Joan of Arc confuses me a bit. I watched the movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (see trailer here). Though I can’t rightfully say whether the movie did a good job or not in portraying her, I confess I’m a little confused as to the “message” of Joan of Arc. I understand she is a symbol of patriotism. In fact, I discovered that prior to her canonization in 1920 she was considered “as a symbol of patriotism in the US”:
“When the United States entered the war, Americans swiftly disregarded Joan’s national origins and began to claim her as a universal patriot. A song called “Joan of Arc — They Are Calling You” was penned by Alfred Bryan and Willie Weston. Set to music by Jack Wells, it became extremely popular with the American public and was often sung by U.S. doughboys.
Books about Joan flooded the market, including a sentimental tale titled The Broken Soldier and the Maid of France, in which a brave young Joan appears to a French deserter and inspires him to return to his unit. Children’s books such as Joan of Arc: The Warrior Maid brought Joan’s story to the juvenile set. Mark Twain’s book about Joan was reissued with lavish illustrations by artist Howard Pyle.
A film called “Joan the Woman” was released on Christmas Day, 1916. Starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan, this 180-minute Cecil B. DeMille epic received glowing reviews and achieved box office success.
A New York monument to Joan was commissioned in 1915. It was designed by sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt, who consulted with experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to ensure that Joan’s armor and sword were depicted in a historically accurate manner.
After the Great War finally ended, U.S. relations with France soured over disputes concerning war loans. Joan was quickly and quietly dropped as a symbol of American patriotism. After she was elevated to sainthood, Joan “belonged to” the Roman Catholics and was no longer extremely popular with the nation as a whole.”
But in addition to patriotism it would seem to me that she could inspire a bit of rebellion as well. Or, maybe that’s just how some could view her. For instance, there are the voices she heard which she said were from God but the church at the time didn’t believe; she rode into battle dressed as a man; she cut her hair. It seems that just as she can be praised for being a patriot she can also be exalted as being a holy rebel, a patron saint for pretty much anything and anyone the Church disagrees with. Like I said, I don’t know how accurate the movie was and I’m sure there were a number of discrepancies but for a good part of the film she seemed to be a little nuts. It was the Church who was against her. Then, some twenty years later they pardoned her only to wait another 500 years before canonizing her. One wonders if this can in any way inspire those whom are shunned today to think in time the Church will finally see where it went wrong.
On the other hand, tomorrow we celebrate in our Church another warrior saint. Tomorrow is Vidovdan, the feast day of St. Lazar the Great Martyr of Kosovo, when we remember in our prayers all the heroes of Kosovo field. Yet this day we celebrate a different kind of patriotism, dying not for the earthly kingdom “which lasts only for a brief time. But the Heavenly Kingdom which is always and forever.” I suppose connections can be made between Joan of Arc and St. Lazar, but I’m afraid they aren’t very strong.
But if nothing else they are both known for their victories. After the victory over the English and their siege of Orleans Joan became known as the Maid of Orleans. St. Lazar, on the other hand, after his victory on Kosovo field, which cost him his head, became known as St. Lazar of Kosovo. For it was there that he found his victory and, as the poet says, “all was holy and honorable and acceptable to gracious God.”