Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Joan of Arc and Memorial Day

Although the Easter season concluded a few days ago on the feast of Pentecost, today is a worthy day to recall once more that image of the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and the twelve Apostles. The image of these men gathered under God to protect the feminine may appear simply religious in character, but it shows us how grace perfects nature. Conversely, if we fail to understand the nature of masculinity, femininity, and their unique forms of associations, we will not be able to understand how grace perfects and builds upon them, elevating them with supernatural life. Today, May 30th, commemorates two images which further expresses the anthropology of Pentecost: the feast day of St. Joan of Arc and the traditional date of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day, which was day a set aside to honor and remember the American soldiers who showed “no greater love” by laying down their lives in service to the nation, was moved to the last Monday in May - an act signifying a radical shift of American idenity from being a civic and religious people to being a commercial and domestic people. Despite this move, Americans are still drawn to remember the sacrifice of our soldiers; and though some criticize the use of American force, consider the causes for which the vast majority of them have died: the cause of national liberty, the cause of abolition, and the cause of delivering the nations from the hands of armed Darwinian atheism and armed Marxist communism. There are indeed a great number of noble causes for which our nation has bled – and while the most blood has been shed in national penance, Americans have much for which to be proud.

But more than ideas and ideals, we also know that men fight for something concrete. It takes the right kind of masculine personality to shape men and order them for combat, and it takes far more than an abstract concept to compel men to willingly advance forward while being “stormed at with shot and shell”. A general may command his men to charge forth from their foxholes, but it is for the love of something feminine - be it the motherland of the nation, the church (ecclesia), or the wife at home - that propels the men out of their defenses. As Chesterton said, "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." A man may fight for liberty, but as every New Yorker knows, liberty is not just an idea, liberty is a Lady.

During World War I, French soldiers were drawn together carrying a new feminine ark into combat: Joan of Arc. The prayerful devotion of soldiers to St. Joan helped lead to her canonization in 1920, less than a thousand days after the war’s end. Declared by the universal Church as the patroness of soldiers, St. Joan of Arc did in 1918 exactly what she did in 1429: she rallied the men of the nation. Her battle cry was not, “I am woman, hear me roar!” but rather, “Men of France, do your duties!” She was certainly not fighting to see more women in uniform, much less fighting for their “right” to breastfeed infants while wearing a combat uniform. She knew that her role was to draw men more deeply into an inherently masculine bond of association, not to enter into it.

During World War II, St. Joan was symbolically incorporated into the flag of de Gaulle’s exiled French government, once again drawing together the men of France. As we observe Memorial Day and the feast of St. Joan of Arc, it is imperative that we recognize the intrinsic good of the masculine forms of association which unites soldiers and enables them to courageously lay down their lives in shared duty. Correlatively, we must also recognize the unique feminine quality, exemplified by St. Joan, which works to enhance masculine bonds without being incorporated into them. This is the sexual order which creates a culture of life through a culture of protection.

The cross used on the flag of de Gaulle's exiled French government - the cross of Lorraine - symbolically refers to the province in which St. Joan of Arc was born, the same province taken from France by the Germans in 1870.

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