"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, September 29, 2017

Faith Filled Friday: The Oil and the Lamp

Here is another excellent passage from Heart of Joy by Mother Teresa.  This comes from a section of a collection of her statements to her daughters in the Order.  This is one particular statement, titled in the book as “The Oil and the Lamp.”

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.  What we need is to love without getting tired.

How does a lamp burn?  Through the continuous input of small drops of oil.  If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will cease, and the bridegroom will say, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:1-13). 

My daughters, what are these drops of oil in our lamps?  They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, punctuality, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting.  These are the true drops of love that keep your religious life burning like a lively flame.

Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves.  He is not out there; he is in you.  Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize him.

The Biblical passage alluded to is the parable of the ten virgins, half who have run out of oil for their lamps and cannot meet the bridegroom.  What I find remarkable here is that Mother Teresa considers the oil that burns the lamp to be our little efforts of love and faith.  Those efforts are little drops of oil into the lamp.  And therefore it’s what brings light to the dark places of life.  I would read this passage to coincide with her order’s purpose, which she quotes a few pages later: “A Missionary of Charity is a messenger of God’s love, a living lamp that offers its light to all, and the salt of the earth.  We are to take Christ to those places where he has not been taken yet.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Part 5

Part 1 on Twain’s Joan of Arc can be found here.  
Part 2, here.  
Part 3, here
Part 4, here.  

This post deals with Book 3.

Summary:  Book 3, Chapters 1-12

With Joan now in their possession, the Burgundians await ransom offer from the King of France, which would have been typical of a prisoner of her status.  But no offer came, nor did the King of France show any interest in retaining Joan.  The English, on the other hand were very interested in taking possession of Joan and paid a large sum for her.  Louis de Conte finds his way to Rouen, where he obtains a position to record the trial, and so serve the fictive purpose of providing narration.  The chief prosecutor is Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvals, and a strong English sympathizer.  Since they could not charge Joan with any war crimes, the plan shifted to convict Joan with idolatry stemming from her visions and wearing of men's clothing.  Without any defense attorney, without any knowledge of the law, being only a seventeen year old, uneducated peasant girl, and faced with over fifty well-schooled inquisitors, experienced men learned in law and theology, Joan magnificently rebutted all their questions.

I don't know who I have the most anger toward out of all the villains.  Caouchon or the King of France.  One can understand Cauchon and his motivations, though he was working toward an evil end, and he will be forever remembered in history for his evil effort.  But for the King of France to not lift a finger to ransom Joan after all she did for him and for France is downright despicable.  There are no mitigating circumstances for his pusillanimous heart, for his treachery, and for his lack of gratitude.

Summary:  Book 3, Chapters 13-24, and Conclusion

After Joan single-handedly rebuffing Cauchon and the vast numbers of inquisitors in public, the trial is moved away from public sight to the dungeon.  After reviewing the transcript of Joan’s words from the public part of the trial, Cauchon digs out or fabricates sixty-six articles of charges against her.  Still the only charges that were even remotely prosecutable were that of the voices she heard and the wearing of men’s clothing, which somehow conflated to a charge of idolatry.  Here too she avoided their traps, and finally she was threatened with torture and death.  Still she is unmoved.  Cauchon then contrived a trick to wear her down to exhaustion, have her sign some falsified statement, and then prove she violated it.  The trick works.  Her mind confused from fatigue and directly lied to as to the conditions for her concession, she signs the fraudulent document.  With now having “violated” the conditions for her concession Cauchon can justify her execution.  With that she is burnt at the stake.

Reading the last part of Book 3 was difficult.  It was like watching train wreck where the disaster is unavoidable.  Poor Joan.  I have nothing but contempt for Cauchon and those that participated in the farce.  They wanted this poor young lady burnt and they lied and deceived her without an ounce of pity or shame.  I pray that Joan received some justice in eternity.  Twain did a masterful job with the ending.  He captured Joan’s indomitable spirit, Cauchon’s malicious workings and his increasing frustrations as Joan repeatedly rebuffed him, and the overall sense of pity of the tragic outcome.  Reading through the novel, Joan of Arc became very dear to me. 

I don’t have much more to say about the novel but I do want to highlight a couple of passages in the last book.  This passage from Book 3, Chapter 17, “Supreme in Direst Peril” I think captures the central theme of the novel.  The first part of the trial has ended and the prosecutors are taking their time to strategize on how to trap Joan.  She spends ten days isolated in captivity while Louis de Conte ponders what is going on.

And then we naturally contrasted our circumstances with hers: this freedom and sunshine, with her darkness and chains; our comradeship, with her lonely estate; our alleviations of one sort and another, with her destitution in all. She was used to liberty, but now she had none; she was an out-of-door creature by nature and habit, but now she was shut up day and night in a steel cage like an animal; she was used to the light, but now she was always in a gloom where all objects about her were dim and spectral; she was used to the thousand various sounds which are the cheer and music of a busy life, but now she heard only the monotonous footfall of the sentry pacing his watch; she had been fond of talking with her mates, but now there was no one to talk to; she had had an easy laugh, but it was gone dumb now; she had been born for comradeship, and blithe and busy work, and all manner of joyous activities, but here were only dreariness, and leaden hours, and weary inaction, and brooding stillness, and thoughts that travel by day and night and night and day round and round in the same circle, and wear the brain and break the heart with weariness. It was death in life; yes, death in life, that is what it must have been. And there was another hard thing about it all. A young girl in trouble needs the soothing solace and support and sympathy of persons of her own sex, and the delicate offices and gentle ministries which only these can furnish; yet in all these months of gloomy captivity in her dungeon Joan never saw the face of a girl or a woman. Think how her heart would have leaped to see such a face.

Consider. If you would realize how great Joan of Arc was, remember that it was out of such a place and such circumstances that she came week after week and month after month and confronted the master intellects of France single-handed, and baffled their cunningest schemes, defeated their ablest plans, detected and avoided their secretest traps and pitfalls, broke their lines, repelled their assaults, and camped on the field after every engagement; steadfast always, true to her faith and her ideals; defying torture, defying the stake, and answering threats of eternal death and the pains of hell with a simple "Let come what may, here I take my stand and will abide."

Yes, if you would realize how great was the soul, how profound the wisdom, and how luminous the intellect of Joan of Arc, you must study her there, where she fought out that long fight all alone—and not merely against the subtlest brains and deepest learning of France, but against the ignoble deceits, the meanest treacheries, and the hardest hearts to be found in any land, pagan or Christian.

She was great in battle—we all know that; great in foresight; great in loyalty and patriotism; great in persuading discontented chiefs and reconciling conflicting interests and passions; great in the ability to discover merit and genius wherever it lay hidden; great in picturesque and eloquent speech; supremely great in the gift of firing the hearts of hopeless men and noble enthusiasms, the gift of turning hares into heroes, slaves and skulkers into battalions that march to death with songs on their lips. But all these are exalting activities; they keep hand and heart and brain keyed up to their work; there is the joy of achievement, the inspiration of stir and movement, the applause which hails success; the soul is overflowing with life and energy, the faculties are at white heat; weariness, despondency, inertia—these do not exist.

Yes, Joan of Arc was great always, great everywhere, but she was greatest in the Rouen trials. There she rose above the limitations and infirmities of our human nature, and accomplished under blighting and unnerving and hopeless conditions all that her splendid equipment of moral and intellectual forces could have accomplished if they had been supplemented by the mighty helps of hope and cheer and light, the presence of friendly faces, and a fair and equal fight, with the great world looking on and wondering.

Here Twain has captured Joan’s indomitable spirit, her natural heroism.  Twain I believe casts her as a Romantic heroine, fighting against the “master intellects” with nothing but her uneducated and natural wisdom.  Joan is the anti-intellectual, representing natural humanity, uncorrupted humanity.  Yes, she has certain graces, gifts from God to hold her moral core against societal immorality.  She transcends fallen human nature.

Finally I want to quote how Twain brings the tragedy to an end.  From Book 3, Chapter 24, “Joan the Martyr.”

Joan had been placed wholly apart and conspicuous, to signify the Church's abandonment of her, and she sat there in her loneliness, waiting in patience and resignation for the end. Cauchon addressed her now. He had been advised to read the form of her abjuration to her, and had brought it with him; but he changed his mind, fearing that she would proclaim the truth—that she had never knowingly abjured—and so bring shame upon him and eternal infamy. He contented himself with admonishing her to keep in mind her wickednesses, and repent of them, and think of her salvation. Then he solemnly pronounced her excommunicate and cut off from the body of the Church. With a final word he delivered her over to the secular arm for judgment and sentence.

Joan, weeping, knelt and began to pray. For whom? Herself? Oh, no—for the King of France. Her voice rose sweet and clear, and penetrated all hearts with its passionate pathos. She never thought of his treacheries to her, she never thought of his desertion of her, she never remembered that it was because he was an ingrate that she was here to die a miserable death; she remembered only that he was her King, that she was his loyal and loving subject, and that his enemies had undermined his cause with evil reports and false charges, and he not by to defend himself. And so, in the very presence of death, she forgot her own troubles to implore all in her hearing to be just to him; to believe that he was good and noble and sincere, and not in any way to blame for any acts of hers, neither advising them nor urging them, but being wholly clear and free of all responsibility for them. Then, closing, she begged in humble and touching words that all here present would pray for her and would pardon her, both her enemies and such as might look friendly upon her and feel pity for her in their hearts.

There was hardly one heart there that was not touched—even the English, even the judges showed it, and there was many a lip that trembled and many an eye that was blurred with tears; yes, even the English Cardinal's—that man with a political heart of stone but a human heart of flesh.

The secular judge who should have delivered judgment and pronounced sentence was himself so disturbed that he forgot his duty, and Joan went to her death unsentenced—thus completing with an illegality what had begun illegally and had so continued to the end. He only said—to the guards:

"Take her"; and to the executioner, "Do your duty."

Joan asked for a cross. None was able to furnish one. But an English soldier broke a stick in two and crossed the pieces and tied them together, and this cross he gave her, moved to it by the good heart that was in him; and she kissed it and put it in her bosom. Then Isambard de la Pierre went to the church near by and brought her a consecrated one; and this one also she kissed, and pressed it to her bosom with rapture, and then kissed it again and again, covering it with tears and pouring out her gratitude to God and the saints.

And so, weeping, and with her cross to her lips, she climbed up the cruel steps to the face of the stake, with the friar Isambard at her side. Then she was helped up to the top of the pile of wood that was built around the lower third of the stake and stood upon it with her back against the stake, and the world gazing up at her breathless. The executioner ascended to her side and wound chains around her slender body, and so fastened her to the stake. Then he descended to finish his dreadful office; and there she remained alone—she that had had so many friends in the days when she was free, and had been so loved and so dear.

All these things I saw, albeit dimly and blurred with tears; but I could bear no more. I continued in my place, but what I shall deliver to you now I got by others' eyes and others' mouths. Tragic sounds there were that pierced my ears and wounded my heart as I sat there, but it is as I tell you: the latest image recorded by my eyes in that desolating hour was Joan of Arc with the grace of her comely youth still unmarred; and that image, untouched by time or decay, has remained with me all my days. Now I will go on.

If any thought that now, in that solemn hour when all transgressors repent and confess, she would revoke her revocation and say her great deeds had been evil deeds and Satan and his fiends their source, they erred. No such thought was in her blameless mind. She was not thinking of herself and her troubles, but of others, and of woes that might befall them. And so, turning her grieving eyes about her, where rose the towers and spires of that fair city, she said—

"Oh, Rouen, Rouen, must I die here, and must you be my tomb? Ah, Rouen, Rouen, I have great fear that you will suffer for my death."

A whiff of smoke swept upward past her face, and for one moment terror seized her and she cried out, "Water! Give me holy water!" but the next moment her fears were gone, and they came no more to torture her.

She heard the flames crackling below her, and immediately distress for a fellow-creature who was in danger took possession of her. It was the friar Isambard. She had given him her cross and begged him to raise it toward her face and let her eyes rest in hope and consolation upon it till she was entered into the peace of God. She made him go out from the danger of the fire. Then she was satisfied, and said—

"Now keep it always in my sight until the end."

Not even yet could Cauchon, that man without shame,

My heart goes out to poor Joan.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Matthew Monday: First Day in the Choir

This post gives me so much joy.  I have always felt Matthew has musical talent.  He has always had a talent to pick up a song’s tune and remember the lyrics.  The children’s choir at church is something he has always wanted to do, but he had to wait until third grade to participate.  Well, this year he started third grade and Wednesday night was the first practice.  The musical director thought his voice wonderful, so wonderful that she had him lead the Alleluia at his very first Sunday Mass with the choir.

I was able to film him at yesterday’s Mass.  Here he is leading the Alleluia.

Unfortunately the video is not sharp enough to see Matthew singing.  The first recitation is Matthew solo, and I think you can hear how sweet his voice is.  When the entire congregation responds with the second and third recitations unfortunately you can hear an ugly male voice in the forefront of the voices.  He was near my phone and I’ll have another word on him at the end.

