30 May – St. Joan of Arc

Today, 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, to me at least, is that of St. Joan of Arc.  Her entry.  Perhaps some of you readers would like to try your hand…

Rothomagi in Normannia Galliae, sanctae Ioanne d’Arc, virginis, puellae Aurelianensis nuncupatae, quae, cum fortiter pro patria dimicasset, tandem in hostium potestatem tradita iniquo iudicio condemnata est et igne cremata.

I have long thought that St. Joan of Arc is a fine saint to inspire young people, including boys, because of her martial spirit.  A friend of mine in the Swiss Guard has Joan etched on his breastplate… and some of you, dear readers, made that happen!  Here’s a shot from last 6 May during the swearing in of the new Guards.


On the other side is St. Joseph.  Very cool.

Pope Benedict spoke of St. Joan in a General Audience in 2011. 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? Twain thought it was his best work.


It is on Kindle, too, for $0.95!

Also, some years ago, I spent an evening watching some of a Joan of Arc movie marathon. I wrote about it here.

St. Joan, pray for us!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joe in Canada says:

    Does the Martyrology give sources? I wonder that the Ugandan Martyrs were killed by Muslims; I had always thought that King Mwanga was an animist.

  2. Knight from 13904 says:

    One of the best books I have read this year is “For God & Country” by Fr. Michael Cerrone. There is so much about St. Joan of Arc that most people don’t know. Part of the book deals with the trial which was lead by a French bishop. If we have serious concerns about some of our bishops now, you wont believe what some Catholic clergy did to this spiritual warrior. Thankfully because of the two trials the church conducted on this case there are significant historical records that remain including first person witness testimony.
    Fr. Cerrone is a Army Chaplain and West Point grad and starts the book by discussing the statue of St. Joan of Arc at the army academy. I can’t recommend this book enough.

  3. JustaSinner says:

    Somehow she seems more American than French today. Fr Z., the French military is having some great gun auctions. Never fired, only dropped once!

  4. Legisperitus says:

    Let me put in a good word also for Hilaire Belloc’s very short but beautifully written biography of St. Joan.

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    I can only recommend Jacques Rivette’s amazing duology Jeanne la Pucelle : Les Batailles and Jeanne la Pucelle : Les Prisons.

    If you’ve the French, most of the script is directly transcribed from the mediaeval testimonies.

  6. Tom in NY says:

    Rothomagi in Normannia Galliae, sanctae Ioanne d’Arc, virginis, puellae Aurelianensis nuncupatae, quae, cum fortiter pro patria dimicasset, tandem in hostium potestatem tradita iniquo iudicio condemnata est et igne cremata.

    At Rouen, in French Normandy, (the feast of) St. Joan of Arc, virgin, later called girl of Orleans. She fought mightily for her country. But then she was turned over to the power of her enemies, condemned in an unjust judgement, and was reduced to ashes by fire.

    Ut dicitur, lingua latina una sentential, anglica tres loquitur. Salutationes omnibus.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. and all for the book recommendations. Summer reading!
    I find the story of St. Joan of Arc so compelling and inspiring. I honestly cannot fathom how there can be one atheist at all, with such improbable events happening, a strong historical record, and it all involving children. How can either of those be explained except that they are supernatural events. I’m so grateful we have these events to draw from, especially in dark and confusing times like these.

  8. Animadversor says:

    Rothomagi in Normannia Galliae, sanctae Ioanne d’Arc, virginis, puellae Aurelianensis nuncupatae, quae, cum fortiter pro patria dimicasset, tandem in hostium potestatem tradita iniquo iudicio condemnata est et igne cremata.

    At Rouen, in Normandy in France, [the feast} of Saint Joan of Arc, virgin, surnamed the Maid of Orleans, who, though she had bravely done battle for her country, was at length delivered over into the hands of her enemies and by an unjust judgment condemned and burnt alive.

    Not so literal as I am wont to make it, for reasons that ought to be plain. Still one sentence, though!

  9. Animadversor says:

    I think I’d like to insert was between judgment and condemned—sounds better when real aloud.

  10. Animadversor says:

    } should be ]

  11. asburyfox says:

    I really enjoyed the 1999 CBS miniseries Joan of Arc that has been re-released by Ignatius Press. Amazing production that was well done and acted with an all star cast.

  12. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    First: THANK YOU Fr. Zuhlsdorf for this informative post on St. Joan. You have added several very important pieces to the incomplete picture I have had of St. Joan. I didn’t know that she had attempted peace with England.

    Next: THANK YOU JabbaPapa, for the book recommendations. Just one question, though: in which language was the trial conducted?

  13. pelerin says:

    Many years ago I spent a week in Rouen with my husband and young son. We had no idea that the week chosen would coincide with the feast of St Joan until we arrived there. Coincidence or providence? At the end of a procession through the city rose petals were thrown into the river Seine where her ashes had been thrown all those years ago. A most moving ceremony.

    I was somewhat shocked to see that the exact spot where St Joan was burnt to death was merely marked with a cross flat in the road over which the traffic flowed. However since then the market place has been reordered and a new church has been built on the site.

  14. michaeladewitt says:

    There is a magnificent audio recording of the Twain book on librivox.org by John Greenman. It’s free and commercial quality. Greenman, a lifelong radio personality, recorded most of of Twain’s books after he retired. All recommended!

  15. michaeladewitt says:

    Twain ‘s book covers the trial of Joan in depth. You cannot help but feel for one girl against a cadre of accusers, but she beats them, and suffers death for it.

  16. JabbaPapa says:

    Chris Garton-Zavesky :

    Next: THANK YOU JabbaPapa, for the book recommendations. Just one question, though: in which language was the trial conducted?

    Those are actually films — they last a total of 5h 36m ; part 1 2h40, part 2 2h56

    The trial took place in France and was conducted mostly in French (I believe some Latin was also used). Her judges were French clergymen.

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