From the Treasure Chest: “Difficulties of Private Interpretation”

Alec Guinness (as Chesterton’s Fr. Brown) stands in for Fr. Bampfield

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a lengthy essay by Reverend George Bampfield entitled “Cannot.” Yesterday, I posted a little note on the Bible, and today Reverend Bampfield will help me explain something else that helped me decide to become a Catholic. I don’t know what Father George looks like so I have borrowed Sir Alec Guinness in the role of Chesterton’s Father Brown as a proxy.

The reason, or answer if you will, is right there in the title of this new Bampfield gem that I discovered today, by searching the YIM Catholic Bookself with the word “scripture.” I think you will enjoy what my friend Father George has to say on this matter. [Read more...]

With God’s Grace And A Little Help From My Friends

When I was a newly minted Marine, fresh out of boot camp and on my way into life, I was certain that I could lick it. Everything was possible, and all would be right in the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my world would be just fine. I realized that I was no all-powerful genie, but I had complete confidence in the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. The winner, which I knew I was, would take all. [Read more...]

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 9)

As we finish this novena, I’d like to thank readers who prayed along with me. What changes did you experience in yourself as you followed this spiritual discipline? Please share in the comment section below.

This novena has given structure to my days and given me St. Joan of Arc’s presence as a spiritual companion. My special intention during this novena was to ask God to find me a job so I may help support my family. I’ve been searching for work for two years. During that time, I returned to school for retraining so I might become a teacher.

In the middle of my novena days, God answered my prayer. I was offered not one, but two, full-time jobs as a high school English teacher. This was more of a blessing than I could have imagined. I have accepted one of the jobs and begin work soon at a large suburban high school, where I will be a Special Education teacher in the English Department.

We should not consider novenas quid pro quo arrangements, or engage in, as one priest so aptly calls it, dispensing-machine Catholicism. But the more we develop a relationship with Our Lord through prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the better our communication becomes. Like any relationship we care about, we need to spend time together. God does answer prayer.

He did so with Saint Joan of Arc. While she died a tortuous death at the stake, undoubtedly her soul flew peacefully to heaven. The Church eventually restored her reputation and confirmed her as a saint. Her mother, Isabelle Romée (depicted in sculplture in the photo above), began that process after her daughter’s death. An illiterate woman like St. Joan, Isabelle, taught her children the beauty of the faith. After her daughter’s death, she petitioned the Church for a retrial. A comprehensive trial involving clergy from across Europe concluded in 1456 – 25 years after St. Joan’s death –  that the young peasant girl was a martyr.

The nullification trial opened with St. Joan’s mother speaking. Now a widow, who had lost two other children in addition to Joan, she traveled to Paris in the winter to attend the trial. Imagine how she felt as she uttered this testimony on November 7, 1455.

 I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. 

Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire. For the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous and irreparable loss to me, Isabelle, and mine. I demand that her name be restored.”

When Isabelle was 78, the court found the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, guilty of heresy. The man had manipulated St. Joan’s trial and sent her death into motion to suit his own political agenda. The Church canonized St. Joan of Arc in 1920, 500 years after her martyrdom.

Dear Saint Joan, Thank you for accompanying me throughout the day, and in the work that I did. Thank you also for your guidance and your counsel. Please help me to listen to God and to you, dear Saint, that I may do what I am called to do. Please intercede on my behalf and beg God to take all my faults and turn them into virtues. I thank you for all you have done for me, and all the things you have interceded for on my behalf. Please continue to pray for me and for all the souls who need it.

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for us. Amen.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 8)

St. Joan of Arc knew she would die a martyr’s death long before those around her did. She crowned Charles VII king at the Cathedral at Reims in July 1429, fulfilling a central part of her mission. Two months later, she led an unsuccessful attempt to liberate Paris. The following May she was captured by the Burgundians, allies of the English. Betrayed by King Charles VII, she was sold to the English for 10,000 gold francs. Charged with heresy and witchcraft, she was tried, and found guilty of heresy in a church court (they had to throw out the witchcraft charges because an examination by a duchess found St. Joan to be a virgin) by men with a clearly political agenda.


Bishop Pierre Cauchon of the Diocese of Beauvais orchestrated the whole thing. He was a zealot for England and chose a biased jury. He falsified evidence, suppressed findings favorable to St. Joan, terrorized jurors, and refused St. Joan’s repeated appeals to the Council of Basel and the pope. 
 You can find the trial transcripts here. The English burned Joan of Arc to death on May 30, 1431. Then they burned her body twice more to prevent the collection of relics.

As she was dying, St. Joan asked two priests to hold a crucifix before her face. As it had throughout her life, St. Joan’s gaze remained on Christ as she, like him, endured an unjust and painful death.

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.


