(This meditation was given to me on December 8, 2011, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the most holy and glorious Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and of earth. It is an answer to a prayer first conceived in the Spring of 2011, when I knew not how to proceed on my journey. My heart pours forth in gratitude to the Holy Virgin, Ste. Jeanne d’Arc, Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux, and St. Philomena for their intercession with Jesus Christ our Lord, Who esteems these intercessions greatly, even as He lovingly and patiently hears my own prayers.)
We celebrate Ste. Jeanne d’Arc’s birthday on January 6th. It was, as most accept, in the year 1412. There are some questions and uncertainty about all of this. Not everyone agrees on the date or even on the year. It seems quite strange to us, in fact, it seems almost implausible to us in the modern age so revolutionized by communications and information gathering technologies that we could not know with a high degree of certainty the birthday of the most documented figure in medieval Christendom, indeed, perhaps of all time.
Volumes and volumes of notarized, direct quotations from her trial of inquisition are available to us (though some quotations were nefariously altered to suit the equally nefarious intentions of her prosecutors). Yet, in the ancient days of medieval Europe, records of birth and even of baptism were not so well maintained as they were in later years and particularly as they are in our own age. This is why a child, as was the case with Jeanne, would have a multitude of Godparents, so that throughout their lives, someone would be around to testify about the matter on their behalf. So, we should not be too surprised, then, to discover that when asked by her inquisitors in 1431 how old she was, Jeanne answered with something to the effect of, “Nineteen, or thereabouts.” Even our child heroine could not state with exactitude her own age. Still, though, whatever the specific data point is, we can be sure of one fact. The history of France, Western Civilization, and the Church would be forever changed by Ste. Jeanne d’Arc after that date of January 6, 1412.
For even the most casual student of European or Church history, the last statement above cannot possibly raise an eyebrow. Even as a young man reared on the high plains of Oklahoma, far away in both time and space from the events surrounding Jeanne d’Arc in Europe, there was at least some vague store of information about her in my head. From where it had come, I do not know.
However, what may be quite “eyebrow raising” is the fact (and I state it as such and not as a metaphor, the reasoning of which I will demonstrate below) that my life on earth also began in the village of Domrémy on the day January 6 in the year 1412. In time and space, I was physically born much later, on February 18, 1959, a stout 547 years and 43 days after Jeanne d’Arc. Yet, we know that God conceived our Form in His thoughts and through His consubstantial Son from all eternity, indeed, “before the foundation of the world.” What remains to be actualized for our Form in God’s mind to drop into the time-space continuum to begin the journey, then, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas after him, are the efficient and material causes of creation that will meld together by the ordination of the Holy Spirit to create the end, the Final Form, which represents the ultimate meaning of one’s life in the eternal. In other words, with the activation of the efficient and material causes, we begin to become who we are, and being rational creatures with free will, we will know that this is so. Let me explain.
To use a simplistic example, a chair is formed first in the mind of its creator before any visible, physical manifestation comes forth. Once the Form, or non-material concept, is established (“It shall be a cushion type of chair for reading”), the efficient cause is required. A chair does not just spring into existence. Someone must act to bring about its construction, and that would be the efficient cause of its creation. Note that the efficient cause need not be the same as the Formal cause, that is, the one who conceived the Form, so long as the efficient cause has the “blueprint” for the job. Finally, the efficient cause will require material, such as wood, foam, and fabric, and these would be the material causes. When completed, the chair has then reached its Final Form, sitting elegantly by the fireplace and under the reading lamp, which represents its unique purpose in the world.
Well, you may be seeing in your mind’s eye now the reason that I say my life on earth began the day Jeanne d’Arc was born. She is, and was chosen from all eternity in the mind of God to be, my chief efficient cause for my journey through time and space toward my final form, or reason for existence.
Now, generally speaking, and not dismissing the almost infinite variety of specific purposes we represent as individuals, the Final Form of all people is to know and love God and to live with Him forever. Union with God through the one Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, in the Holy Spirit, and upward to the Father, is the general Final Form of every person. God, and God alone, is the Alpha and Omega. Yet, Jeanne d’Arc is the person, whose life of grace in obedience to Christ our King and Mary our Queen won her the crown of sainthood, who from all eternity was destined in the mind of God to help mold and shape the particular and unique person that I am to be within that general Final Form mentioned above. To make this point, I love quoting her question to the Palladin, a fictional character in Mark Twain’s book who nevertheless resembles me in actuality, as she prepared to grant him a place in her regal, military household:
“I saw you on the road. You began badly but improved. Of old you were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it out.”
