needs of her soldiers, ordering them to abandon their vices, to refrain from looting and harming civilians, to confess their sins and attend Mass regularly, which they did. Men who had refused to serve Charles in what they believed was a losing cause now rushed to her standard and prepared for battle. A few days later, the rest of her army began to arrive with much needed supplies, just as word was received that another English army was marching to the aid of her enemies. She went to sleep that night happy in the knowledge that the moment was at hand when she would accomplish what her saints had commanded her to do. She awoke in the middle of the night and stirred her generals with the news that they must attack immediately. In fact, a battle had already begun at the nearest English fortification. Joan commanded her page to bring her horse, as she dressed in her armor, and then raced to join the fight carrying her banner. When she reached her soldiers, she saw that they were losing the battle, but her presence inspired them, and they rallied to take the fort. After the battle Joan wept for the fallen, French and English alike. On the next day they took another English fort, and the day after one more. But the fighting during the third battle had been ferocious. Joan was wounded by an arrow through her shoulder as she attempted to scale one of the fort’s walls and was carried to safety. Seeing her hurt and carried from the field, her troops lost courage, and the assault was suspended. Some witnesses say she removed the arrow herself. Others remembered her soldiers treating the wound. Whatever the case, legend has it that she responded to her soldiers’ fears by telling them to rally to her when they saw her banner strike the fort’s wall. And when they did see it, they recovered their courage and took the fort. The next day the English abandoned the siege. Orléans was saved. Both English and French generals gave the credit to Joan. She gave it to God. Then she rode to meet Charles. When they met, she bowed to him, and urged him to hasten to Reims, where his crown awaited him. But Charles hesitated. His will was weak, for he was not a man of great courage, and his advisors at court, some of whom resented Joan’s interference, cautioned him to proceed slowly, for there were still many powerful English armies in France that had to be destroyed. Joan, as always, rode in the front, carrying her banner, urging her soldiers to victory. Inspired by her courage, and by the obvious favor of God that protected her, they carried the day, routing the English and opening the road to Reims. The English and all the French, those loyal to the dauphin and those who fought for Henry, recognized that this strange young girl, now known as the Maid of Orléans, must be in the service of a sovereign more powerful than any earthly king. Joan in the end like the eternal King she served was abandoned by her earthly King and was captured by the Burundians. John of Luxembourg took her to his castle, where, she twice tried to escape, once by jumping from a castle tower into the moat below. Attempts to ransom her were refused, as were French attempts to liberate her by force. After several months, Luxembourg handed Joan over to the English, and she was taken to the city of Rouen, where a corrupt bishop, Pierre Cauchon, was instructed to put her on trial for heresy. The rules of war did not permit the English to condemn Joan for opposing them in battle. So, they sought her death by falsely accusing her of witchcraft. Cauchon tried for weeks to compel her to confess, but despite threats of torture and execution, she steadfastly refused to divulge her conversations with Charles or to concede that the saints who spoke to her were demons or merely inventions of her own blasphemy. She was denied permission to attend Mass and receive the sacraments. She was often kept in chains and became very ill. Yet she stayed true to herself, and to her saints. She wore a dress when they brought her to a church cemetery to hear her sentence read, condemning her to be burned at the stake. She asked that her conviction be appealed to the pope. Her persecutors refused her. And then, Joan of Arc, for the first and only time in her brief life, tried to be someone she was not. Fearing the flames, she confessed to being a heretic and recanted her claim to have heard and obeyed her saints, and begged her enemies for mercy. Mercy they had little of but having taken from her what their armies could not, they no longer thought her life such a great thing that it could not be spared. She was now nothing more than a confessed imposter. They had wanted to destroy her truth, that she was God’s messenger. Having done so, it mattered little whether she died or suffered long imprisonment. Their work done, they left her in her cell, to the taunts and abuses of the guards, and commanded her to dress only in women’s clothes. When they next saw her, a few days later, she was attired in the clothes of a boy. She had recovered her courage and her truth. Her saints had reproached her for denying them, and she had begged their forgiveness. She had become her true self again. She was the Maid of Orléans, a pretty, pious nineteen-year-old girl who had left her father’s house and taken up arms for more than a year, as heaven had commanded her. And with heaven’s encouragement she had defeated France’s enemies in battle after battle, frightened and awed the bravest English heart, rallied a nation to her banner, and made a weak, defeated man a king. God’s messenger went bravely to her death, forgiving her accusers and asking only that a priest hold high a crucifix for her to see it above the flames. She raised her voice to heaven, calling out to her saints and her Savior. Even her enemies wept at the sight. Her executioner was shaken with remorse, and an anguished English soldier who witnessed the crime feared for his soul. “God forgive us,” he cried, “we have burned a saint.”