This is the spot in Rouen’s Old Market Square where St. Joan was burned at the stake.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 7)

One remarkable aspect of exploring the life of St. Joan of Arc through this novena is all the characters I have discovered; folks who helped her to achieve her mission or who played a role in letting the world know about it. I’ve met Yolande of Aquitaine, a royal dynamo who was among the first to believe Joan’s visions were divine, and Étienne de Vignolles , the crude knight she convinced to join her cause and whose heart she converted.

Just last night I met Venetian-born poet, mother, widow and nun Christine de Pisan, (above) who challenged the prevalent misogyny of medieval times and was its most prolific female writer. Hers is the only record of St. Joan of Arc that exists outside of court documents of her trial.

Born into an educated family 47 years before St. Joan, Christine de Pisan was married at age 15 and widowed with three children by the time she was 25.  She turned to writing to support her children. Her patrons were members of the French nobility. She began by writing love ballads but quickly expanded into other genres.

“Her writings in prose and verse soon gained her great renown. Her contemporaries compared her eloquence with that of Cicero and her wisdom with that of Cato. Prompted by necessity she wrote incessantly. She declares herself that “in the short space of six years, between 1397 and 1403, she wrote fifteen important books, without mentioning minor essays, which, compiled, make seventy large copy-books.”  In her mid-fifties, Christine of Pisan  entered a Dominican convent where her daughter was a nun. Sher wrote her final work, The Tale of Saint Joan,  at the convent while St. Joan led successful military campaigns. Here is an excerpt.

XXIV

When I reflect upon your state,
The youthful maiden that you are,
To whom God gives the force and strength
To be the champion and the one
To suckle France upon her milk
Of peace, the sweetest nourishment,
To overthrow the rebel host:
The wonder passes Nature’s work!

XXVI

But as for us, we’ve never heard
About a marvel quite so great,
For all the heroes who have lived
In history can’t measure up
In bravery against the Maid,
Who strives to rout our enemies.
It’s God does that, who’s guiding her
Whose courage passes that of men.

XXVIII

And Esther, Judith, Deborah,
Those ladies of enormous worth,
Through them it was that God restored
His people, who were sorely pressed;
Of many others I have learned,
Courageous ladies, valiant all,
Through whom God worked his miracles.
But through the Maid He’s done much more.

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 6)

St. Joan of Arc is both a saint and a warrior. As a military leader, she is best known for marshaling French troops during the Siege of Orléans (1428 to 1429), breaking 80 years of English dominance during the Hundred Years’ War between the two nations. She was 17 years old at the time.

Orléans is a city on the Loire River in north-central France and had major significance to both the French and English during the Hundred Years’ War. This siege was the high-water mark  of English power during the long conflict.

At the time,  Orléans was the northernmost city in France that remained loyal to the French monarchy. England already had invaded and controlled much of northern France. Many believed that if the English would maintain their siege, eventually they would conquer all of France. Nine days after St. Joan of Arc showed up, the siege collapsed. Before that time, the French had only tried one assault to repel the English during the siege, and that had resulted in a crushing, demoralizing, defeat.

St. Joan, in following God’s commands, served her countrymen who had been oppressed by the English. Her cause lead her into battle where she continued to honor God by encouraging purity and morality from her fellow soldiers.

St. Joan fulfilled God’s mission through justice–the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor; establishing harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. 

She, by honoring God’s commandments, fulfills his foremost law: love. 

Saint Joan, Your my example both by word and life; Let God Be First Served, I pray that in my own life this will also be the example of my life in service to God.

Saint Joan, Patriot in the service to your God and country; Pray for me.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 5)

To some who are not Catholic, and heck to some who are, novenas seems like superstition, a relic of folk religion. Novenas are not incantations; they do not offer us magic if only we say certain words or do certain things. Alas, some Catholics are misguided about novenas. Have you ever attended a Mass where someone had stuck a copy of a novena to St. Jude in a pew? The flier says that if you go to church for nine days and leave a copy of the prayer behind, your request will be granted. This is a misuse of the Catholic treasure of a novena.

Father William P. Saunders, refers to this practice as “dispensing—machine Catholicism; just as a person puts the coin in the vending machine and presses the button to get the desired soda, here a person says the prayer, goes to Church, and is supposedly guaranteed that the request will be granted. So much for God’s will. What is really sad these days is that the person simply Xeroxes the letter; one would think they could at least hand-write it.” So what is a novena, exactly?

We set aside a time over nine days, and ask a certain saint to pray for us. Right now, I am praying my very first novena and perhaps some of you are praying along with me. I am meditating and learning about the life of Saint Joan of Arc, and asking her to pray for a special intention of mine.

