Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saint Joan of Arc

Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc also known as Jeanne la Pucelle, the Maid)
Feast Day: May 30

A peasant girl, Joan of Arc was born on January 6, 1412 in the village of Domremy, at the time of the Hundred Years’ War when Henry V of England begun invading Normandy.   The English king along with the Duke of Burgundy, were gobbling up more and more French territory and regions were being lost to the English and the Burgundians. Domremy is a frontier village and during her childhood several local raids occurred there.  On one occasion, as her village was being burned by the Burgundians, Joan along with her parents and siblings fled eight miles distant to Neufchatel.

St. Joan of Arc experienced her first vision at the age of 12, when she heard voices as she was out alone in the fields.  These “voices” are from St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret who constantly spoke to her and which she afterward came to call her "counsel".  Gradually, the call of God was made known and the mission to take Charles to Rheims to be crowned, and to recover her homeland from English domination was revealed to her.  By May 1428, at the age of 16, the voices  insisted for Joan of Arc to see Robert Baudricourt who commanded for Charles VII in the neighboring town of Vaucouleurs and say that she was appointed to lead the Dauphin to his crowning. Baudricourt laughed and said that her father ought to give her a whipping.  His sarcastic response, however, did not deter Jeanne d’Arc to ask permission to visit the royal French court at Chinon.

In January 1429, Joan of Arc left Domremy to go again to Vaucouleurs where she made a notable prediction about a military reversal near Orléans. After a perilous journey through the territory of the Burgundians, Jeanne d'Arc reached Chinon on March 6.  Two days later, she was admitted into the presence of Charles VII.  On May 8, 1429, after overcoming opposition from prelates, courtiers and lawyers, the 17-year-old Joan was given a small army with which she raised the siege of Orleans.

Jeanne la Pucelle, the Maid, carried a sacred sword that bore a white banner adorned with lilies, and a holy cross with the names of  "Jesus, Maria,". The siege of Orleans was raised on the 9th of May and a series of spectacular military victories followed that led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims.  Joan stood proudly behind the King with her banner bearing the figure of God the Father with two kneeling angels and the words, "Jesus Maria" ; Jesus on the cross and a little girl offering to Our Lady a fleur-de-lis, the royal emblem of France.

During the fight, Joan was wounded in the shoulder by an arrow and in another incident was again injured and had to be dragged to safety.

After the winter truce, Jeanne d'Arc  hurried off to the aid of Compiegne where she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the Duke of Bedford. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by an ecclesiastical court and when she refused to retract the statement she had about her “counsel” who commanded her to do what she had done, she was condemned to death as a heretic and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.  Joan of Arc was nineteen years old.

 Twenty-four years later, she was exonerated of all guilt and was declared a martyr.  She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France.


For Saint Joan of Arc to obey as she did, she must have had a deep relationship with God.  Because of this intimate relationship with Him, she is convinced of His existence and knows God’s nature and His “voice”.  This is shown in her ardent faith in God.   Someone who knows what God is like knows what his voice is like.  For this reason, she is able to obey despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

This brings to mind the responsorial psalm:  “I know my sheep and my sheep knows me”

John 10: 2-5 “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

We will not recognize God’s voice unless we know Him and if we want to follow God’s will, we must know how to discern His leadings.

Discernment is the art of knowing the “voice” of God.

To Jeanne la Pucelle, the idea might well seem too absurd, but because of her intimate relationship with the “Shepherd” she knew what she was doing.  Saint Joan of Arc acted boldly.  She remained simple and never became conceited or self-seeking.  To her obeying God and doing what pleases Him (no matter the outcome) is her mission, and this she accomplished triumphantly.

Please feel free to share your reflections and insights in the comment box below.  Thank you and God bless!

Joan of Arc

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