I Do Not Know How To Ride Or Fight (Yet)

Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage. Joan told her voices "I do not know how to ride or fight"
I confess a certain curiosity and admiration of St. Joan of Arc (ca. 1412 – 1431). I have written a few posts about her in the past two years.

I do not know how to ride or fight

Joan of Arc lived during a time when France was internally divided between two hostile factions, the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. Joan’s entire life took place during the Armagnac-Burgundian civil war. Furthermore, a large portion of northern France was under English subjugation.

When she was 13, she began to experience inner voices speaking to her, whom she identified as St. Margaret, St. Catherine, St. Michael, and others. I consider these voices to be the voices of Joan of Arc’s Teachers, who are mentioned in Step 22, “I am surrounded by the Teachers of God” of Steps to Knowledge.

When she was 16, the voices encouraged / insisted / commanded her to help Charles VII of France. She demonstrated instances of inexplicable knowing which caused people to take her seriously. For example, Joan knew of the French defeat at the Battle of the Herrings outside Orleans in February of 1429 before others in her region. Joan knew the location of the sword buried behind the altar at the church of St. Catherine. Joan knew of a secret prayer Charles VII prayed months before they had met.

Joan at the siege of Orleans, Jules Lenepveu, 1889. Joan told her voices "I do not know how to ride or fight."

Joan at the siege of Orleans, Jules Lenepveu, 1889

She was well-known for helping the French lift the siege of Orleans in 1429. About a year after that, she was captured. She was tried for heresy and witchcraft by an English-friendly ecclesiastical kangaroo court. She was burned at the stake in 1432.

I share all of this with you because I thought about St. Joan of Arc during the 2014 Encampment. One thing I recalled was that not everyone joyfully received Joan’s claims that saints and angels had spoken to her. When Joan first spoke to the Armagnac commander Robert de Baudricourt, he sent her home, saying her father should give her a whipping. Another thing I considered was that Joan must have realized how she appeared to other people. She protested to her voices “I am a poor girl. I do not know how to ride or fight.” But her voices persuaded her, and not long after that she both rode and fought.

I wrote the following in my Encampment notes for Day 2

God told Joan of Arc to save France. God is telling me (and my colleagues) to save the world. Joan insisted “I do not know how to ride or fight.” I don’t know how to cleanse a dirty river, or grow my own food. God told Joan, and me “Too bad.” Joan rode and fought. I seem to need to get smarter about some things.

Perhaps if Joan had said “I do not know how to ride or fight yet,” her voices might not had to have been so insistent. I therefore consider it non-well-formed for me to say “I do not know how to do thus-and-such an activity” without qualifying it with the word “yet.”

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