Friday, May 03, 2019 - Updated: 2:21 pm
QUESTION: My granddaughter has somehow decided that Joan of Arc is her heroine. I honestly don’t know that much about the real Joan of Arc. Is she really considered a saint by the Catholic Church?
ANSWER: When considering Joan of Arc, it is important to examine the context of the time in which she lived. Joan was born when her native France was at war with England. The French king, Charles VI, had shown himself to be emotionally unstable, and under his leadership France had experienced several military defeats.
A treaty signed in May 1420 set aside any legitimate heir to the throne of France and made the English king the king of France as well. Despite the treaty, the English attempted to destroy the legitimate heir to the French throne by a siege of the city of Orleans.
Joan of Arc was born Jan. 6, 1412. About age 13, she began to hear “voices” (whom she later identified as St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine). Having kept this secret for at least five years, she eventually revealed the instructions given to her by the voices. She said she was told to liberate the kingdom of France from the domination of the English.
On Feb. 25, 1429, she was received by the legitimate heir to the French throne. Having told him of her mission, he consented to follow her advice and reassembled his army. With Joan as its commander, the French army proceeded to engage the English at Orleans. In eight days, the siege was ended, and the road was opened to Reims where Charles VII was crowned king of France.
Unfortunately, this king also proved to be weak. Among his poor judgments was a lack of trust in the advice of Joan of Arc. Soon she was again asked to lead the armies of France against the Burgundians. In this battle, Joan was captured May 23, 1430. She was subsequently sold to the English, who wanted to put an end to her brave leadership. She was then put on trial for heresy and witchcraft. The trial was presided over by Bishop Pierre Cauchon, a strong supporter of the English.
After months of interrogation (and torture), she was tricked into making a confession (which she later retracted). Her visions were judged to be diabolical, and she was condemned as a heretic. While the French authorities did nothing to help her, she was handed over to the secular authorities and burned at the stake May 30, 1431. As the flames engulfed her, she professed her innocence and the integrity of her mission.
Even at her death, Joan was proclaimed by the people as a saint. She was formally “rehabilitated” by the church after a lengthy inquiry (1449-56), during which at least 115 witnesses were heard. She was beatified April 18, 1909, and proclaimed a saint May 9, 1920. Called the “Maid of Orleans,” St. Joan of Arc is a French national heroine and a patron saint. St. Joan was a woman of incredible faith and courage. She was misunderstood and reviled, but always found her real strength in Christ.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.