The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/33 – Saint Joan of Arc

On the night of the Epiphany, January 6, in 1412, Joan was born in Domremy in France. She lived on a farm of approximately fifty-five acres and in the year 1424, at age twelve, received her first visions from heaven. The Christian God chose Joan of Arc at the tender age of thirteen, to challenge the military might of the British Army in France. Undoubtedly pious, she would remain a virgin for the rest of her life. The visions she experienced were from three saints; Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and the heavenly Commander of the legions of angels, Saint Michael. The saints instructed Joan to drive out the English forces from French territory and regain both the land and throne for the rightful French heir. Following the initial intrigues at gaining an audience with Charles the French Prince, Joan successfully predicted a military victory near the City of Orleans. The outcome at Orleans turned out as Joan had predicted. Many hoped that Joan was the virgin maiden who was prophesied as being the liberator of France. Her virginity was also confirmed by Yolande of Aragon, the mother-in-law of the French prince. To the surprise of the French military leaders, Charles granted Joan’s desire of commanding his army.

Saint Joan’s devotion to the Queen of Heaven was revealed to the Dauphin of France, who while riding beside Joan on horseback, observed the maiden being both silent and recollected. The prince inquired as to what she was dreaming about? Joan replied, “Dear sir, I am praying the rosary.” On one occasion, to the soldiers she preached: “Give the kingdom to the King of Heaven; the King of Heaven after that gift… would restore it to its original estate… In God’s name we must fight them! The Noble King will have today the greatest victory… Victory is founded in Our Lord and nowhere else.”(1) Joan remarked that through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Charles the Great and Saint King Louis IX, God had compassion on the French people. She ordered a search to be made for an ancient sword buried behind the altar of the Chapel of Saint Catherine de Fierbois. The 650-year-old sword was discovered in the location where Joan had indicated. With this sword in hand and a new banner having the clear words “Jesus, Maria” on it and the depiction of God the Father sitting with angels presenting the flour de lys (fleur-de-lys or flower of the lily), the French maiden set out to fulfil her mission.

On April 29, 1429, Joan arrived at the Siege of Orleans, initially ostracized from military councils, she managed to convince the soldiers to follow her in an attack against the English forces. During skirmishes and later proper battles, Joan had audaciously gained consistent victories. The maiden was inseperable from her banner and placed herself in the forefront in the thick of battle. Later, during her trial Joan stated that she preferred her standard to her sword. Her fellow contemporaries regarded Joan as being both a mystic, blessed by heaven, and a good strategist and warrior. Pre-Joan, France suffered consistent set backs and defeats, this situation was completely reversed following Joan’s appearance and France now enjoyed steady victories and military success. On May 7, the French forces headed by Joan assaulted Les Tourelles, the saint was wounded by an arrow. Joan extracted the arrow from her shoulder and returned to the battle to lead the final charge. In June of the same year, various victories occured such as at Jargeau, Meung-sur-Loire and Beaugency. At the Battle of Patay the English were routed. In July the French also captured Reims and the coronation of the French Dauphin as King Charles took place. Two indecisive battles were fought near Paris on August 15 and September 8, the solemnities of the Assumption and of the Nativity of Our Lady. Joan suffered a crossbow bolt wound to the leg, considering the wound as superfluous; the Christian maiden warrior fought on. A faction of Frenchmen, under the Duke of Burgandy, allied themselves with the English against Charles. King Charles ordered the retreat of his troops on September 8. Therefore, the King was negotiating through channels of dialogue and on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, he ordered his own to retreat. On ascending the throne Charles regained his rightful position and the main reason for the defensive war of France was partially over, while Joan’s mission was partially accomplished. England’s occupation of Paris, although still a matter of contention, became a secondary issue. The King hoped to resolve the matter diplomatically.

On May 23, 1430, Joan was, as she predicted earlier, captured by the Burgandian forces who sold her to the English. The Duke of Bedford claimed the throne of France for his nephew Henry VI and Joan’s intervention brought his aspirations to naught. His fury was total. Joan was to bear the hatred of the Duke, and although he was not to challenge the French King again, he surely was to see Joan burnt at the stake. Her proven virginity was the evidence which saved the maiden from being condemned for witchcraft, however, the enemy succeeded at condemning Saint Joan to: “burn at the stake for heresy.” The martyrdom was carried out in 1431, at Rouen. The trial was illegal and unfair; a later re-examination of the trial would describe it as “corruption, cozenage, calumny, fraud and malice.”(2) During the trial Joan answered both simply and intelligently. When asked a condemning trick question, regarding whether she was in God’s Grace she replied: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”(3) The Church doctrine held that no one is certain of being in God’s grace, therefore replying ‘yes’ would mean heresy and replying in the negative meant that she is a sinner under the influence of the devil. On comprehending her reply, the court was stupefied and the session was closed for the day. Joan was kept in a secular prison guarded by soldiers who at least once attempted at raping her. To lessen the advances of men, throughout her brief military career she wore male attire. During her trial she was tricked and humiliated and before her death, was subjected to the odious treatment mentioned. Her martyrdom was soon to yield further fruits of victory.