“Will you follow where I lead?”
It was this quotation from Mark Twain’s book, though written as a fictional interlude in his generally accurate storyline, that brought about my inspiration to begin writing in the fall of 2008. Through this writing experience under the friendship and sisterly care of Ste. Jeanne, I have come to understand the meaning of all that I am telling you here and elsewhere in my other books and writings.
I first came across Ste. Jeanne in some sort of physical form when I stood before her statue outside the chapel of Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy when I was on a High School trip. Much later, through her intercession, I was healed mind, body, and soul, on July 17, 2006, the day we celebrate her victorious entry into Rheims to crown Charles VII as the legitimate King of France. She then told me, through the work of Mark Twain, that it was she who would, with the grace of God and the love of the Holy Virgin, make a man of me. She has been doing just that. Thus, you see the principle role she plays as a key efficient cause on my journey to the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ looked to her as the efficient cause to save France (though France was, as He Himself dictated through His Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine, His Kingdom, the conceptual and Final Form of which were His own. Charles was merely a steward, the material cause, who was to look after the Kingdom on behalf of Jesus Christ and His most glorious Mother, Mary). He later asked Ste. Jeanne to be a key efficient relationship who would help make something out of me, a task far more difficult and miraculous than that of saving all of France.
When Ste. Jeanne was born, therefore, one of the most prominent efficient causes for my spiritual journey became a physical reality. In some way then, as she is through this reality part of my very substance through the will and grace of God, I began my earthly journey as well. Contingent relationships are spectacularly astonishing when viewed through the spirituality of the Catholic Church. God is master of all the created order, including those contingent relationships. All things come from Him through Jesus Christ, and all things go back to Him through Jesus Christ. In between, the Holy Spirit creates a collage of beautiful relationships that together create the magnificent and sacred landscape of mountains, meadows, lakes, and flowers in the Kingdom of God. God created space and time. He is not bound by it. In eternity all things are present to Him. By the power of His mighty arm, the Holy Spirit arcs through time and space to bring us together as a family, a Kingdom, and into the reality of love glorified in our sharing of spiritual blood.
I refer above to Joan being “a key” efficient relational, contingent cause on my journey to freedom and to my purpose or Final Form. There is, of course for anyone who knows me or reads my writings, another very key efficient relationship on my journey. That is to whom I refer as my saintly sister Thérèse of Lisieux. Through Jeanne d’Arc’s victory, the Kingdom of France was saved for the Church. The result, over four hundred years later, was the beautiful little French flower we call Thérèse of Lisieux, herself a devotee of Jeanne d’Arc. It was Thérèse who called me out the Dark Forest of despair to begin my walk on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed with her and Ste. Jeanne. The Holy Spirit arced through time to plant the seed that was to be Thérèse in the fields of Normandy. Perhaps when I travelled through Normandy and out to the chapel at Mont Saint-Michel, I picked up, not accidently in the contingent designs of God, the spiritual pollen that the Holy Spirit would use to arc like fire once again through time to bring forth that same substance, no matter how distorted and imperfectly it resides in me, that I might myself break forth into the sunlight outside of that Dark Forest where I used to reside.
This is why I stated in my vision and mission statement,
“St. Joan and St. Thérèse” together, in that very special kindred spirituality of theirs, have been defined by Our Lord and Our Lady as absolutely essential for me on my journey through the majestic, mystical world of the Catholic Church.
St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux are to my own spirituality what wet is to water, or light is to the day.”
Therefore, I say to you that my life with Ste. Jeanne d’Arc did not begin the day I was born, nor was it even that most grace filled day to be remembered forever, July 17, 2006. Because of the great mercy of God and His omniscient ordination of contingent relationships in the order of creation, which includes my birth by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual blood of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, that other relationship in spiritual blood with the Maid of Orléans and most honored saint in the heavens, Jeanne d’Arc, began, in the reality of efficient causal relationships, on January 6, 1412.