Friday, September 30, 2011

Leadership - Joan of Arc

Of all the many people and stories in history, Joan of Arc stands as one of my absolute favorites. She is a beakon of light in a dark world, but a world non the less much lighter for having her in it. Her personality, character, disposition, qualities, and integrity remind me of all that I strive to be. She is one of my heros! I pray to one day be, as she...

Here is an inspiring writing written about this amazing person. It was sent to me by a friend (thank you Dave!). I hope that reading this leaves you inspired, and that you greatly enJoy it, at least half as much as I do! ;) (PS I simply coppied and pasted with no concern for spelling or grammar errors. The content is amazing!)

You can’t kindle fire in others hearts until it is burning in your own! Leadership is influence. Everything rises and falls on Leadership. In the book,

Lessons From Great Lives by Sterling W. Sill

When we love some noble quality in another, we usually tend to embody it in ourselves. The quality of embodied love in others enables us to see this great trait with our eyes and hear it with our ears and treasure it more effectively in our hearts.

I recently felt some very pleasing emotions as I read an account of the life of Joan of Arc. It was written be Sier Louis de Conte, who was born in the same village as she, and he was constantly by her side as her page and secretary during her long war. An account of her life was also published in two volumes, by Mark Twain under the title of Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. In all the annals of our time, Joan’s life stands our as one of the most striking embodiments of goodness, nobility, and greatness. And it is profitable for us to be associated with a personal history of her short but useful career.

Her biography itself is unique. It was written in court and comes to us under oath from the witness stand. It was taken from the official records of the great trial held in the year 1431 at which she was condemned to be burned alive. Every intimate detail of her short and colorful like is still preserved in the National Historical Archives of France.

Joan of Arc was born in the little village of Domremy, France, in 1412. Throughout her childhood, she was extraordinarily healthy and happy. She was wholehearted in her play. Her merry disposition was supplemented by a warm, sympathetic nature. She had frank, winning ways, was genuinely religious, and was greatly admired and loved by everyone.

At this period, France was suffering the cruel pains of its Hundred Years’ War with England. France had lost almost every battle. Eight thousand Englishmen had wiped out sixty thousand Frenchmen at Agincourt. French courage had been paralyzed, and France had been reduced to little more than a British province. For Joan, who carried France upon her heart, the continual atrocities of war greatly sobered her spirit and frequently reduced her to tears. Then, in her thirteenth year, Joan began to hear voices, telling her that she would be God’s instrument in setting France free.

Among her instructors were Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine. Three years were required to prepare her for her mission. At first she had offered objections. She said to her instructors, “But I am so young to leave my home and mother. How can I talk with men and be a comrade of soldiers? I am only a girl and know nothing of war or even how to ride a horse. How can I lead armies?” Her voice was often broken with sobs, but finally she accepted her call and said, “If it is commanded, I will go. I know that France will rise again, for God has ordained her to be free.”

Her voices told her to go to the Governor of Vaucouleurs who would provide her with an escort of men-at-arms and send her to the Dauphin, who was the uncrowned heir to the throne. In leaving her village home Joan said, “I am enlisted. God helping me, I will not turn back until the British grip is loosened from the throat of France.” When the governor had heard her message he said, “What nonsense is this? You are but a child.” But Joan said, “Nevertheless, I am appointed by the King of Heaven to lead the armies of France to raise the British siege of Orleans and crown the Dauphin at Rheims.”

When the news reached the Dauphin that an unlearned seventeen-year-old peasant maid was coming to see him with a divine commission to free France, he appointed a committee of court advisors to hear her message. Confronting the committee she said, “Forgive me, reverend sirs, but I have no message save for the ears of his Grace, the Dauphin.” Their arguments and threats were useless.

After they had left in great anger, she said to her friends, “My mission is to move the Dauphin by argument and reasoning to give me men-at-arms and send me to the siege. Even if the committee carried the message in the exact words with no word missing, and yet left out the persuasions of gesture, the supplicating tone and beseeching looks that inform the words and make them live, then where were the value of that argument and whom could it convince?”

The untaught child had just discarded her shepherd’s crook, and yet she was able to penetrate the cunning devices of trained men and defeat them at their own game. She would soon stand unafraid before nobles and other mighty men; she was fully prepared to clothe herself in steel and become the deliverer of France.

When she finally gained an audience with him, the Dauphin said to her, “Tell me who you are.” Joan said, “I am called Joan the Maid. I am sent to say to you that the King of Heaven wills that you should give me men-at-arms and set me at my appointed work. For I will raise the siege of Orleans and break the British power.” But how could she win victories of France where the nation’s best-trained generals had had nothing but defeats for over fifty years? But Joan had said that “When God fights, it is a small matter whether the hand that holds the sword is big or little.”

This unlearned girl said to the Dauphin, “Be not afraid. God has sent me to save you.” Everyone knew that in her heart there was something that raised her above the greatest of men of her day. Whether she was come of God of not, they could feel that mysterious something that was later to put heart into her soldiers and turn mobs of cowards into armies of fighters. Her men forgot what fear was when they were in her presence. Her soldiers went into battle with joy in their eyes and a song on their lips. They swept over the battlefield like an irresistible storm. The Dauphin knew that that was the only spirit that could save France, come from whence it may.

Joan won the confidence of the Dauphin and the court with her sweetness, simplicity, sincerity, and unconscious eloquence. The best and the most capable among them recognized that she was formed on a grander plan and moved on a loftier plane than the ordinary mass of mankind. And whence could come such sublime courage and conviction but from God himself?

