Thursday 28 April 2022

Coached By Joan of Arc - Alexandre Havard - Lessons in Virtuous Leadership

Coached By Joan of Arc
Lessons in Virtuous Leadership
Anthony T. Salvia (Translator)
ISBN 9781594174506
eISBN 9781594174513

I have read a few books now from the pen of Alexandre Havard and I believe this is the third translated by Anthony T. Salvia. I have yet to read one that I did not benefit from. They are always challenging to my spiritual life, how I see myself, and where I see myself going. They are books that really make me pause and think. They are well worth the time and effort to read. The description of this volume is:

“This book is a dialogue between the reader and Joan of Arc, the woman Mark Twain called “easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”

As we explore her virtue-infused life, this astonishingly modern woman takes us by the hand, coaches us, whispers wise advice in our ear. Far from being anachronistic, her way of life and virtuous example is eternally new, for she follows precepts that are above human weakness.

Joan is for all of us – men and women of today, living and working in the midst of the world. She is for us all a coach, a mother, and an excellent teacher of the elevated, virtuous, and courageous life.”

And the chapters are:

One: Finding Victory in Defeat
Two: Be Aware of Your Strength
Three: Magnanimity Trumps Self-Esteem
Four: Create a Plan for Personal Growth
Five: Cultivate Filial Piety
Six: Help Yourself and Heaven Will Help You
Seven: Put Your Intelligence into Everything You Do
Eight: Discover Your Mission
Nine: Do Not Confuse Your Objectives with Your Mission
Ten: Work for the Long Term
Eleven: Flee from Voluntarism
Twelve: Banish Sentimentalism
Thirteen: Purify Your Intentions
Fourteen: Do Not Fear Public Opinion
Fifteen: Reject Perfectionism
Chronology of Joan’s Life

We are informed at the beginning of this volume that:

“Alexandre Havard created the Virtuous Leadership system, which is now taught in countries the world over. His books Virtuous Leadership (2007), Created for Greatness (2011), From Temperament to Character (2018), and Free Hearts (2019) have been translated into some twenty languages. After graduating from Paris Descartes University with a degree in law, he served as a barrister in Strasbourg and Helsinki. He is the founder of the Virtuous Leadership Institute, which has affiliates in numerous countries on five continents.”

Then the volume opens with a quote from Saint Josemaría Escrivá:

“There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up.””

Before the main text of the book Alexandre shares with us a revelation. That revelation relates to his life, leaving the practice of law, founding Virtuous Leadership, and specifically why Joan. He atets:

“An insipid-looking girl mounted on a muscular war horse, nearly asphyxiated and crushed by her armor—that was the way I imagined Joan of Arc during my years at school and in college. Joan of Arc did not move me at all. After all, it was no longer the patriotic time of 1914. Rather, it was “The Deserter,” written by the eccentric Boris Vian and sung by the very melancholic Serge Reggiani, which I retain in my memory from that time. His magnificent despair grabbed me in the gut.

Joan of Arc entered into my life at the turn of the millennium. I was approaching my forties. I had been living in Finland for more than ten years. France was far away. And suddenly, in the icy darkness of a winter’s night very much like so many others, I perceived a face radiating light and purity!

The face of Joan. A smiling, rather mischievous face said to me, “Let’s go.” She said it in English. These words resonated in the deepest, most intimate part of my soul with a power preventing me from doubting for a single instant.

A grace of God—I have never had the slightest doubt, so much had her presence filled me with joy and peace. This grace led me to give up the practice of law and devote myself to the teaching of virtuous leadership all over the world.”

He has lived out that revelation and this book goes back to the beginning and gives us leadership examples from the life of Saint Joan of Arc. This volume has 15 leadership lessons, each chapter ends with a section called “Some practical advice”, and the book would be worth the price just for these 15 exercises. This is followed by an image of Joan from art work, a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, etchings, and prints. I highlighted several passages my first time through this book, some of them were:

“It is thanks to my trial, and this testimony—the like of which history had never seen—that today I continue to work in the hearts of men. It is thanks to my judges, to the often absurd and humiliating questions they posed, that the whole world knows of my life and spirit. Bishop Pierre Cauchon, the head of the tribunal and the main negotiator of the Treaty of Troyes, which gave France to the English, wanted to preside over a “beautiful trial,” as he said. And it is because he wanted the trial to be “beautiful” that my words were recorded, timed, and sealed. He wanted to tarnish my memory forever, but the more he tarnished it, the more it served the plans of God. Unknowingly, he was building a monument to my glory.”

“Put your trust in God, as I trusted in him. Where you see defeat, God sees victory.”

“Some practical advice: Identify three major defeats in your life and discover in them all of the victories you derived or could have derived from them: 1) for your personal growth; 2) for the benefit of others; 3) for the quality of your professional, familial, and social life.”

“I was confident in my talents. Everyone who knew me agreed that I was tall and beautiful, strong and at the same time profoundly feminine. I had a soft voice and spoke in a way admired by others. I was sensitive and did not hide my tears. I liked to laugh and make others laugh. I had a proud look and a joyous face. I took care over my appearance when necessary. I had a religious soul in a robust, magnificent, and healthy body. I was conscious of all of these gifts, of all of these qualities of body and spirit.”

“In recognizing our talents, we give thanks to God, who created us. Refusing to recognize our talents is not humility but ingratitude.”

“Recognizing our talents, increasing them, and using them well is the virtue of magnanimity, the virtue of the great.”

“I expected everything of God as if I could do nothing myself, and I expected everything of myself as if God did not exist. I was a child before God, but a giant before men.”

“This is what I wanted to tell you today. Be aware of your talents. Multiply them. Live at full tilt. May your humility not be pusillanimity! May your humility never deviate from your magnanimity! Develop your human potential to the point of exhaustion, and do not be afraid of humanists spewing hatred.”

“We have been talking about humility in the wrong way. It is true that man by himself is absolute nothingness, a non-being, but the man who was created in the image of God, ransomed by the Son and divinized by the Holy Spirit, is a true wonder. Man was constituted as a son of God. This intimate truth, this sublime reality, should impel you to accomplish great things. You are a son of God—there is no greater dignity than that. This dignity should encourage you to dream and convert your dream into a mission.”

“Remember: evil is not what others do, it is the good that you, personally, do not do.”

“I was aware that without God I was nothing. I constantly sought his presence and naturally had recourse to him. I did not confine myself to the requirements religion prescribed. I passionately sought the face of God and communion with him. I was a pious and religious soul from my earliest childhood. I owe my piety to my mother, Isabelle. Everything I knew about Christian life I took from her teaching and example.”

“Piety begins with the truth. The great truth is that without God, you do not exist. Anyone not understanding this simple fact cannot be humble or pious. If life is a gift of God, religious indifference is an abomination. If God wanted you to be, justice demands that you love him with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your soul. So, I encourage you to be pious. May your piety be that of a child—natural, sincere, and trusting.”

“You have to pray, but you also have to act. “Help yourself and heaven will help you.” I often repeat these words. They have entered into history. When the theologians of Poitiers asked me why I needed an army if it was the will of God to deliver the French people, I told them, “The soldiers will fight, and God will grant the victory.” They were stupefied by the profundity and simplicity of my theology.”

“The war in which you are engaged is a total war. It is no longer a question of saving France from the English; it is a question of saving humanity from self-destruction. Your world sacrifices the dignity and freedom of millions of human beings on the altar of pleasure every day.”

“Many would like to make me a symbol of patriotism. That is because they do not, or do not want, to understand me. The Church canonized me very late—five hundred years after the annulment of my trial—to avoid all confusion in this regard. I am not a “patriot.” I am someone who loves the will of God.”

“If I were above all a patriot, my name would not have spread through the whole world; men like Winston Churchill, G. K. Chesterton, and Mark Twain would probably never have been interested in my story. I was a gift of God to all of humanity. To make me into the incarnation of nationalist sentiment is not only unjust, it is also blasphemy.”

“For you, things are different. What God expects of you, he communicates through the usual channels of the interior life, not through angels, visions, or voices. Although he uses ordinary means, therein lies their interest. They presume that you will bring to bear your heart, mind, will, imagination, and memory, and that you will free yourself once and for all of the thirst for certainty and security that is devouring you.”

“You will always have doubts about your mission and how to accomplish it. If you are pious, God will not abandon you. He will grant you his grace and light, as you make choices bringing you closer to achieving your mission. This mission demands imagination and creativity on your part. Even if it does not descend from heaven, it is an integral part of God’s plan for you.”

“You are a voluntarist, and probably think I was, too. You think I submitted coldly to God’s will like the heroine in a Greek tragedy, who submits stoically to her fate. I am not a stoic but a Christian. I loved the will of God more than I submitted to it. I rejoiced in his will much more than in my submission to it. I did good with my will, most certainly, but I did it also and above all with my heart—with my feelings and emotions, with my senses and flesh. I had learned from earliest childhood to revel in the good. I knew sorrow, but I learned to discover charm, transcendence, and mystery in every moment.”

“Some practical advice: Learn to be happy. Be convinced that happiness is not a sin! Refuse to base your life on things that have nothing to do with you, your interests or nature, and which serve a task or moral obligation existing only in your imagination. Know yourself; discover your own substance and God’s will for you. Love God, love yourself, and love others in your own way. Learn to live.”

“Some practical advice: Does the image you give of yourself correspond to reality? Do you take care that the impression you make faithfully reveals your intentions, virtues, and talents? Are you doing too much, or not enough? Are you prepared to sacrifice your image in the name of truth and the good, in the name of your conscience?”

“Some practical advice: Are you demoralized by failure? Are you overwhelmed by your mistakes, weaknesses, and shortcomings? At the end of each day, put your miseries in the hands of God. Submerge yourself in his mercy. Forget the past. Renew yourself. Get up each morning with a healthy enthusiasm, which is not a reflection of naivete, but of a warrior spirit full of faith, hope, and charity.”

“In making Joan your coach, you cannot go wrong. Joan, as you will have noticed, is a universal model accessible to all men and women, whatever their cultural or religious background. The interest Joan arouses today in all parts of the world comes as no surprise. The heroine of Orléans is an astonishingly modern woman. There is nothing strange about her, nothing inappropriate or anachronistic. Joan is eternally new. The “Case of Joan of Arc” is unique in history. We know everything about her life, even though it was lived in the fifteenth century. Nothing we know about her is the stuff of legend; our knowledge is based on archival documents. God wanted it to be so. He wanted Joan to be for all of us—men and women working at the very heart of society and worldly affairs—a coach, a teacher, and a mother. May 16, 2020 Centennial of Joan of Arc’s canonization.”

I hope at least a few of the passages that really spoke to me, will also speak to you, and inspire you to pick up this volume and give it a read. It is another excellent volume from the pen of Harvard, and I am certain if you read with an open heart your life will be changed. An excellent offering from the masterful pen of Harvard!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books in the Scepter Coached by Series:
Coached by Josemaría Escrivá - Henry Hanson, O. Praem.
Coached By Joan of Arc - Alexandre Havard

Books by Alexandre Havard:
Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence
Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity

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