St. Joan Of Arc
1412 – May 30, 1431
by Brother Gerald del Campo
Joan still continues to be the subject of great admiration, as well as the focus of much political debate long after her execution on May 30th, 1431. She was 14 when she first began seeing visions that she believed were divinely inspired. Today she is interpreted by individuals seeking to prove their own theories, or further their religious viewpoints, rather than studying her life within the context of her particular circumstances. Most scholars overlook her as a testament of intense human courage, faith and strength and choose to focus their attention on her controversial political and military endeavors instead. This oversight is understandable, for when else in history, has such a young woman taken up a sword? It is hard to say what would have occurred during the French civil war had it not been for the love of her country and her faith in God.
Like many soldiers since, Joan was a victim of religious and political corruption, and her life was snuffed out once she had served her purpose. She was very unpopular with the religious-military orders of the times because she threatened their chain of command with her claims to communicate directly with the Saints. If she were to be charged as a witch, she might then serve to help to establish the idea that Charles VII owed his coronation to a heretic. A great many people would have benefited from this. On Tuesday, May 29, 1431, she was judged a “relapsed heretic” and was handed over to the secular authorities. At 8 am the following day, she was taken to the marketplace and burned at the stake. Her last request was that a cross be held out before her eyes as she burned. She was nineteen years old.
She was a Gnostic in the true sense of the word. She claimed to be in direct communication with god’s angels. The little girl continued to wear men’s clothing after she was jailed, a habit that eventually helped to condemn her to death, because she claimed a saint had ordered it. Many years after her death, on May 16, 1920, Pope Benedict XV finally recognized her as a saint: not for her contribution to France, but for the fortitude with which she subjected herself to the test of her trial, and for the faith (as badly placed as it was) that her judges would do the right thing in the end. Her feast is celebrated May 30th. On June 24, 1920, French parliament declared a festival in her honor; this is held the second Sunday in May. Joan of Arc is still an icon for freedom and strength for the French people.