"Act, and God will act." -St Joan of Arc
Even the greatest Saints have occasionally completely misinterpreted the prophesies given to them
Towards the end of her harsh and very unjust imprisonment, a Voice from heaven revealed to St Joan of Arc:
"You will be released on May 30th!"
Oh, how her heart leaped with joy at the revelation of her imminent release from the torturous prison, after having suffered a rigorous imprisonment for one year! She gloriously shared this great news of her forthcoming release with the few people who were allowed to visit and attend to her.
What she didn't know, but soon learned, was that the promised "release" consisted of the terror of her being burned alive at the stake, her soul thus being released from this life, to fly to heaven to be with her Jesus. -How different is the perspective from heaven than that of us here on earth! "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8) And so we see how even the greatest Saints can completely misinterpret what would seem to be a very simple and straightforward prophesy.
Thus we ourselves would be very wise not to have too much confidence in our capacity to understand and interpret the messages from heaven! For in her great humility, St Joan of Arc recognized her human frailty, and during her tortuous imprisonment and trial she told her friends that out of her human weakness she could not be sure what things she might say under torture or duress – and told them to please give witness to others of her intention to serve the Lord faithfully, regardless of whatever she might say while in agony. As it turned out, she publicly kept her faith in God to the painful end – but in her great humility she recognized her human frailty and thus she made provisions for it if she weakened. Oh, the wisdom of a 19 year old that shines before men!
St. Joan of Arc prays and brings a dead baby back to life so that it might be baptized. -Baby said to have been dead for 3 days
In the Spring of 1430, Joan had just arrived in Lagny-sur-Marne, France, where she was to lead the French forces there against the English. It was there, in the midst of war, that the miracle occurred.
According to her own testimony, she was called upon to join some other young women who were praying in a Church beseeching God and the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of a dead baby, that it might be revived long enough to baptize it. Here is Joan's own testimony
"I was told that the girls of the town were gathered before the statue of our Lady and wanted me to come and pray to God and our Lady to bring a baby back to life. So I went and prayed with the others. And finally life appeared in him, and he yawned three times. Then he was baptized, and soon afterwords he died, and was buried in consecrated ground.
For three days, I was told, he had shown no signs of life, and he was as black as my jacket. But when he yawned his color began to come back. And I was on my knees there with the other girls, praying before our Lady."
Her obedience to the heavenly "Voices"
During her unjust trial before the tribunal, Joan revealed under oath some details of who were the heavenly voices and visitors that guided and led her into battle against the English, and how often they came to her. The heavenly visits began in the summer of 1424 at age 13, when she says she was suddenly "...surrounded by a great light, and then I heard a revelation from God through a Voice which told me to be prayerful, to frequent the sacraments of the Church, and to always trust in the Lord for help."
At first she did not know whom the Voice was, but on the third occasion she then "knew" it was the voice of an Angel. During her trial she specifically stated that during her lifetime she had received numerous visits from 4 heavenly Visitors: St. Michael the Archangel and the Angel Gabriel, particularly leading up to, and during the battles against the English. The two other primary heavenly visitors who guided and helped her were St. Catherine of Alexandria and also St Margaret of Antioch.
Without going into details here--for there are numerous biographies on the internet about St Joan of Arc---suffice it to state that through the holy Will of God, these heavenly voices and visions led the teenage Joan to become the leader of the French army, who through her extraordinary courage and guidance, eventually ousted the occupying English forces from France, and restored Charles, the king of France, to his rightful throne.
While many biographers rightly point out that Joan was almost * always obedient to her "Voices", even unto her horrible death at the stake, it should also be pointed out that she also remained obedient to the Church, as is revealed on a number of occasions during her trial, where she sought to obey even the often unjust requests and directives of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, her primary accuser. And during her trial when asked if she would submit herself to the determination of the Church, she replied:
"I refer myself to our Lord who sent me, to Our Lady, and to all of the blessed Sants in Paradise. It seems to me that our Lord and the Church are one and the same, and that no one should make difficulties about this. Why do you make difficulties about Them being one and the same?"
The fact remains that she was never given any directives by the legitimate Church authority concerning her heavenly visitors, so she remained free throughout her life to obey her "Voices." Had her priest spiritual director, confessor or other legitimate Church authority told her otherwise, one can only assume that she would have obeyed their directives. Yet we must concede something here---During her trial when she was asked about obedience to the Church, she replied: “They [the Voices] do not order me to disobey the Church, but God must be served first.”
*One has to say that she was almost always obedient to her Voices, because on one occasion while in prison she jumped out of the window of the Beaurevoir Tower in an effort to escape, and she herself admits that: "Almost every day St. Catherine warned me not to jump; that God would help me and also the people of Compiegne. [The English were then advancing on the city of Compiegne] And I said to St Catherine that if God intended to help the people of Compiegne, then I intended to be there helping too." The height of the jump was said to be at least 65 feet, nevertheless she only received a few bumps and bruises, but she was immediately recaptured. Afterwards, her testimony during the trial reveals that she was deeply repentant for having disobeyed St. Catherine.