But I also filmed the entire chorus during two of their hymns.  First, the offertory hymn, “Open My Eyes, Lord.”

That’s Matthew with the white shirt with the pink sleeves.  That’s the musical director playing piano, the younger children of the choir toward the front, and the older in the back. 

Here during the recessional hymn, “Though the Mountains May Fall.”

The kids are wonderful, and the music director, Debbie Williams, is great with the kids.  You don’t hear it with the children’s choir, but she has a wonderful voice.  I think she’s opera trained.

Now back to that ugly man’s voice in the Alleluia.  I must confess.  That was me, and I’m very embarrassed about it.  I’ve said, there are two types of Italian men, those that can sing and those that think they can sing.  I’m ashamed to say I’m of the second type obviously.  I don’t realize how bad I actually sound until I hear it played back.  Matthew has been making fun of me ever since we heard the recordings. 

But this was Matthew’s day and he shined.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Faith Filled Friday: Mother Teresa on the Poverty of Abortion

We at the Catholic Thought book club at Goodreads are reading Heart of Joy: The Transforming Power of Self-Giving by Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta.  he book is mostly a collection of her speeches and writing, at least so far, and I’m about a third of the way in.  The book doesn’t lend itself to analysis, so I’m just going to occasionally post a quote, and as you would imagine her quotes fit very nicely to my “Faith Filled Friday” meme. 

I think this is a particularly poignant quote because Mother Teresa is known for aiding the “poorest of the poor.” 

A nation that destroys the life of an unborn child, who has been created for living and loving, who has been created in the image of God, is in a tremendous poverty.  For a child to be destroyed because of the selfishness of those who fear they may not be able to feed one more child, fear they may not be able to educate one more child and so decide the child has to die—that’s poverty.

What makes this quote particularly poignant is that she’s speaking in Philadelphia in the United States (August 6, 1976) at a symposium titled “Freedom and Justice.”  In effect she is speaking to the United States and to other first world, western nations—the richest countries in the world.  The poverty is not a poverty of money, but a poverty of values.  And frankly it’s even worse than Mother Teresa imagines.  Underlying her assumption in the quote is that most abortions happen because of money.  But really they don’t.  They happen because people don’t want the child to interfere with their lives and plans.  That is truly a poverty of values.

By the way, always looking for some new members to the Catholic Thought Book Club.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Part 4

Part 1 on Twain’s Joan of Arc can be found here.  
Part 2, here.  
Part 3, here.  

This post deals with the last third of Book 2.

Summary to Book 2, Chapters 29-41:

In June Joan, bringing the Constable of France, Richemont, to her side, wins the important Battle of Patay, her most overwhelming victory and a resounding defeat for the English under the leadership of Talbot and Fastolfe.  The victory allowed Charles VII to finally have the courage to claim the French crown and was coroneted at Rheims.  Joan’s father and uncle attend the coronation and are representatives for the great honor given to Joan’s home town of Domremy.  Joan then insisted that they aggressively continue onto Paris for the final victory, but the King’s administrative court, especially La Trémoille, argued against it. Joan does persuade the King and Joan and the army march toward Paris.  But La Trémoille ultimately convinced the King to reduce the size of Joan’s army.  With a reduced army, Joan could not take Paris, and, she also being wounded, finally in May of 1430 was captured and taken prisoner by the Burgundian forces who were aligned with the English. 

The last third of Book 2 shows Joan at the height of her glory with the victory of the Battle of Patay and the crowning of Charles VII as King of France at Rheims. But we also see the treachery that leads to her decline and capture. First, here are a timeline (from the Maid of France website)   of the events that lead to her capture:

1429 September 8       Assault on Paris begins. Joan of Arc is wounded when a bolt from a
                                      crossbow hits her in the thigh near dusk. She refused to quit urging
                                      her soldiers to continue the attack. Against her orders she was carried  from the battlefield and the assault ended.

1429 September 9       Joan plans to resume offensive but Charles intervenes and orders the
                                      army to withdraw.

1429 September 21     After marching back to Gien-sur-Loire Charles VII disbands the army.

1429 November 4       With smaller army Joan of Arc captures the town of Saint-Pierre-le-                                                   Moûtier.

1429 November 9       Joan sends letter to the people of Riom.

1429 Late Novem       Joan of Arc begins siege of La Charité-sur-Loire.

1429 December 25     Siege of La Charité-sur-Loire fails and Joan returns to Jargeau for

1429 December 29               Joan and her family elevated to nobility and given the name du Lys.

1430 Jan-March         Joan stays with Charles at his court as an unwilling but honored guest.

1430 March 16           Joan sends letter to the people of Reims.

1430 March 28           Joan sends her final letter to the people of Reims.

1430 March 29           Joan leaves the court at Sully to join French fighting at Lagny.

1430 April                   Joan prays for dead child at Lagny that makes miraculous recovery.

1430 April 17 ?           Joan of Arc liberates the town of Melun.

1430 May 15               Joan of Arc goes to the aid of the town of Compiègne

1430 May 23               Captured by Burgundians when the drawbridge at Compiègne is raised.

Twain's novel really consolidates the events, but shows the vacillation of the King (Charles VII) and the treachery of his court toward Joan that leads to Joan's capture. Where I think Twain fails is in rendering the full dynamics of what is going one behind the scenes. The French King's administration is trying to negotiate peace with the English crown, John of Lancaster the Duke of Bedford, who was in charge of the infant King Henry VI. Bedford uses the Burgundians as go between with the French King's court with the false promise of positive terms for the French in a treaty. So the French King's administration pulls the rug from under Joan by having her army reduced while Bedford quietly strengthens his army and position for the Battle of Paris. This was the treachery that went on behind Joan's back. 

Here is a passage from chapter 31, “The Red Field of Patay,” with Joan at the end of her greatest victory.

The Battle of Patay was won.

Joan of Arc dismounted, and stood surveying that awful field, lost in thought. Presently she said:

"The praise is to God. He has smitten with a heavy hand this day." After a little she lifted her face, and looking afar off, said, with the manner of one who is thinking aloud, "In a thousand years—a thousand years—the English power in France will not rise up from this blow." She stood again a time thinking, then she turned toward her grouped generals, and there was a glory in her face and a noble light in her eye; and she said:

"Oh, friends, friends, do you know?—do you comprehend? France is on the way to be free!"

"And had never been, but for Joan of Arc!" said La Hire, passing before her and bowing low, the other following and doing likewise; he muttering as he went, "I will say it though I be damned for it." Then battalion after battalion of our victorious army swung by, wildly cheering. And they shouted, "Live forever, Maid of Orleans, live forever!" while Joan, smiling, stood at the salute with her sword.

This was not the last time I saw the Maid of Orleans on the red field of Patay. Toward the end of the day I came upon her where the dead and dying lay stretched all about in heaps and winrows; our men had mortally wounded an English prisoner who was too poor to pay a ransom, and from a distance she had seen that cruel thing done; and had galloped to the place and sent for a priest, and now she was holding the head of her dying enemy in her lap, and easing him to his death with comforting soft words, just as his sister might have done; and the womanly tears running down her face all the time

A discussion also ensued at the book club (Goodreads, Catholic Thought) on how Twain presents an idealized, saintly Joan.  Irene stated how she enjoyed the more realistic, modern saints biographies that show saints’ imperfections as well.

Irene states:
“Manny, doesn't everyone of us, born with Original Sin, have imperfections? Seventeen would be far from truly young at a time when girls would have been likely married and starting their families in their mid-teens and the average life span was not much more than 40 given the number of deaths due to disease, war, childbirth, poor nutrition and farming injuries at that time. I would not expect that Joan's recorded life would not include any imperfections. The way we now approach history and biography is a very contemporary style. In Joan's era, the lives of heros and saints were recounted in a way that maximized the virtue they were admired for and any short-coming was omitted.”

Manny replies:
Other than venial sins, which I'm sure Joan committed, I can't think of any mortal sins she might have done. She was kind, loved her parents, I assume she went to Mass more than once a week, she wasn't the stealing type. Jealousy? Pride? Greed?
I don't think she would have had those. Other than a sexual indiscretion, and I don't think it applied to Joan either, I don't know what mortal sin she could have committed. Perhaps we might have caught her in a moment of hating the English? Is that mortal or venial?

Irene, I have never read a modern biography of a saint. Which ones have you read and what kind of sins did they commit? 

Manny, I have read biographical pieces on a number of canonized individuals from Teresa of Calcutta to John XXIII. Flaws are not necessarily mortal sins. Various holy people are revealed to have been impatient, headstrong to the point of not being able to hear what others had to tell them, had moments of intolerance, anger, unwise reactions to situations, and so on. In the older style of recounting heroic lives, if an individual is admired for courage, moments of doubt, fear, cowardly cruelty are left out of the story. If an individual is compassionate, thoughts of critical judgmentalism, resentment, selfishness are left out of the account. Joan is flawlessly wise, compassionate to friend and foe alike, only displaying righteous anger similar to Jesus with the sadducees, perfectly humble, etc. I am not saying that such a depiction of heroic figures is wrong or bad. I just find it very difficult to enter into such an account. 

Irene, I think you’ve hit on a difference on all biography—not just saints lives—between that of the modern world, starting with the age of enlightenment, and prior.  Biography in the ancient and medieval world did not think that capturing the historical figure in a full realistic sense was beneficial.  They did not see the point of such detail.  The intent of biography was to make a thematic point, not bringing that person “to life” for the reader.  The biographical figure stood more as a symbol, say virtue or honor or devotion, than as a three dimensional figure.  This wasn’t just in biography or literature, but the graphic arts as well.  For instance you might have a painting of the crucifixion with St. Francis of Assisi at the foot of the cross.  Well obviously that wasn’t realistic since Christ and St. Francis were separated by 1200 years.  Somewhere during the Age of Enlightenment an impulse for realism took over art, and the drive was to show as the biographical figure with all their warts, whether they have any significance or not. 

On the positive side, those warts are means for many of us to identify with the saint.  On the negative side, those warts can lead to undermining of faith.  Yes, the venial sins of saints you mention would not do so, but something like the controversy in Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel The Last Temptation of Christ where Christ is portrayed with many human failings would do so.  Now that’s an extreme example, but you can see how such a portrayal can undermine faith.

Now back to Twain’s Joan.  As has been pointed out, there is lots of documentation on Joan’s life, but it appears to all be in the pre-modern sense.  Twain was constrained to follow it or he would have had to invent human failings for Joan, and that would have come across as trite since we know that those failings were not documented.  But more important, I believe Twain intentionally strove to idealize Joan because it suited his artistic purposes.  The deeper you get into the novel, the more Twain is bitter with the treachery Joan suffered.  Twain’s misanthropic theme comes to the forefront, and having Joan as the pure, saintly youth serves as a contrast to the treacherous figures that betray her.  Twain really is in love with Joan of Arc because she transcended human malice and corruption.

I know there is a place for “realistic saints” but personally for me I prefer a portrayal of saints as transcendent.  Instead of identifying with them I want them to be something for me to strive for, no matter how impossible. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, Part 3

Part 1 on Twain’s Joan of Arc can be found here.  
Part 2, here.  

This post deals with Book 2 of the novel, and the following are summaries of the first two thirds of Book 2.

Summary to Book 2, Chapters 1-13:

Joan, now seventeen years old, is escorted to Vaucouleurs, a nearby town, where the local governor and nobility investigate Joan’s claims and conclude she divinely sent.  They gather a group to take her to the King, and she leads the way through enemy territory.  The King too becomes convinced, as is his leading inquisitor, the Dominican Brother Séguin, and the King gives her command of his army for the Battle of Orleans.  Along the way we meet several of the characters that will have rank in her leadership: The Paladin, Sire de Retz, La Hire, and we see how her virtue and charm inspires devotion in her person. 

Summary to Book 2, Chapters 14-28:

Joan takes command of the army and her first order of business is to dictate a letter to the English to depart from France.  Of course they refuse.  She then moves into action and marches toward Orleans, along the way encountering skirmishes.  She wins a major victory in Orleans and advices the King to rush to Reims to claim the crown. 

A couple of points were made at the Goodreads discussion concerning Twain’s characterization of Joan.  Both in a way deal with Joan as an idealized person.  Kerstin hit upon Joan as an authentic leader.

Kerstin wrote:
“There are so many snake-oil salesmen one has a natural skepticism to hold back even if others follow blindly. Yet when face to face with people who have a true charisma, and aura of sincerity that is hard to ignore we recognize we are in the company of somebody truly special. Think of St. John Paul II or St. Mother Teresa, two people within living memory, who had this kind of effect on people. Joan strikes me as that kind of person.”

