I will close this section with a story that delights me, one of my favorites that describes the final impetus, the last push that gave me courage to write.
A few months after the unveiling of the icon, I came across a most edifying book. I am convinced that the Virgin Mary led me to it and inspired me to read it. The book was Joan of Arc written by Mark Twain and is quoted in the Forward section of this book. Not many realize that Mark Twain wrote a book on Joan of Arc. He loved it more than all his other books and considered it his best. He spent twelve years researching it, which included a visit to France, and recounted the story utilizing both French and English sources. It is remarkably accurate and delightful, being one of the greatest stories on earth told by one of the greatest writers on earth.
One of the interesting characters in this story is a large man called the Paladin. His childhood friends named him affectionately after the twelve noble Paladins of Charlemagne, since growing up, and even into his adulthood, he bragged about being a brave and courageous warrior. At the same time, however, he really was a coward; though, he would not admit it. Riding with Joan on her first trip through enemy Burgundian territory to speak with Charles VII, the Paladin climbed trees to avoid fighting, only to brag later about how many of the enemy he vanquished!
I read about the Paladin with a mixture of delight, amusement, and discomfort, for he was I, there could be no doubt about that. In the company of my own, I might weave tales of the victories we were going to win for the Lord and the Queen of heaven and earth, the Virgin Mary. Yet, when controversy fell upon me, I scampered away, perhaps with hurt feelings, only to return to my company telling stories of imagined valor.
Reading the book one day, I contemplated that God always brings me the friendship of saints when I need them. Reflecting that Our Lady introduced Joan of Arc into my life for a reason, I said a simple prayer: “St. Joan of Arc, pray that I might have the courage to follow God’s will faithfully as you did, give me courage Joan of Arc!” I picked up my book to read more and reached the section where Joan, sanctioned by Charles VII to go forth and build an army, distributed honors on those riding as members of her household. Joan granted the cowardly Paladin the most prominent position in the household, the standard-bearer who rode into battle at Joan’s very side! The words she spoke to him rang with sweetness and joy in my heart. These words were:
“I watched 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.”
After which Joan added:
“Will you follow where I lead?”
At that moment, I put down the book and began to type.