30 May: St. Joan of Arc

It is another kind of “memorial day” today… as is every day on the Roman calendar.  In the older, traditional calendar today using the Missale Romanum is a Rogation Day and we get a commemoration of St. Felix.

Today, however, in the 2005 Martyrologium Romanum we find interesting saints, including St. Petronilla and St. Ferdinand III, King of Castille.  We also find Otto Neururer, a priest who died in Buchenwald and Luke Kirby, a priest who died on the Tyburn Tree along with William Filby, Lawrence John son and Thomas Cottam during the reign of Elizabeth I.  There are also William Scott, Richard Newport in the reign of James I.   Matthis Kalemba was killed by Muslims in Uganda.  In ancient times St. Gabinus died a martyr in Sardinia.  St. Dymphna died in Brabant.

But one of the most interesting memorials, to me at least, is that of St. Joan of Arc.

Here are a few things I have posted on her before, pasted together now rather in the manner of a revised Novus Ordo collect.

I have long thought that St. Joan of Arc is a fine saint to inspire young people, including boys because of her martial spirit.

Last January, the Pope Benedict today spoke of St. Joan in a General Audience.

Here is the VIS account of the audience.  My emphases and comments.


St. Joan of ArcVATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2011 (VIS) – During this morning’s general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 3,000 people, Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431), whom he described as “one of the ‘strong women’ who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly brought the splendid light of the Gospel into the complex events of history”. [I wonder if many Catholics today haven't been cowed by the relentless secularism and relativism and even open anti-Catholic bigotry we find in the public square.  We need a revitalization of our Catholic identity.]

The life of Joan of Arc, who was born into a prosperous peasant family, took place in the context of the conflict between France and England known as the Hundred Years War. At the age of thirteen, “through the ‘voice’ of St. Michael the Archangel, Joan felt herself called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and to act personally to free her people”.

She made a vow of virginity and redoubled her prayers, participating in sacramental life with renewed energy. “This young French peasant girl’s compassion and commitment in the face of her people’s suffering were made even more intense through her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of her sanctity was this bond between mystical experience and political mission”. said Benedict XVI.

Joan’s activities began in early 1429 when, overcoming all obstacles, she managed to meet with the French Dauphin, the future King Charles VII. He had her examined by theologians of the University of Poitiers who “delivered a positive judgment, they discovered nothing bad in her, and found her to be a good Christian”.

On 22 March of that year Joan dictated a letter to the King of England and his men, who were laying siege to the city of Orleans. “Hers was a proposal of authentic and just peace between two Christian peoples, in the light of the names of Jesus and Mary”, said the Holy Father. But the offer was rejected and Joan had to fight for the liberation of the city. Another culminating moment of her endeavours came on 17 July 1429 when King Charles was crowned in Reims.

Joan’s passion began on 23 May 1430 when she fell into the hands of her enemies at Compiegne and was taken to the city of Rouen. There a long and dramatic trial was held which concluded with her being condemned to death on 30 May 1431.

The trial was presided by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon [Somehow appropriate.] and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in fact it was conducted by a group of theologians from the University of Paris. These “French ecclesiastics, having made political choices opposed to those of Joan, were predisposed to hold negative views of her person and mission. The trial was a dark page in the history of sanctity, but also a shining page in the mystery of the Church which is, … ‘at the same time holy and always in need of being purified’“.

“Unlike the saintly theologians who illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, … the judges were theologians who lacked the charity and humility to see the work of God in this young girl. Jesus’ words come to mind, according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those who have the hearts of children, but hidden from the wise and intelligent. Thus Joan’s judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul“, the Pope said.

Joan died at the stake on 30 May 1431, holding a crucifix in her hands and invoking the name of Jesus. Twenty-five years later a trial of nullification, instituted by Pope Callixtus III, “concluded with a solemn sentence nullifying the condemnation and … highlighting Joan of Arc’s innocence and perfect faithfulness to the Church. Much later, in 1920, she was canonised by Pope Benedict XV“.

The Name of Jesus invoked by this saint in the last instants of her earthly life was as the continual breath of her soul, … the centre of her entire life”, the Holy Father explained. “This saint understood that Love embraces all things of God and man, of heaven and earth, of the Church and the world. … Liberating her people was an act of human justice, which Joan performed in charity, for love of Jesus, hers is a beautiful example of sanctity for lay people involved in political life, especially in the most difficult situations”.  [In his first Message for the World Day for Peace, Pope Benedict spoke of the need of military intervention at times in order to establish the foundation upon which peace can be fostered.]

“Joan saw in Jesus all the reality of the Church, the ‘Church triumphant’ in heaven and the ‘Church militant’ on earth. In her own words, ‘Our Lord and the Church are one’. This affirmation … takes on a truly heroic aspect in the context of the trial, in the face of her judges, men of the Church who persecuted and condemned her”.

“With her shining witness St. Joan of Arc invites us to the highest degree of Christian life, making prayer the motif of our days, having complete trust in achieving the will of God whatever it may be, living in charity without favouritisms or limitations, and finding in the Love of Jesus, as she did, a profound love for His Church”.

Furthermore, if you have never read Mark Twain’s superb novel about St. Joan do try to get it soon? He thought it was his best work.  It is on Kindle, too, for $0.95!

Also, not too long ago, I spent an evening watching some of a Joan of Arc movie marathon. I wrote about it here.