Joyous Preparation for Pentecost
Our hearts need to be fixed within the Liturgical Year. We can find rest and consolation and direction with and from the liturgy of the Church.
Ascension--We Are Filled with Joy
Last week (or this past Sunday) the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension. Formerly in the liturgy, the Paschal Candle would be snuffed and removed from the sanctuary after the Gospel, indicating how Jesus had left us. This practice has changed because it's important to show that the Easter season continues through Pentecost. The feast of the Ascension does mark the end of the Paschal Mystery, which includes the Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension of Jesus into heaven and Pentecost, but not an end to Easter.
Every year I find myself with mixed emotions contemplating the Ascension. I always think the Apostles would have felt some sadness and they would have missed Jesus. They thought they had lost Him completely in His death on the cross, only to have the impossible and unthinkable of Him rising from the dead. Jesus was alive! For forty days Jesus appeared to them at various times. His presence wasn't the same as before, as He didn't eat and sleep and live with them anymore, but His resurrection and presence was even more of a gift. And then He gives them His final commission and ascends to the Father, not to return in an appearance with His glorified body. Did the Apostles sometimes hope He would appear, or did they know that this was the last time they would see Him? It feels like it should be a sad day, with the Apostles missing the human presence of Jesus.
But the Gospel for the Ascension clearly says:
They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God (Luke 24:53). The whole Ascension liturgy is filled with reference to joy and rejoicing. The Collect opens with Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving.... The Responsorial Psalm from Psalm 47 is full of rejoicing:
God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
What is this joy we are to have, when it seems bittersweet for Jesus to leave us?
The answer lies in the words of the Solemn Blessing:
may you, who believe he is seated
with the Father in his majesty,
know with joy the fulfillment of his promise
to stay with you until the end of time.
He is gone physically, but remains with us until the end of time. And that is the secret of our joy.
Preparing for the Departure
Starting in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is with His Apostles at His Last Supper. There He is giving His final instructions, His most important teachings before His death. Instead of the liturgy unfolding these during Lent, we begin to hear them in the middle of the Fourth Week of Easter. The final weeks of the Easter season the liturgy has been preparing us for this final departure and coming of the Paraclete:
"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." "I am the True Vine, you are the branches, remain in Me."
We hear the words of Jesus, His final instructions, but this time we hear them knowing in the fullness of the Faith; we hear them in the comfort of knowing the truth of the Paschal Mystery and Pentecost. And the week or nine days between Ascension and Pentecost we hear the promise of the Advocate or the Holy Spirit. We await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. All through Easter we hear in the Preface how we are "overcome with paschal joy." That is how we can look at these final instructions and anticipation for Pentecost, with the joy of knowing that He will remain with us always and we have the Advocate sent to us on Pentecost. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
· Pentecost with Mary and the Apostles -- celebrating May with Mary
· Pentecost and Confirmation -- The overflowing gifts of the Holy Spirit and celebrating that emphasis at home.
· The Solemnity of Pentecost: An Elementary Feast -- The elements of earth, wind, fire and water all in Pentecost.
 John Maxwell, The Leadership Bible, 1982.
 McCain, John and Salter, Mark. (2005) Character is destiny. Random House, New York.