To sum up very succinctly this topic of her obedience to the heavenly voices, His Excellency Thomas Basin, bishop of Lisieux wrote the following not long after her holy death:
"Regarding her mission, and the apparitions and revelations that she said she had, everyone has the right to believe as he pleases, to reject them or not, according to his point-of-view or way of thinking. What is important regarding these visions is the fact that Joan had herself no shadow of a doubt regarding their reality, and it was their effect upon her, and not her natural inclination, that impelled her to leave her parents and her home to undertake great perils and to endure great hardships — and, as it proved, a terrible death. It was these visions and voices, and they alone, which enabled her to believe that she would succeed in saving her country and in placing her king on his throne. It was these visions and voices which finally enabled her to do those marvelous deeds, and accomplish what appeared to all the world as impossible."
The greatest Saints are human too! In a moment of weakness, Joan momentarily renounces her visions and mission
On May 24, 1431 Joan was taken to a scaffold set up in the cemetery next to Saint-Ouen Church, and told that she would be burned immediately unless she signed a document renouncing her visions and that she must agree to stop wearing soldiers' clothing. Under deep duress after a years worth of privation in a torturous prison, she signed the document saying: "I would rather sign it than burn."
On May 28, Joan recanted her previous abjuration, donned men's apparel once more, and was accused of relapsing into heresy. In reply to this new charge of relapse she said:
"What I said, I said for fear of the fire. Since then, my Voices have told me that I did a very wicked thing in confessing that what I had done [by leading the war against the English] was not well done. They told me that God, through St. Catherine and St. Margaret, helped me to understand the great treason that I consented to by making that abjuration and revocation to save my own life, and that I was damning myself to save my life. If I should say that God had not sent me I should damn myself. It is true that God has sent me.
"Pray for those who persecute you"- St Joan of Arc pleads to her enemies to retreat before leading the attack against them
We may take yet another important lesson from the heroic life of St. Joan of Arc. Despite the fact that she is often portrayed with armor and sword, the truth is that she disliked bloodshed and longed for peace. She refused to wield her own sword in battle: it was used as a threat to the enemy and held aloft as a signal to her soldiers.
For about an hour prior to many of her battles, before leading the attack she would tearfully plead with the English soldiers to surrender or withdraw. She would have been perfectly happy for them to withdraw from the French positions they held, for she bore them no animosity. Usually during that hour she would be the recipient of the most vulgar and obscene taunts from the Englishmen. Once she was satisfied she could not persuade them to retreat, the battle commenced, and the teenage girl who had been tearfully pleading a few moments earlier, would encourage her men to fight heroically and fiercely.
Thus, she loved her enemies, bore them no ill will, and would have been perfectly content for them to withdraw to their own territory, and live in peace. Many of her fellow soldiers testified how after the bloody battles she often wept upon seeing the dead soldiers on both sides. There is even one occasion that is widely reported where she held one of the dying enemy soldiers in her arms during his last moments, encouraging him in making his confession to the accompanying priest.
Some notable replies from Joan at her trial an at her holy death
-“Do you know if you are in the grace of God?”
“If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God keep me there. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But I think, if I were in a state of sin, the Voice would not come to me. And I wish that everyone heard It as I do! – Saturday, Feb. 24, 1431
-“Was it God who prescribed to you the dress of a man?” [Concerning her 40 pound suit of armor]
“What concerns this dress is a small thing – less than nothing. I did not take it by the advice of any man in the world. I did not take this dress or do anything but by the command of Our Lord and of the Angels.”
-“Which did you care for most, your banner or your sword?”
“Better, forty times better, my banner than my sword!”
-“In what likeness did Saint Michael appear to you?”
“I did not see a crown; and I know nothing of his dress.”
-Was he then naked?”
“Do you think God has not wherewithal to clothe him?”
"You say that you are my judge; take good heed of what you do, because in truth I am sent by God, and you put yourself in great peril. I give you this warning so that if our Lord punishes you for it, my duty to warn you is done."
Joan of Arc's response to the threat of torture:
"Truly, if you were to tear me limb from limb and separate my soul from my body, I would not say anything more. Yet, if I did say anything, afterwards I would always declare that you made me say it by force!"
Joan's response when she learned how she would die:
"Oh! Am I to be so horribly and cruelly treated? Alas! That my body, clean and whole, which has never been corrupted, should this day be consumed and burned to ashes! Ah! I would far rather have my head chopped off seven times over, than to be burned!"
Joan speaking to Bishop Pierre Cauchon after learning of her impending execution:
"Bishop, I die through you"
At her death, Joan asking for a crucifix to be held level with her eyes:
"Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so I may see it until I die."
St. Joan of Arc's last words:
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"
"I place trust in God, my creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart." -St Joan of Arc
-St Joan of Arc, pray for us!