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Chivarlous Saints: St. Joan of Arc

Chivarlous Saints: St. Joan of Arc

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Published by philpenguin

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Published by: philpenguin on Nov 04, 2008
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05/09/2014

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St. Joan of Arc (1431)
 
Feast Day celebrated on May 8
Lives of the Saints, Page 299-305:
“Savior of France and the national heroine of thatcountry, Joan of Arc lives on in the imagination of the world as a symbol of that integrity of purpose that makes one die for what one believes. Jeanne la Pucelle, the Maid, is the shining
 
example of what a brave spirit can accomplish in the world of men and events. The saint was born on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1412, at Domremy, a village in the rich provinceof Champagne, on the Meuse River in northeast France. She came of sound peasant stock. Herfather, Jacques d'Arc, was a good man, though rather morose; his wife was a gentle,affectionate mother to their five children. From her the two daughters of the family receivedcareful training in all household duties. "In sewing and spinning," Joan declared towards theend of her short life, "I fear no woman." She whose destiny it was to save France was a well- brought-up country girl who, in common with most people of the time, never had anopportunity to learn to read or write. The little we know of her childhood is contained in theimpressive and often touching testimony to her piety and dutiful conduct in the depositionspresented during the process for her rehabilitation in 1456, twenty-five years after her death.Priests and former playmates then recalled her love of prayer and faithful attendance atchurch, her frequent use of the Sacraments, kindness to sick people, and sympathy for poor wayfarers, to whom she sometimes gave up her own bed. "She was so good," the neighborssaid, "that all the village loved her."“Joan's early life, however, must have been disturbed by the confusion of the period and thedisasters befalling her beloved land. The Hundred Years War between England and France was still running its dismal course. Whole provinces were being lost to the English and theBurgundians, while the weak and irresolute government of France offered no real resistance. A frontier village like Domremy, bordering on Lorraine, was especially exposed to theinvaders. On one occasion, at least, Joan fled with her parents to Neufchatel, eight milesdistant, to escape a raid of Burgundians who sacked Domremy and set fire to the church, which was near Joan's home.”“The child had been three years old when in 1415 King Henry V of England had started thelatest chain of troubles by invading Normandy and claiming the crown of the insane king,Charles VI, France, already in the throes of civil war between the supporters of the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, had been in no condition to resist, and when the Duke of Burgundy  was treacherously killed by the Dauphin's servants, most of his faction joined the Britishforces. King Henry and King Charles both died in 1422, but the war continued. The Duke of Bedford, as regent for the infant king of England, pushed the campaign vigorously, one townafter an-other falling to him or to his Burgundian allies. Most of the country north of the Loire was in English hands. Charles VII, the Dauphin, as he was still called, considered his positionhopeless, for the enemy even occupied the city of Rheims, where he should have beencrowned. He spent his time away from the fighting lines in frivolous pastimes with his court.”“Joan was in her fourteenth year when she heard the first of the unearthly voices, which, shefelt sure, brought her messages from God. One day while she was at work in the garden, sheheard a voice, accompanied by a blaze of light; after this, she vowed to remain a virgin and tolead a godly life. Afterwards, for a period of two years, the voices increased in number, and she was able to see her heavenly visitors, whom she identified as St. Michael, St. Catherine of  Alexandria, and St. Margaret, the three saints whoseimages stood in the church at Domremy.Gradually they revealed to her the purpose of their visits: she, an ignorant peasant girl, wasgiven the high mission of saving her country; she was to take Charles to Rheims to becrowned, and then drive out the English! We do not know just when Joan decided to obey the voices; she spoke little of them at home, fearing her stern father's disapproval. But by May,1428, the voices had become insistent and explicit. Joan, now sixteen, must first go quickly toRobert de Baudricourt, who commanded the Dauphin's forces in the neighboring town of 
 
 Vaucouleurs and say that she was appointed to lead the Dauphin to his crowning. An uncleaccompanied Joan, but the errand proved fruitless; Baudricourt laughed and said that herfather should give her a whipping. Thus rebuffed, Joan went back to Domremy, but the voicesgave her no rest. When she protested that she was a poor girl who could neither ride nor fight,they answered, "It is God who commands it."“At last, she was impelled to return secretly to Baudricourt, whose skepticism was shaken, fornews had reached him of just the sort of serious French defeat that Joan had predicted. Themilitary position was now desperate, for Orleans, the last remaining French stronghold on theLoire, was invested by the English and seemed likely to fall. Baudricourt now agreed to sendJoan to the Dauphin, and gave her an escort of three soldiers. It was her own idea to put onmale attire, as a protection. On March 6, 1429, the party reached Chinon, where the Dauphin was staying, and two days later Joan was admitted to the royal presence. To test her, Charleshad disguised himself as one of his courtiers, but she identified him without hesitation and, by a sign which only she and he understood, convinced him that her mission was authentic.”“The ministers were less easy to convince. When Joan asked for soldiers to lead to the relief of Orleans, she was opposed by La Tremouille, one of Charles' favorites, and by others, whoregarded the girl either as a crazy visionary or a scheming impostor. To settle the question,they sent her to Poitiers, to be questioned by a commission of theologians. After an exhaustiveexamination lastingfor three weeks, the learned ecclesiastics pronounced Joan honest, good,and virtuous; they counseled Charles to make prudent use of her services. Thus vindicated,Joan returned full of courage to Chinon, and plans went forward to equip her with a smallforce. A banner was made, bearing at her request, the words, "Jesus, Maria," along with afigure of God the Father, to whom two kneeling angels were presenting a fleur-de-lis, the royalemblem of France. On April 27 the army left Blois with Joan, now known to her troops as "LaPucelle," the Maid, clad in dazzling white armor. Joan was a handsome, healthy, well-builtgirl, with a smiling face, and dark hair which had been cut short. She had now learned to ride well, but, naturally, she had no knowledge of military tactics. Yet her gallantry and valorkindled the soldiers and with them she broke through the English line and entered Orleans on April 29. Her presence in the city greatly heartened the French garrison. By May 8 the Englishfort outside Orleans had been captured and the siege raised. Conspicuous in her white armor,Joan had led the at-tack and had been slightly wounded in the shoulder by an arrow.”“Her desire was to follow up these first successes with even more daring assaults, for the voices had told her that she would not live long, but La Tremouille and the archbishop of Rheims were in favor of negotiating. However, the Maid was allowed to join in a shortcampaign along the Loire with the Duc d'Alencon, one of her devoted supporters. It ended with a victory at Patay, in which the English forces under Sir John Falstolf suffered a crushingde-feat. She now urged the immediate coronation of the Dauphin, since the road to Rheimshad been practically cleared. The French leaders argued and dallied, and finally consented tofollow her to Rheims. There, on July 17, 1429, Charles VII was duly crowned, Joan standingproudly behind him with her banner.”“The mission entrusted to her by the heavenly voices was now only half fulfilled, for theEnglish were still in France. Charles, weak and irresolute, did not follow up these auspicioushappenings, and an attack on Paris failed, mainly for lack of his promised sup-port andpresence. During the action Joan was again wounded andhad to be dragged to safety by theDuc d'Alencon. There followed a winter's truce, which Joan spent for the most part in the

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