Manny’s Response:
That is a good point Kerstin, and I think we see her "charisma and aura of sanctity" in the way she deals with underlings: The Paladin, Sire de Retz, and La Hire.  She takes a different tact to win over each one of them.  I don't know how much of this is Twain filling in the details and how much is historically known.  Look at how she wins over The Paladin, who was really a braggart and a bit of a doofus, and first gives him encouragement and then the highest responsibility, that of carrying the army's banner.  From the end of Book II, Chapter 10:

"The Paladin entered humbly enough. He ventured no farther than just within the door. He stopped there, looking embarrassed and afraid. Then Joan spoke pleasantly, and said-

"I watched you on the road. You began badly, but improved. Of old you were a fantastic talker, but there is a man in you, and I will bring it out." It was fine to see the Paladin's face light up when she said that. "Will you follow where I lead?"

"Into the fire!" he said; and I said to myself, "By the ring of that, I think she has turned this braggart into a hero. It is another of her miracles, I make no doubt of it."

"I believe you," said Joan. "Here-take my banner. You will ride with me in every field, and when France is saved, you will give it me back."

He took the banner, which is now the most precious of the memorials that remain of Joan of Arc, and his voice was unsteady with emotion when he said-

"If I ever disgrace this trust, my comrades here will know how to do a friend's office upon my body, and this charge I lay upon them, as knowing they will not fail me."  (Book II, Chapter 12)

Then in the next chapter in a conversation between Sieur Louis and Noël Rainguesson, Louis mentions a conversation he had with "the chief knight."  I'm not sure which one is the chief knight but he makes a tremendous observation to Louis.  This is Louis speaking:

"You have noticed that our chief knight says a good many wise things and has a thoughtful head on his shoulders. One day, riding along, we were talking about Joan's great talents, and he said, 'But, greatest of all her gifts, she has the seeing eye.' I said, like an unthinking fool, 'The seeing eye?-I shouldn't count on that for much-I suppose we all have it.' 'No,' he said; 'very few have it.' Then he explained, and made his meaning clear. He said the common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside didn't indicate or promise, and which the other kind of eye couldn't detect. He said the mightiest military genius must fail and come to nothing if it have not the seeing eye-that is to say, if it cannot read men and select its subordinates with an infallible judgment. It sees as by intuition that this man is good for strategy, that one for dash and daredevil assault, the other for patient bull-dog persistence, and it appoints each to his right place and wins, while the commander without the seeing eye would give to each the other's place and lose. He was right about Joan, and I saw it. When she was a child and the tramp came one night, her father and all of us took him for a rascal, but she saw the honest man through the rags. When I dined with the governor of Vaucouleurs so long ago, I saw nothing in our two knights, though I sat with them and talked with them two hours; Joan was there five minutes, and neither spoke with them nor heard them speak, yet she marked them for men of worth and fidelity, and they have confirmed her judgment. Whom has she sent for to take charge of this thundering rabble of new recruits at Blois, made up of old disbanded Armagnac raiders, unspeakable hellions, every one? Why, she has sent for Satan himself-that is to say, La Hire-that military hurricane, that godless swashbuckler, that lurid conflagration of blasphemy, that Vesuvius of profanity, forever in eruption.  (Book II, Chapter 11)

Joan has this "seeing eye" to know who to place in commend.  And shockingly she takes La Hire, described as "Satan himself," to an important command.  Notice later in the conversation Louis makes another observation about Joan:

"Well, we shall see. Joan probably knows what is in him [The paladin] better than we do. And I'll give you another idea. When a person in Joan of Arc's position tells a man he is brave, he believes it; and believing it is enough; in fact, to believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing."

"Now you've hit it!" cried Noël. "She's got the creating mouth as well as the seeing eye! Ah, yes, that is the thing. France was cowed and a coward; Joan of Arc has spoken, and France is marching, with her head up!"

So the generals have been converted by her seeing eye and creating mouth, and so have the French people.  It's hard for a novelist to capture all that with just a couple of scenes, but Twain does the best he can.  Notice then in chapter 12 how she converts the gruff and sinful old soldier La Hire to be rectitude:

"The visit of ceremony was soon over, and the others went away; but La Hire stayed, and he and Joan sat there, and he sipped her wine, and they talked and laughed together like old friends. And presently she gave him some instructions, in his quality as master of the camp, which made his breath stand still. For, to begin with, she said that all those loose women must pack out of the place at once, she wouldn't allow one of them to remain. Next, the rough carousing must stop, drinking must be brought within proper and strictly defined limits, and discipline must take the place of disorder. And finally she climaxed the list of surprises with this-which nearly lifted him out of his armor:

"Every man who joins my standard must confess before the priest and absolve himself from sin; and all accepted recruits must be present at divine service twice a day."

