Sunday, 3 June 2012

St. Joan of Arc

Icon, St. Joan of Arc, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
First, let me wish you all every blessing as we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

Now let me tell you about this week's icon of St. Joan of Arc.  For years I have kept my distance from this saint.  She just seemed too strange to me.  Sadly, I guess I was influenced by her enemies' claims even all these centuries later.  Over the past months, however, several events occurred which caused me to want to take a closer look at St. Joan of Arc, the co-patron of France (with St. Therese).  As I read, researched and listened, I became fascinated with the story of this illiterate peasant girl in whom knowledge was infused to the point where she knew how to lead a huge army in battle and not only lead, but lead them to victory.  Her wisdom, given to her by her "voices", was truly amazing.  So, I felt drawn, finally, to write an icon of St. Joan.  Now let me share with you a little bit of what I have learned.

Joan was 'like all the others' in her village until her thirteenth year. "When I was about thirteen, I received revelation from Our Lord by a voice which told me to be good and attend church often and that God would help me." She stated that her 'Voices' were Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Margaret. At first her 'Voices' came to her two or three times a week but as the time for her mission drew near (five years later), they visited her daily telling her to 'Go into France' to raise the siege of Orleans, conduct the Dauphin Charles to Reims for his crowning and to drive the English from the land.

Joan went to the neighboring town of Vaucouleurs, which means Valley of many colors. There she spoke to the loyal French governor by the name of Sir Robert de Baudricourt. After many rejections he finally agreed to send her to the Dauphin who at the time was living at the castle of Chinon.

Amazingly, after being accepted and approved by a Church council headed by the Archbishop of Reims, Joan was allowed to lead the Dauphin's army. This part of her career was meteoric. She entered Orleans on the evening of April 29th, 1429 and by May 8th the city had been freed. The Loire campaign started on June 9th and by June 19th the English were driven out of the Loire valley. The march to Reims started on June 29th and by July 17th Charles was crowned King of France in the cathedral of Reims.

In the months that followed, Joan was abandoned by her king and friends after she was captured in 1430 and started her year of captivity. As a prisoner of the Burgundians she was treated fairly but that all changed when on November 21st, she was handed over the English in exchange for money. How she survived their harsh treatment of her is a miracle in itself. The English not only wanted to kill Joan but they also wanted to discredit King Charles as a false king by having Joan condemned by the Church as a witch and a heretic. To obtain this goal the English used those Church authorities whom they knew to be favorable to them and the staunchest of these was Bishop Cauchon. Joan's trial of condemnation lasted from February 21st until May 23rd. She was finally burnt at the stake in Rouen's market square on May 30th, 1431. As the flames roared ever higher, she seemed to feel no pain and simply cried out over and over "Jesus, Jesus." Twenty-five years later the findings of Joan's first trial were overturned and declared 'null and void' by another Church court, who this time was favorable to King Charles. It was not until 1920 that the Church of Rome officially declared Joan to be a saint. Her feast day is celebrated on May 30th.

I really had wanted to post this icon on the 30th of May when I posted the flower, Medinilla magnifica, as it was the feast day of St. Joan.  However, I wanted to keep the focus on May being the month of Our Lady.  So now I will wish you all a happy, belated, feast day. 



Normally, I am not a great fan of zoos.  However, these days, for animals such as the Polar Bear, Zoos seem to be the only answer if we are going to help them survive global warming.

Toronto Zoo is a very active player with Acres for the Atmosphere which is a zookeeper initiated program founded in 2009 between PBI, American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and Frontier North to help educate and raise awareness on the issues polar bears are facing in the wild like global warming. They are actively engaging the community in tree planting to decrease CO2 emissions and raise awareness. Our local Toronto Zoo AAZK chapter has planted a total of 1,284 trees and plants with many more to come.

Given the rapid environmental changes that polar bears are facing, it is vital to understand how these changes will affect wild polar bear populations. We are collaborating on numerous research projects including non-invasive reproductive monitoring, behavioural assessments, olfactory communication, polar bear energetic's and changes in prey species in the diet to DNA work. All of this research has a direct impact on understanding and saving polar bears in the wild. The Toronto Zoo is a champion for Canada's majestic polar bears listed as a critically endangered species.

