The conflicts known as the Hundred Years’ War had been going on for seventy-five years by 1412. All told, it’s estimated that 3.5 million people died in the battles between Britain and France. Surely, people wondered if peace would ever return. The Lord sent an unlikely leader: a slip of a French peasant girl named Joan who knew only the rudiments of prayer, and could not read nor write.
The voices—eventually, she would identify them as Saint Michael, Saint Margaret of Antioch, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria—started when Joan was thirteen or so, first telling her to be a good girl, then telling her to save France by coming to the aid of the dauphin. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the child who had been outgoing and cheerful became increasingly thoughtful and silence. Finally, when Joan was seventeen, she was convincing enough in her insistence that she was allowed to lead an army into Orleans, which had been under siege by the English for seven months. The maid and her army emerged victorious. Her prediction to the dauphin that she would see him crowned King Charles VII came true less than three months later.
But then things changed. Charles didn’t seem interested in her assistance anymore, and seventeen months later, Joan was an English prisoner. Almost overnight, Joan went from being lauded as a national hero to being shunned. No one came to her aid—not even Charles, and she was burned at the stake as a heretic, sorceress, and adulteress. To the end, she remained confident she had remained obedient to God and the voices.
The Hundred Years’ War dragged on for twenty-two years after Joan’s execution. Three years after that, she was retried before a papal court—and found innocent. She was not canonized until 1920.
You have been with your counsel and I have been with mine. Believe me that the counsel of my Lord will be accomplished and will stand, and this counsel of yours will perish. (Saint Joan of Arc)
Pray for someone you have betrayed. Perhaps it’s a former friend or coworker; perhaps it’s someone with whom you volunteered. If it is possible to do so without causing still more pain for the other person, ask him or her for forgiveness.
“Joan of Arc is like a shooting star across the landscape of French and English history, amid the stories of the Church’s saints and into our consciousness. Women identify with her; men admire her courage. She challenges us in fundamental ways. Despite the fact that more than 500 years have passed since she lived, her issues of mysticism, calling, identity, trust and betrayal, conflict and focus are our issues still.” (Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior, by Barbara Beckwith).