Because GK and Joan Were Both Catholics

Posted by Webster

While preparing for tonight’s meeting of the YIM Catholic Book Club, I was struck by G. K. Chesterton’s appreciation for Joan of Arc in Orthodoxy, chapter 3. That Chesterton, whom I am growing to admire, could have written this about Joan, whom I have long revered, is all the proof I need that the Catholic Church is on to something.

Though I have to admit it gives me pause—in a week when I’ve extolled pacifist Dorothy Day—that Joan was every bit the Catholic Dorothy was—and a warrior to boot.

Here’s Chesterton on Joan:

Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them.

I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typcial aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow.

Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • Anonymous

    That's the difference between God and man. Man thinks he's cool. God is cool. And God became man so man can be like God.

  • Thought you might enjoy this, Mr. Bull: Like He’d Seen a Ghost. Cheers

  • Webster Bull

    God is cool. LOL! Thanks for the comment.

  • Webster Bull

    Athos, ThanksI've posted on the Twain-Joan connection somewhere. It is amazing that this apparently very secular humorist made her the subject of his last major book–kind of like if George Carlin had spent the last years of his life writing about Mother Teresa. I enjoyed visiting your blog too and noting that you like Nicholas Nickleby. Have you seen the RSC production (8 hours)? The theatrical experience of my lifetime, saw it in person in New York. Look it up, there's probably a DVD.

  • Athos…where have you been my friend?Aramis

  • And I sign as " Aramis" because I can relate to that character from the Dumas novels. Torn between an allegiance to God and the vocation of a warrior. "All for one, and one for All" or in my(our?) case "And all for The King"!

  • Jeff Hendrix here. Thanks, Ara, Frank. As per the Musketeers reference, my brothers in arms and I have had some fun as middle aged converts for some time here.A near miss with the big C – for both the Mass'keteers 'Aramis' (David Nybakke) – and myself led me to pen this.Nice making you good fellows acquaintance. Cheers

  • Turgonian

    Viva Chesterton! You selected a good quote.