“Let’s go to France,” my fiancée Laurel, said.
We were planning our honeymoon and had airline miles donated to us. It was the perfect opportunity to see where she studied abroad and traveled extensively. Yet, symbolic of marriage, we decided to start an adventure together, and decided to go to places neither of us had ever been. The deal was that I would someday get her back to the land she loves so dearly. It wasn’t the cheese and the wine that captured her heart, but the Gothic cathedrals, which she wrote her thesis on for Christendom College.
Almost a year after our wedding, our daughter, Evelyn, was born. The financial situation became more difficult and travels abroad faded from plans to dreams. Eighteen months later, our second daughter, Lucie Marie was born. It seemed like the French spelling of her name would be the closest to France we would ever get.
As the years progressed, our oldest daughter listened and noticed that Laurel had a love for France — the so-called “eldest daughter of the Church” (a name given to it since it has an unbroken connection to Rome since the second century, and was the first nation after the fall of the Western Roman empire to become predominantly Catholic).
Imitation, they say, is one of the greatest forms of flattery. I suppose this explains how Evelyn began spotting an Eiffel Tower puzzle from across a toy store. She learned to count to 10 in French, say “bonjour,” “merci,” and “Je m’appelle Evelyn.” While that’s cute to hear a 4-and-a-half-year-old little girl say all that, it ran much deeper than that.
Evelyn is a special girl with a deep faith. She frequently sits in the living room with a book of the saints and flips through pictures of paintings of them. One day, she came across St. Joan of Arc. She stopped.
“Mom, who’s this?”
“That’s St. Joan of Arc — the patroness of France.”
Evelyn is a special girl with a deep faith.
Evelyn’s curious face turned into a bright smile. During our evening prayers, Evelyn started her own regular prayer, “St. Joan of Arc, help us get to France. Help us get there safely and have a good time together. Amen.” While I admired her faith, I was a little sad about the fact that we would never get there. At least, so it seemed.
Christendom College was having their 40th anniversary, and it was my wife’s 10-year anniversary from graduation, so many of her friends were planning to attend. We decided to go and make a week of it, perhaps going up to Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont to see the autumn leaves (we’re from California and it’s just not the same). I was at work on my lunch break, attempting to find flights to the Northeast, but stumbled across a flight to Paris for not much more. It was affordable, and seemed a little too good to be true. I planned to surprise Laurel.
I walked in the door, and she looked at me a little sheepishly.
“I’ve been looking at flights,” she said, with her voice trailing off.
“I found one to Paris that is within range.”
“I know. We should do it!”
I couldn’t believe what I said, or what she said, but we decided to do it. We were going to France! Evelyn was excited, but not exactly surprised. The words out of her mouth when she found out was, “St. Joan of Arc helped us get to France!”
When we arrived in Paris, I knew of a gold statue of St. Joan of Arc next to a world-renown place for hot chocolate called “Angelina”. I had researched it and wanted to take Evelyn there. First, though, we went a few other places, including the Notre Dame Cathedral. Inside the great Gothic church, we saw many statues of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints.
One in particular caught our attention, and caught us by surprise. It was St. Joan of Arc, with her hands folded and her eyes gazing up in prayer. Evelyn knelt in front of her and imitated her. This wasn’t out of flattery, but devotion. It seems the patroness of France is the patroness of my daughter, as well as people ridiculed for their piety. At the moment, nothing in this world seemed more appropriate.