During the trial, Joan prophesied that within seven years the English would forfeit a larger prize than Orleans. On November 12, 1437, six years and eight months later, Paris was lost. During Joan’s trial at the hand of the English Inquisition, in note number 110 the military saint says that, while at the trenches of Melun it was revealed to her that she would be captured by the English. In the same note when asked whether it was right to attack the town of Paris “…on the day of the Festival of the Blessed Mary” she answered, “…that it was good to observe the Festival of the Blessed Mary; and it seemed to her in her conscience good to keep the Festival of Our Lady from beginning to end.”(4) In effect this reasoning was perfectly correct and in accordance with Saint Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine on war, which did not condemn battles on feast days. If this notion were false, than most Christian battles are condemned and certain feasts would have not come about, due to their inception in war. The Feasts dedicated to Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady, the Help of Catholics, are such solemnities which celebrate Christian victories over their adversaries.

Although Paris did not capitulate to France, during the battles occurring on August 15 and and September 8, the Feasts of Our Lady, Joan’s mission was completely fulfilled at restoring the French King to the crown. Her martyrdom confirms her sainthood and seven years later, as she predicted, Paris was recaptured by the French King. Joan’s recitation of the Holy Rosary and her banner and ring, having the words: “Jhesus, Maria,” proved that the saint sought Our Lady’s intercessory help during the battles. As Saint Joan was indeed successful and victorious at war, it can safely be concluded that the intercessory help she prayed for, from the Lord, the Blessed Virgin and St Michael, was indeed granted. Joan had two chaplains, Brother Pasquerel and Nicolas de Vouthon, her treasurer Mathelin Raoul was also a cleric. Brother Pasquerel was an Augustinian at the Monastery of Tours, and while on pilgrimage at Le-Puy-Notre-Dame was given knowledge regarding Joan’s mission. Our Lady’s intervention at the Battle of Tours (in aid of Charles Martel) and the conversion of the Moorish Mirat to Lorda (Lourdes) in aid of Charles the Great, through the prayers of the Bishop of Le-Puy, are mentioned in the earlier chapters of this book. Brother Pasquerel had received the knowledge at the same time that Joan’s brother was praying before the Sash of Our Lady, in the Church of Chinon. Brother Pasquerel held a banner of the Crucifixion and together with other priests and monks preceded Joan’s army on its march to Orleans.

Saint Joan of Arc was executed on May 30, 1431, at age nineteen. She was tied to a pole and, while the flames lept at her feet, she asked two clergymen to hold a crucifix high above in front of her. Witnesses affirm that till her last breath she cried, “in a loud voice the Holy Name of Jesus, and implored and invoked without ceasing the aid of the saints of Paradise.”(5) The English soldiery raked the charred body of Joan to prove to the people that she was indeed killed and to prevent the collection of relics by the Faithful, they burnt her deceased body two further times. The ashes of the saint were dumped in the River Seine.

In June 1456, a re-trial declared Joan innocent and a martyr for the Faith. Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized on May 16, 1920. Her Feast Day is kept on the May 30. During the sixteenth century, Saint Joan of Arc became one of the symbols of the Catholic League, which was marshaled against the Ottoman Empire at Lepanto. Saint Joan is considered as the ultimate French heroin, she was venerated during Napoleonic times and her image was used both by the Vichy Propaganda and the French Resistance, during World War II.

On July 17, 1429, Charles VII was solemnly crowned; the Maiden stood by her beloved dauphin, holding her banner, for as she explained, “… it had shared in the toil, it was just that it should share in the victory.”(6) The ancient sword buried behind the altar, in the Chapel of Saint Catherine de Fierbois, which Joan had discovered, was considered an ancient relic even for those days. The sword belonged to Charles Martel, the progenitor of the Carolingian Dynasty. Evidently, the sword symbolized the protection of the French Dynasty and unflatteringly for the English, it was previously used to strike the Islamists out of Christian Europe. Saint Joan was known for striking and killing prostitutes through their backs and at least once, hit a woman with the flat of her sword when she decided to follow Joan as a soldier. Although Joan was herself a woman, she knew too well that God supernaturally entrusted her this mission, therefore, the maiden did not consider the role of a woman as pertaining to the army. As regards to the prostitutes, these belonged to the enemy, for they befouled the souls of the French Dauphin’s soldiers.

 

 

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