Highlights from the week online

How St Joan of Arc inspired Mark Twain

At America magazine, Ted Gioia explored Mark Twain’s unlikely devotion to St Joan of Arc. The Presbyterian author admitted he had been taught “enmity toward everything that is Catholic”, and yet in his novel Recollections of Joan of Arc his devotion to the saint “jumps off every page”.

Gioia said that, while Twain thought it his best work, critics disagree, seeing it as an “eccentricity of an ageing author”. This is an oversight, argued Gioia. The story, of a 17-year-old taking command of an army, is riveting. The book is filled with a “swashbuckling energy and an against-all-odds heroism”. Twain’s Joan, wrote Gioia, is “closer in spirit to Wonder Woman and Lara Croft than to Tom and Huck”. The novel, Gioia added, is far from outdated. The real surprise, he wrote, is that so few give it a chance.

The hidden history of Japan’s new cardinal

Japan’s new cardinal is a descendant of “hidden Christians” of the feudal era, according to Takumi Okada, writing for Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. Archbishop Manyo Maeda comes from the Goto islands, where Catholics were sheltered during centuries of persecution. His great-grandfather, according to Okada, was a “hidden Christian”. (The ban on Christians was lifted in the 19th century.)

The cardinal-designate is also closely associated with the peace movement, wrote Okada. This commitment, he said, was born out of his mother suffering the effects of the atomic bomb at Nagasaki. Exposed to the “blinding flash and heat rays” from the blast, she was “plagued by swollen feet and fingers that fused together”.

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