La Hire could not say a word for a good part of a minute, then he said, in deep dejection:

"Oh, sweet child, they were littered in hell, these poor darlings of mine! Attend mass? Why, dear heart, they'll see us both damned first!"

And he went on, pouring out a most pathetic stream of arguments and blasphemy, which broke Joan all up, and made her laugh as she had not laughed since she played in the Domremy pastures. It was good to hear.

But she stuck to her point; so the soldier yielded, and said all right, if such were the orders he must obey, and would do the best that was in him; then he refreshed himself with a lurid explosion of oaths, and said that if any man in the camp refused to renounce sin and lead a pious life, he would knock his head off. That started Joan off again; she was really having a good time, you see. But she would not consent to that form of conversions. She said they must be voluntary." (Book II Chapter 12)

And she makes the whole army attend mass and confession.  You would think that such forced obligations to the riffraff of society would bring about scorn and cynicism.  No.  Just the opposite.  I think they were looking for a reason to elevate their souls.  They had lost to the English for generations, and now they could only turn to God.  Later in the chapter Louis describes the change, first concerning La hire and then the rest of the army:

"That tough old lion went away from there a good deal tamed and civilized-not to say softened and sweetened, for perhaps those expressions would hardly fit him. Noël and I believed that when he was away from Joan's influence his old aversions would come up so strong in him that he could not master them, and so wouldn't go to mass. But we got up early in the morning to see.

Satan was converted, you see. Well, the rest followed. Joan rode up and down that camp, and wherever that fair young form appeared in its shining armor, with that sweet face to grace the vision and perfect it, the rude host seemed to think they saw the god of war in person, descended out of the clouds; and first they wondered, then they worshipped. After that, she could do with them what she would.

In three days it was a clean camp and orderly, and those barbarians were herding to divine service twice a day like good children. The women were gone. La Hire was stunned by these marvels; he could not understand them. He went outside the camp when he wanted to swear. He was that sort of a man-sinful by nature and habit, but full of superstitious respect for holy places.

The enthusiasm of the reformed army for Joan, its devotion to her, and the hot desire had aroused in it to be led against the enemy, exceeded any manifestations of this sort which La Hire had ever seen before in his long career. His admiration of it all, and his wonder over the mystery and miracle of it, were beyond his power to put into words. He had held this army cheap before, but his pride and confidence in it knew no limits now. He said-

"Two or three days ago it was afraid of a hen-roost; one could storm the gates of hell with it now."

And so as the army marches toward Orleans for the great battle, the French people too are won over:

"What a picture it was! Such black seas of people, such a starry firmament of torches, such roaring whirlwinds of welcome, such booming of bells and thundering of cannon! It was as if the world was come to an end. Everywhere in the glare of the torches one saw rank upon rank of upturned white faces, the mouths wide open, shouting, and the unchecked tears running down; Joan forged her slow way through the solid masses, her mailed form projecting above the pavement of heads like a silver statue. The people about her struggled along, gazing up at her through their tears with the rapt look of men and women who believe they are seeing one who is divine; and always her feet were being kissed by grateful folk, and such as failed of that privilege touched her horse and then kissed their fingers.

Nothing that Joan did escaped notice; everything she did was commented upon and applauded. You could hear the remarks going all the time.

"There-she's smiling-see!"

"Now she's taking her little plumed cap off to somebody-ah, it's fine and graceful!"

"She's patting that woman on the head with her gauntlet."

"Oh, she was born on a horse-see her turn in her saddle, and kiss the hilt of her sword to the ladies in the window that threw the flowers down."

"Now there's a poor woman lifting up a child-she's kissed it-oh, she's divine!"

"What a dainty little figure it is, and what a lovely face-and such color and animation!"

Joan's slender long banner streaming backward had an accident-the fringe caught fire from a torch. She leaned forward and crushed the flame in her hand.

"She's not afraid of fire nor anything!" they shouted, and delivered a storm of admiring applause that made everything quake.

She rode to the cathedral and gave thanks to God, and the people crammed the place and added their devotions to hers; then she took up her march again and picked her slow way through the crowds and the wilderness of torches to the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer of the Duke of Orleans, where she was to be the guest of his wife as long as she stayed in the city, and have his young daughter for comrade and room-mate. The delirium of the people went on the rest of the night, and with it the clamor of the joy-bells and the welcoming cannon."  (Book II Chapter 13)

This winning over of the King, the generals, the army, and the French people is the central point of these early chapters of Book II.