“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:31) (Douay-Rheims)
The great day of July 17, 2006 will forever be indelibly branded on my soul. More than that even, it is a day that goes through the outer domain of my soul to touch the very substance of my being. In other words, it was, and remains, a most important day.
There is only one other day in my life that is equivalent to this one in nature; meaning, it was equally transforming spiritually and yielded equally illuminating effects mystically. “But call to mind the former days, wherein, being illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions.” (Heb 10:32) (Douay-Rheims) That other day was October 1, 1984, the Feast Day of St. Thérèse. On that particular day, I was given by the Holy Spirit what St. Thomas might call the First Grace, or the grace of conversion to the Church. There can be no doubt that it was St. Thérèse who brought about my instant illumination in congruous participation with God.
These two days, spread almost twenty-two years apart and amidst much affliction for sure, form a bi-modal framework between and around which my story is told. By this framework, my journey on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed is lifted on two legs and is tilted in the sunlight of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, such that His rays reflect not on my own soul and my own person but on two of His bejeweled flowers in the landscape of the Kingdom of God. These priceless gems are named St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In summary, my story, indeed, the very purpose of my life is not about me. It is about those two, the Kingdom, the Queen of the Kingdom, and the King who desires to have it all proclaimed. Thus, my mission is to have anyone who might peer into my soul not see me, for I am nothing, but to see the Kingdom, the Queen, and the jewels sparkling in the light of Him by Whom “they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign forever.” (Rev 22: 5) (Douay-Rheims).
It was on July 17, 2006 that I stood before a statue of the Virgin Mary in the sanctuary of an old, disbanded seminary in the Pocono Mountains, which was then serving as a retreat house. I had traveled by car from the Chicago area through the entire night the day before to attend a six-day silent retreat given by a Catholic priest. During the long trip from the Midwest to the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania, I prayed fervently to the Mother of God for freedom from a terrible enslavement of body and soul by which I had suffered for at least twenty-five years. During those painful years, I attempted every manner of self-help and all of the methods for recovery by which the scientific world has given us, yet to no avail. It seemed that if any help were to be forthcoming, it could only be from God. This recourse, though, could not be to any god. It could only be to Jesus Christ, Who is true God and also true man. I did not have much more life left in me, literally speaking. I was dying. I therefore had no time for gods. I needed God.
After praying with the priest in the Sacrament of Confession, I then walked meditatively into the sanctuary of the old chapel and stopped in front of the Virgin’s statue. As I did so, I was instantly restored to physical, mental, and spiritual health. My awful condition left me; it was as if chains that had previously bound me fell from my hands and feet to the floor.
Later in the retreat, I was told by the Mother of our God through scripture and prayer that upon leaving I must “seek first the Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33) over which this Virgin ruled as Queen and Mother and by which her Son had established through His power as the Son of God, God Himself, and the One Who is eternally co-substantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is the Savior of the human race. It was by the power of the crucified and risen Son that I had been restored.
How all of this came about, why I would have ever gone before the Virgin’s statue or attended this retreat, and what happened afterward are the subject matters of my first two books, Journey to Christendom – The Freedom Dance and Seek First the Kingdom – The March of Hope.
It was sometime later when two thoughts about this affair began to impose themselves in my mind with vigor. These thoughts were immovable forces at work in my soul.
The first was that St. Joan of Arc, to whom I had become very devoted through the writings of St. Thérèse, was indeed my saintly, sisterly companion and had by our Lord’s own will cooperated with Him and the Virgin Mary in breaking those awful bonds that had held me in despair for so many years and the breaking of which had won for me great victory of soul. Just as Thérèse had congruously cooperated with God in bringing about my first grace of conversion, Joan was intimately involved in my ultimate renewal in the Holy Spirit through sanctifying grace. It just so happens that these two magnificent saints, though separated by centuries in time, are themselves spiritual sisters and co-patrons of France. As a footnote, one of our significant family lines ultimately derives from the ancient fields of Normandy in northern France where St. Thérèse lived out her short life and where St. Joan of Arc gave up her even shorter life in sacrifice for both her temporal and her heavenly Kings.
The second thought was that the date of July 17, which I had hitherto considered as irrelevant, was in fact quite material to the whole affair. The reason for this over-powering sense, I did not know. In what might be considered an inspiration, I reached for a book on St. Joan by the early 20th century historian Hilaire Belloc, who was a close friend of G.K. Chesterton, and found the following words that edified my heart:
“On Saturday the sixteenth of that month the host lay before that sacred city of the crowning, and the Dauphin in Sept-Saulx, the village of the willows on the chalky stream, whence the square towers of that cathedral stand up to the north against the sky.
The Sunday, the seventeenth day of July in the year of Our Lord fourteen hundred and twenty-nine, the Dauphin Charles rode in with his company for the crowning…”
Joan’s mission was complete, her victory won, on the day of July 17, 1429. The consummation of that victory in union with Our Lord’s suffering on the Cross would not follow for almost two years on the day of her execution, May 30, 1431. However, my understanding of the role St. Joan of Arc had played throughout my life and that she would continue to play going forward was transformed that day as by the fire of the Holy Spirit. The will of the Son, Jesus Christ, was laid before me as a mysterious pathway to that Kingdom of which He spoke in sacred scripture and which I had been told to seek in that retreat. The gateway to this Kingdom is the Cross of Calvary, where Jesus is truly and substantially present in His Eucharistic, and through that gate is where He sits gloriously enthroned. This Kingdom is mystically the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
“And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she cried out with a loud voice, and said: ‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.’ And Mary said: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord.’” (Luke 1:41-46) (Douay-Rheims)
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev 12:1) (Douay-Rheims)
On July 17, 2006, a new course was set for me through my healing in sanctifying grace. The proximate principle of that course is that Joan of Arc is to lead me to this Kingdom with my other saintly sister Thérèse of Lisieux at my side. Together they are both my saintly sisters, heavenly helpers, protectors, and intercessors, who are leading me to my spiritual family where Mary is our Mother and Queen, and Christ is our Brother, Savior, King and God.
That is why I stated above that I am nothing. I have not a thing of myself to add to the substance of Christ’s work in my life, other than the obedience of my will and the assent of my intellect. It is why I described my spiritual life as being merely a reflection away from myself and toward those flowered jewels. I do not want to tell you about me. I want to tell you about them. I want to tell you about Joan of Arc and Thérèse of Lisieux. For they can do a much, much better job than I of telling you about the glories of Mary, the saving power of Christ through His Church, and the adoration, the pure adoration of latria, we owe to our Savior in thanksgiving. To Jesus through Mary in the friendship and sisterly care of Sts. Joan and Thérèse. Amen, so be it!