Technorati Tags:

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool, Linking Back, Saints: Stories & Symbols and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to 30 May: St. Joan of Arc

  1. Elizabeth D says:

    Anybody else have at their parish’s daily Mass a very reverent Mass for the dead who served in our country’s Armed Forces, with black vestments, as we did? Our priest spoke of the fortunate convergence of the tradition of celebrating a Mass for the dead on Mondays, with the Monday date for the civil holiday of Memorial Day, and his desire to make good advantage of that to pray for the souls of the faithful departed. This is not about St Joan of Arc, but it is about a Mass appropriate to the day.

  2. New Sister says:

    thanks for posting this, Father. It is a blessing that Memorial Day coincides with her feast day this year, as her example of virtue and courage is so needed… Pray for us, General Jeanne.

  3. Sandy says:

    When I was a child, so long ago :), one of my favorite saints was Joan of Arc. I admired her courage so very much, and she still fascinates me! Some years back, I found a box of childhood treasures and was thrilled that it included the small books of saints I had enjoyed reading. There was a picture of each saint and a short synopsis of each life. It is a blessing when we have priests that speak of the saints’ lives and feast days at Mass. Our children need these role models.

  4. albizzi says:

    The Church spent for almost 5 centuries to canonize the glorious Johan of Ark.
    There was no “santo subito” though her life was crystal clear. She was very popular in France and people prayed her during the dark hours of the country even if she was not yet a saint.
    The Church in those times was gifted of prudence.

  5. chloesmom says:

    Joan has always been one of my favourite saints as well, precisely because of her courage and (dare I say) feistiness in the face of the political game-playing by the French nobility of her day. She saw things very clearly: Charles VII needed to be crowned King, and the English needed to be driven out. During her trial, Joan was often impatient with the panel of judges, and said that the only important thing is Jesus Christ and His Church. Joan’s single-mindedness and fidelity to Christ is indeed a shining example for all of us. Ma belle Jeanne, priez pour nous tous!

  6. KAS says:

    Long before I was Catholic I admired Joan of Arc. I was introduced to her by literature, first in a Shaw Play and secondly in a book by Mark Twain. I loved both versions! My teacher asked me if I thought, after reading the play by Shaw, that St. Joan was nuts or a Saint. I told her I believed she had to be a Saint. (at the time I was a budding fundamentalist).

    My oldest daughter chose St, Joan of Arc for her confirmation saint. Previously she loved St. Therese the Little Flower but St. Joan appealed to her as a teen.

    Children are well served by parents who introduce saints like these.

  7. JKnott says:

    Just bought it on Kindle. Thank you for this great post Father.
    I take her for a patroness as I was baptized on May 30 and received First Holy Communion 7 years later on the same date.

  8. Re: “no prudence” —

    The Lord controls when a saint is canonized, by providing miracles of a verifiable kind or not providing them. (And He also controls “vox populi vox Dei” in many such cases, of course.) You can have all the “santo subito” cries that you want, and get no miracles; but if you get the Lord handing you miracles in a pointed manner, dragging your feet to slow down the process would be ungrateful. Which is exactly what our current pope said.

    St. Joan, like the wonderworker St. Martin de Porres, is one of those saints whose canonization the Lord apparently restrained until He was good and ready. It had very little to do with the prudence or otherwise of the Church. (Heck, St. Martin’s abundance of canonization paperwork was allowed to be totally lost until the Twentieth Century, because the ships carrying it to Rome kept being wrecked!) But normally, the Lord wouldn’t be sitting around waiting to encourage France in the middle of World War I. That’s a special occasion.

    Or are you really saying that the Church shouldn’t have declared Mary and the Apostles saints until the 6th or 7th century? You got some kind of problem with the early Church being so subito as to proclaim Jesus right after the Ascension? C’mon, you know you don’t.

  9. irishgirl says:

    Suburbanbanshee-what you said! [thumbs up]
    Regarding St. Joan of Arc-I have loved her since I was in sixth grade, when I first learned about her in history class. I devoured every book I could get on her, and watched the movies on her when they were on TV (the Ingrid Bergman film and ‘Saint Joan’ directed by Preminger).
    Fast forward to May 1985, when I made my first visit to France as a St. Joan pilgrimage. I attended the May 7-8 Festival in Orleans, and also went to her birthplace in Domremy and to Rouen where she died. These memories are forever in my heart and soul. (and I remember what you said in January, Father Z, about your having been to Orleans and Rouen, but not Domremy)
    I wish that more was said about her from the pulpit to inspire our young people. They need true role models like St. Joan, not the fake ones that are out there now!

  10. irishgirl says:

    And oh yes-I wish that St. Joan’s feastday on May 30 would be put back on the Church’s Universal Calendar!

  11. rakesvines says:

    St. Joan is also cited as the model of dissident nuns. Leave it to the Liberals to make something good, compromised. And she were to appear in France today, she should forget the English and storm the Islamists. Then again, I take that back because the English are becoming Islamists.

    Is there any new Church teaching about defending the persecuted Christians – specially under the Muslims? It is unbearable to read about the carnage and church burnings that happens daily – in Pakistan, Irag and Egypt.

    If I were single and younger, I’d revive the Knights Templar and provide the Body of Christ in those regions some security.

  12. irishgirl says:

    rakesvines-I’m with you about a ‘revival of the Knights Templar’! And also about what you said regarding ‘St. Joan is also cited as the model of dissident nuns. Leave it to the Liberals to make something good, compromised’. You said it!
    Also, let’s not forget that crazy parish in Minnesota that’s named for St. Joan. Looking down from heaven, she’s probably shaking her head is sadness…and just itching to unsheathe her heavenly sword to ‘whack them on the shoulders’ as she used to do with the French women camp followers!

  13. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    So, were I to observe her optional memorial on the 30th, would I use the common of Martyrs? Or some other common?