I prefer to pray the same prayer to Saint Joan every day; it helps keep me disciplined and stick to the novena. But you can pray whatever you like. You can simply say “Saint Joan, pray for me in my time of trouble.” Novenas are not quid pro quo arrangements. It’s not as if I want X and if I pray a novena, Christ will grant me X. Perhaps at the nine days’ end, I will discern that X isn’t what Christ wants for me anyway. Perhaps I will find out that peace and joy come when I don’t receive what I think I need.

Having never prayed a novena before, I am discovering some of its benefits. Because I am praying the novena each morning, it  shapes to my days. I am praying, with Saint Joan near me as a heavenly companion. That helps keep me focused on Christ throughout my day. I feel Saint Joan’s  presence beside me.

For those of you who prefer variety in your novena prayers, here is another Novena to Saint Joan I found. This one focuses on soldiers everywhere.

O Joan, holy liberator of France, the powerful holy force in the days of old, as you yourself said, “Peace would be found only at the point of a lance,” who used the weapons of war when no other means were able to obtain a just Peace, take care and help today those who do not want to do viol
ence and patiently try to employ all possible peaceful means of resolution, but now allow the violence of war.

Heroine of Orleans, transmit to our leaders, your talent to inspire your soldiers to accomplish great deeds of valor, in order that our soldiers’ efforts will come to a rapid and successful end.

Triumphant One of Reims, prepare for us the just peace under the shield of a force that will be henceforth vigilant! Martyr of Rouen, be near to all the soldiers who fall in battle, in order to support, console, and help them and those dear ones that they leave behind.

Saint of the Country, excite in all souls, in every home of the world, the zeal to contribute to the salvation of the world and the return of peace, works which you crave, the rediscovery of a more Christian life, through holy thoughts and actions, forgiveness and persistent prayer, that as you yourself once said, “God must be served first.” Amen.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 4)

Ever wonder how an illiterate peasant girl was able to successfully command the French army? A girl who never had left her hometown, knew nothing of politics, military history or geography? One gift St. Joan had was a “seeing eye,” which meant she could discern the souls of others.

Take, for example, her bold decision to recruit the knight Étienne de Vignolles, a crude, profane military leader, to work with her during the Hundred Years’ War campaigns of 1429. ( His nickname was La Hire, which means “The Ire” in Old French. The knave’s face on the Jack of Heart is modeled after his.) Her comrades were appalled by this decision.  But St. Joan had the foresight to understand what an asset he would be to her troops. Indeed, he came to believe her mission was prophetic.

As recounted in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, at Saint Joan’s first meeting with La Hire, she told him that, as commander of the army camp, he was to restore order and discipline. “Loose women must pack out of the place at once..the rough carousing must stop, drinking must be brought within proper and defined limits, and discipline must take the place of disorder.”

Her final instruction to him was the most difficult: all soldiers must go to confession and then attend Mass daily. “The soldier sighed and said he would advertise the Mass, but said he doubted there was a man in the camp that was any more likely to go to it than he was himself.”

And then St. Joan pulled all her punches: La Hire himself would go to Mass.

“Well, he really went. It was hardly believable but there he was, striding along, holding himself grimly to his duty, and looking as pious as he could but growling and cursing like a fiend.” The two spent three days together in that camp, with Joan praying and pleading with him. At the end of those three days, La Hire prayed.

Here is how Noel Rainguesson, a character in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc describes Saint Joan’s gift of bringing others to Christ.

“The common eye only sees the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and soul, finding there capacities which the outsider didn’t indicate or promise, and which the other kind of eye couldn’t detect.” Do we have the faith to see beyond outward appearances? Do we believe the human heart can change?

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.

Because Once Upon A Time, The Premier of China Was A Catholic

Imagine that you woke up to the news this morning that a former President of the United States, say Jimmy Carter for example, has just held a press conference saying that he has entered the Abbey at Gethsemane to become a Cistercian monk. Would you be flabbergasted? Amazed? Incredulous? Or would you be intrigued? That’s how I felt when I learned the news that I am going to share with you today. [Read more...]

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 3)

Joan of Arc’s public ministry began and ended the year she was 17. She had grown up in a loving family who provided her with concrete examples of Christian charity. Historical records describe the D’Arc family as “willing to open their home to strangers and to share what they could with them.

People remembered how Joan would willingly give up her bed to these strangers while she herself slept by the hearth.” To leave her childhood home (pictured above, with the village church beside it) and follow her destiny, St. Joan left home without telling them her true destination and goal: fight the English at Orleans and have the Dauphin crowned king.

Her Uncle Durand asked her parents’ permission to take Joan to his home so that she could help his wife with the housework and to help her with the delivery of her child. While Joan was there, she convinced her uncle of her mission. In the end, her parents supported her; they walked to Reims to see the Dauphin crowned King Charles VII of France. Clearly, St. Joan and her family understood what St. Paul told the church in Corinth.

“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many.

What risks are we taking to fulfill God’s plan for our lives? Are we willing to face the people and circumstances Christ places in front of us?

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.


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