Finally Joan was given her command. In a public proclamation the Dauphin said, “Know all men, that the most illustrious Charles, by the grace of God, King of France, is pleased to confer upon this well-beloved servant, Joan of Arc, called the Maid, the title, emoluments, and authorities of General-in-Chief of the armies of France.”
A suit of armor was made for her at Tours. It was of the finest steel, heavily plated with silver, richly ornamented with the engraved designs and polished like a mirror. She was miraculously provided with a sacred sword long hidden behind the altar of St. Catherine’s at Fierbois. She herself designed and consecrated a banner which she always carried with her into battle.

As the war march of Joan of Arc began, the curtain went up on one of the most unusual of all military careers. Louis Kossuth said that “Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person of either sex who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a great nation at age seventeen.” She rode a white horse and carried in her hand the sacred swords of Fierbois. It was also the symbol of her authority and the righteousness which she always maintained. She once said to her generals that even the “rude business of war could be better conducted without profanity or any of the other brutalities of speech.”

Some could not understand why Joan continued to be alert, vigorous, and confident while her strongest men were exhausted by heavy marches and exposure. They might have reflected that a great soul with a great purpose can make a weak body strong and able to bear the most exhausting fatigues.

Once with an almost impossible objective ahead, Joan said to one of her generals, “I will lead the men over the wall.” The general replied, “Not a man will follow you.” Joan said, “I will not look back to see whether anyone is following or not.”

But the soldiers of France did follow Joan of Arc. With her sacred sword, her consecrated banner, and her belief in her mission, she swept all before her. She sent a thrill of courage and enthusiasm through the French army such as neither king nor generals could produce. Then on May the 8th, 1430, by sheer strategy and force, she broke the siege at Orleans. This anniversary is still celebrated in France as “Joan of Arc Day.” It is the day that she drove out the British and saved France. Then at the head of her troops she marched to Rheims and crowned the Dauphin King.

With her mission accomplished, Joan planned to return to her family in Domremy, but she was treacherously betrayed and sold to the British. Then her long trial of over a year began. For many weary months she was kept in chains. She was threatened and abused. The judges and jurors were carefully selected enemies. Trumped-up charges of witchcraft and sorcery were brought against her. No one doubted that she had seen and conversed with supernatural beings. She had made many, many prophecies and had done many things that could not be explained otherwise.

But her enemies argued that her success came from Satan rather than God, and therefore she must be destroyed. Church influence and civil power were both used to discredit her. She was promised freedom if she would deny her voices and her mission. But Joan was immovable. She said, “If I were under sentence and saw the fire before me or even if I were in flames themselves I would not say other than what I have said at these trials, and I will abide by my testimony until I die.”

A full year had now passed since she had gone speeding across the plain at the head of her troops, her silver helmet shining, her silvery cape fluttering in the wind, her white plumes flowing and her sword held aloft. But Joan of Arc would ride no more. And as the fires were being lighted around the stake at which this nineteen-year-old French peasant maid would be burned alive, she was again given a chance to regain her liberty by denying what she believed.

In choosing the fire above her freedom, she said, “The world can use these words. I know this now—Every man gives his life for what he believes; every woman gives her life for what she believes.” Sometimes people believe in little of nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it and then it is gone. But to surrender what you are, and live without belief, is more terrible than dying, even more terrible than dying young.”

Twenty-four years after her death, the Pope appointed a commission to examine the facts of Joan’s life, and award a judgment. The commission sat at Paris, at Domrey, at Rouen, and at Orleans. It worked for several months and reinvestigated every detail of her life. It examined the trial records and hundreds of personal witnesses. And through all of this exhaustive examination, Joan’s character remained as spotless as it had always been.

Someone said that for “all of the qualities that men call great, look for them in Joan of Arc, and there you will find them.” As a result of the Pope’s official investigation, Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint. The greatest of praise was placed upon the official record of her life, there to remain forever.

It has been said that Joan of Arc lived in the most brutal, wicked and rotten ages since the Dark Ages. But Joan was truthful when lying was the common speech of man. She was honest when honesty was a lost virtue. She maintained her personal dignity, unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities.

She had dauntless courage when hope had perished in the hearts of her countrymen. She was spotlessly pure in mind and body when most of society was foul in both. In nineteen short years, this untaught girl had become the deliverer of France, the savior of her country. She was the genius of patriotism and the embodiment of sainthood, with a martyr’s crown upon her head. All of this Joan of Arc was when crime was the common business of mankind.

She was, perhaps, the only entirely unselfish person whose name has held a high place in profane history. No vestige or suggestion of self-seeking can be found in any word or deed of hers. When she rescues her king and set the crown upon his head, she was offered many rewards and honors, but she refused them all. Although she was the companion of princes, the general of victorious armies, and the idol of an applauding and grateful nation, yet all she desired was to go back to her village and tend her sheep, and to feel her mother’s arms about her.

The work of Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking among the greatest in history. She found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless under an alien conqueror, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened, its king cowed and preparing to flee the country. But when she laid her hand upon this withered nation, its people arose and followed her. Her soul was the embodiment of nobility and righteousness. And it was said that she was the most lovely and the most adorable embodiment of good that any age has yet produced.

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There is a ripple effect in all that we do; what you do touches me, what I do touches you...

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