Saint Joan of Arc
By Angella Babineau
Are we willing to live and die for the unique inner voice of our conscience – when it has been properly formed by Christ and His Church – or do we prefer to win in the world by silent complicity with evil? This is a question that all Catholics should be asking themselves on a daily basis. It is this very question that Joan of Arc asked herself and answered with the sacrifice of her own life.
Joan was born into a peasant family in the town of Domrémy, France, on the feast of the Epiphany in 1412. As a young teenager she began to experience supernatural manifestations, which were to lead her through the path of patriotism to death at the stake. At first it was a single voice addressing her, apparently from nearby, accompanied by a blaze of light. Afterwards, as the voices increased in number, she was able to see her interlocutors whom she identified as St. Michael, St. Catherine, St. Margaret and others. During this time she mentioned the visions to no one, persevering in prayer and growing in wisdom and grace. Only very gradually did they unfold her mission; to lead the king’s army into battle, to make sure the Dauphin was crowned king, and to drive out the English. Aware of her mission, Joan went to the general of the French forces only to be laughed at. She returned home upset telling the voices that she could neither ride nor fight, but they reassured her saying, “It is God who will command the army.” With renewed assurance of God’s Will for her, she approached the general, and convinced of her sincerity, he led Joan to the Dauphin. The Dauphin disguised himself as a servant in a crowd, but by divine inspiration she recognized him although she had never seen him before. This incident opened his eyes to see that it was God leading Joan, so he gave her his full confidence and trust. Through her humble obedience Our Lord opened the way to her mission.
With the removal of what seemed to be her final obstacle Joan was made commander of the French forces. But this was no easy task. She needed to gain the trust of her comrades on the battlefield. These rough and rugged men would have to get used to receiving orders from a young maiden. Again Joan found her strength in prayer. She went to the only One powerful enough to fill her with the wisdom and strength she needed to lead this group of warriors. They soon realized that the physical appearance of their leader was no longer a factor. She was their guide and confidante not only in the matters of war, but also in the matters of spiritual life. She taught them that in order to win any battle they must first be in the state of grace. Their primary commitment would be to pray and go to confession before heading out to the battlefield. Under her leadership the army was able to drive away the English and liberate the city of Orleans.
Now that the victory was won nothing could stand in Joan’s way of having the Dauphin crowned king. During this last phase of her mission she was sold by her own countrymen to the English enemy. Once the English had her in their hands execution was inevitable. Though they could not condemn Joan to death for defeating them on the battlefield, they could sentence her as a witch and a heretic. Joan was a soldier loyal to her country, but she was first of all Christ’s faithful soldier and was willing to surrender all for His glory. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that the voices were from Him and she would not allow herself to be intimidated by her accusers no matter what tortures they threatened her with. If St. Joan of Arc were here today she would be encouraging us never to allow ourselves to fall under the pressure of those trying to push their evil agendas. We, at Confirmation, are also given the same mission: to become “soldiers of Christ” in His Church Militant here on earth. Her message to us today would be to stand up in the face of opposition. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, weak or strong, of higher or lower education – when your conscience is right, it’s RIGHT!
Joan gave us the blueprints of what it is to be a believer of the Catholic Faith and to die for it. Once she understood that the voices she heard were from God, Joan bravely obeyed them. We often learn God’s Will for us from the voices of our parents and guardians and through faithful daily prayer. Like St. Joan of Arc, let us always try to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult.