Introduction – Seek First the Kingdom, The Fire of Joan of Arc

Seek First

The Fire of Joan of Arc

I was wondering one day
Why Joan of Arc’s end, so cruelly stark
Formed with her fire,
A light out of dark

She did everything asked of her,
She did nothing wrong,
That is my opinion of her
Life and its song

She freed her
Countrymen and king
She was an astounding
Figure of history

Brave and faithful,
Selfless and kind,
She was in every way
True to her calling divine

Yet, Joan met only
Thanklessness and betrayal,
She died amongst hatred

And I wondered why that day…

I ponder these things when
I don’t have much to do,
As was the case that day
Sitting with Mary, too

Why Mother Mary?
What is the meaning?
Of Joan of Arc’s life
And the fire at its ending?

Mary opened an image before me,
The devil himself was prosecuting
Before my last judgment day jury

I watched with obvious interest
My lips pursed in fear
The devil was laughing and
Making his point clear

He roared to the jury
That my judgment would be,
The one time he

Would not have to lie
Cheat or steal,
For he would have nothing
He really needed to tell

For my own deeds
Condemn me from the roof!
Yes, this is one time even he
Could tell the truth

Do you see my dilemma?
The thing I suddenly knew?
Joan, like the Savior, died unjustly,
I only gave the devil his due

My question
Had been poorly framed,
I was seeking to know why
Only to point blame

The real question was when…

When would I
Be brave enough to bear,
Suffering in unity
With those I hold dear?

The real question thought through,
Is could I die that way too?

I saw in the humiliation
Of my own life selfishly spent,
That Joan followed Him asking
Not why, but when

When would she reach,
The end of her dream?
And die purely out of love
For our King and our Queen!

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As I traveled spiritually over the mountains, onto the plains, across the rivers, and through the valleys on the astonishing Freedom Dance along the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism, I reached a point where I caught a glimpse of why the first apostles left their fishing nets and walked away from their fathers and places of work (Matthew 4:18-22), why they and others over the centuries would offer themselves as martyrs, and why saints such as Thérèse of Lisieux would give up any hope of earthly gain to enter a convent for life.  I saw a view from the broad, peaceful plain leading upward to the City of God that explains why St. Francis of Assisi embraced Lady Poverty and walked in contempt of worldly desire in order to see creation through a different eye-glass. I caught, I believe further, the smallest glimpse of why Joan of Arc surrendered to death in the fire of men’s hatred, jealously, and worldly envy rather than betray the mission given by her voices from heaven.

What I saw was Hope, Catholic Hope. I caught sight of the force that drove the saints to move with clarity and purpose, untiringly, with hearts full of love to a place they had not seen but that they knew was their final destiny and home. My heaven-sent companions on this journey showed me why it is that Catholicism is so attractive, why it is that the worldly life of power, wealth, and comfort is meaningless before it, and why all else pales when compared to the promises described by St. Paul:

“But it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

This discovery of an alternative world view with the life-changing perspective it gave me as the result of my journey into the land of hope will be the thesis of this book. I want to tell you where the Freedom Dance led me and what it is that I now see. You might wish to come and look for yourself.

Not that I see this magnificent place with the clarity of the saints, nor that I have anything other than the most meager of natural abilities to make sense of it. If I were to act as if I had the strength of soul of Joan of Arc or the vision and faith of St. Thérèse as I run toward it, I would only embarrass myself greatly and fall humiliatingly down a very steep ravine. I am a simple man with many notable failures in the material and spiritual life, a weak and inconstant sinner whose only reasonably mentionable merit is that he at least desires to follow these souls, however haltingly and stubbornly, to the land toward which that they are calling him.

This is what it means to imitate the saints, as the Church tells us we should do, that we should follow their examples as shining lights in the darkness, souls who passed through the glorious gates leading into the City of God even though we ourselves remain untrustworthy and corrupt stewards of the graces we receive on the journey.

“Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.” (CCC 957)

With all of my faults and no more than this desire, this love for the journey and the friends who guide me, the great and merciful Lord Jesus Christ and his most worthy Mother Mary allowed me to see at least a reflection of the promise in the spring waters along the joyous and wonder-filled trail of the Dogmatic Creed:

“Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now, I can only know imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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Like a child I peer into the waters and see the reflection of heaven that cannot be seen in the murky water of secular living or through the dark clouds of alternative philosophies and belief systems ruling so many souls in this life. Others tell me how they are extensions of gods, how they are manifesting material wealth, or how they manipulate either the forces of nature through science or the forces of the spiritual world through Eastern New Age occultism to bring them ultimate happiness. I simply turn around and stare back into the clear waters of Catholicism, scan the horizon of the mysterious but beautiful landscape of Dogma and the Creed, and I keep running along with my saintly friends. Nothing compares to what I see through the Traditions, Scriptures, Dogmas, and Creeds of the two-thousand year old Catholic Church, founded at a point in historical time by Jesus Christ himself, true man and true God.

It takes no more to see the outlines of this beautiful land; that is, it takes no more than the desire to follow the will of God in obedience to the path of our Fathers in the Faith on the trail of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism and in fellowship with the heavenly family that makes up the whole Church. The Lord blessed us with a family, a community, indeed, as the Church calls it, a communion of saints who are our brothers and sisters on the journey. It is, in fact, a kingdom.

We seek the fellowship of family and friends on earth, and by God’s grace, we have the fellowship of friends and family in heaven. To walk with this family and to desire that which this family desires, to want to go to the land where this family resides, and to conform one’s life to the norms of this family – that is what our Lord requires. We come with all of our weaknesses and sins, hoping to be transformed on the journey where we look to Jesus Christ as our savior, his Mother as our mother, and the rest of the saints as role models, friends, and defenders.

This book is about Hope, the March of Hope, which is something I call The March of Joan of Arc. St. Joan of Arc with my saintly sister Thérèse of Lisieux are true God-sends in my life leading me more deeply into the mystery of True Devotion to Mary as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort, that place of destiny I described in The Freedom Dance and the mysterious land beyond the great gateway into Catholicism about which I will speak to you next.