Thursday, May 30, 2024

Saint Joan of Arc Witnesses to the “Total Love of Jesus”

May 30th commemorates the anniversary of the heroic death of Saint Joan of Arc, who is one of the patron saints of France. The 600th anniversary of her famously unjust ecclesiastical trial and subsequent political execution will be in the year 2031. 

(This same year will also mark the 500th anniversary of the singular gift of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego in Mexico City—and though 2031 might sound like way-in-the-future, it will be here very soon! Start making your pilgrimage plans now. God willing, I’ll still be around on this earth in seven years, and able to participate in some way in these great occasions.)

Pope Benedict XVI spoke some profound and insightful words about Saint Joan of Arc during his Wednesday Catechesis on important figures in the ancient and medieval Church (which is one of many of the rich resources of his papal ministry). Here are some selections from his General Audience dedicated to her on Wednesday, January 26, 2011:

Beginning at the age of 13…, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and also to commit herself personally to the liberation of her people”—i.e. the French of the early 15th century, whose people suffered under the invading English military during this period of the so-called Hundred Years War.

Joan grew in the clarity and conviction of her vocation. “Her immediate response, her ‘yes,’ was the vow of virginity, with a new commitment to sacramental life and to prayer: daily attendance at Mass, frequent confession and Communion and long periods of silent prayer before the Crucified or before the image of the Virgin. The compassion and commitment of the young French peasant girl in face of the suffering of her people became more intense because of her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission…

“The Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the center of her whole life. The ‘mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc,’ which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbor in Jesus and for Jesus. This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: ‘Serve God first’…

“The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations. Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the ‘triumphant Church’ of Heaven, and the ‘militant Church’ of earth. According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one ‘whole’. This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of [her] Trial, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her. In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction…

“With her luminous testimony, Saint Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church.”