Hudson's Birth 
Photo from Zoo website

On October 11, 2011, Aurora, one of the Zoo's two 10-year old female polar bears, gave birth to three cubs, fathered by Inukshuk. Tragically, the new mother rejected the cubs shortly after birth, upon which time, Zoo staff quickly intervened and rescued the two surviving cubs. Less than 24 hours later, one cub sadly succumbed to injuries sustained, leaving one male cub surviving. This was the beginning of a long three months for Toronto Zoo veterinary and wildlife care staff.  Day and night, Zoo staff monitored and cared for this little newborn cub. They weathered through some close calls, however born with a healthy appetite and a strong sense of will, our little bear demonstrated a consistent growth rate to reach his current and healthy size of 17kg.

Hudson's Name

The "Name the Polar Bear Cub Contest" presented by Coca Cola consisted of name suggestions entered online or at the Zoo's Facebook page from February 3 to March 16. Then from March 17 to 28, participants voted online for one of the top five names. Once the votes were tallied, "Hudson" emerged as the most popular name among our polar bear fans.

Hudson is now almost 8 months old.  My friend, Glen K., was at the Zoo recently and took the following photos.  He kindly sent them to me -- for which I am very grateful -- as Polar Bears are probably my second favourite animal after elephants!

Hudson, Toronto Zoo, May 2012
[You can already glimpse the majestic bear he will become]

Hudson, Toronto Zoo, May 2012
[See, he already knows how to walk as though he knows where he's going!]

Hudson, Toronto Zoo, May 2012
[But then, every so often, he reminds us that he is still not even one year old!]



Suki propped up on a book
about St. John of God,
perhaps praying as she
awaits her next meal...
Well, when last I communicated with you, Suki was having difficulties in getting fed the quantity of food she felt was her due.  Sad to say, these problems continue!  We are making a bit of progress, however.  I have discovered that if I give her very small helpings, she is sufficiently satisfied to return to her normal routine of face washing followed by a nice, long nap.  Of course I have to creep around the apartment, trying not to awaken her and I certainly cannot go into the kitchen and make noise.  So, I am not sure we have really made that much progress after all.  I guess all I have really accomplished at this point is to have decreased the number of cans she is consuming daily from three to two.  Now, if I can just get her to stay asleep while I go into the kitchen for a glass of water...

Otherwise, she is doing well and, thanks be to God, so am I -- well, let me qualify that just a wee bit.

On Friday morning I came the closest to having a bad fall as I have come in the past five months!  I lost consciousness for just an instant and came to in the process of falling.  This is the way it has always happened.  As usual, I had no idea exactly what had happened when I regained consciousness.  All I did was react instinctively, reaching out in an effort to grab onto anything nearby.  Fortunately, I was standing right in front of the dividing bar between my kitchen and dining area and I was able to grab onto that counter with both hands just before I hit it, hard.  My joints in my hands still haven't quite recovered, but at least I did not fall for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Later as I reflected on this episode, I realized that I had not been giving myself permission to take the frequent naps I have found necessary to keep these falls from happening.  Why have I been acting this way?  Well, I have several projects that I am working on all at the same time, trying to finish everything at once in my usual, stubborn way.  The drive with which I worked before retiring meant that I always got an excellent employee review and was valued for the amount of work I could get done.  Of course, even then I paid a high price for my excessive drive and determination.  I keep hoping that I will one day learn to pace myself.

It is so strange -- I always look forward to receiving requests for doing some creative work and then when they come my way, I work myself to exhaustion to finish them as quickly as possible!  God must shake His head in puzzlement.  He sends me what I pray for and then I try to get rid of what He has sent as soon as possible -- then I pray for more of what I just worked so hard to get rid of! 

Speaking of such matters, I sent the last of the icons of the Stations of the Cross yesterday evening to China.  I reworked a number of them and I am particularly pleased with the increased luminosity of the 14th Station:
Icon, Station XIV, by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Finally,I pray, as always, that the peace and mercy of God will be with each one of us today and always.

May St. Joan of Arc, through her prayers on our behalf. ask God to keep us ever mindful of the joy that comes from obedience to His holy will.

You will notice that I added an item from YouTube, the "Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer".  I did this in honour of the Sacred Heart during this month of June which the Church dedicates to the Heart of Jesus.

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