Long ago, when I was little, I listened to a radio drama based on the life of Joan of Arc. I was intrigued, but never went on to study her life. Now, as I read her story, I wonder…
Born on the sixteenth of January, 1412, Joan was brought up amongst brothers and a sister who were all taught to love God and to pray to Him. One day in her thirteenth year, Joan was out in her father’s garden. There, she thought she saw a vision of Michael, the archangel, who announced to her that she would someday help the Dauphin to be crowned at Rheims. From that day until her sixteenth year, she thought she saw many visions, all of them telling her to go to the aid of France. So finally, she did.
Although she was initially mocked and repudiated by all of the nobles that she sought out, she eventually made her way into the very presence of Charles VII, Dauphin of France. After Joan won the approval of the people and the religious authorities, Charles VII allowed her to become the head of his army.
Joan began to wear armor and ride at the head of her army, commanding the soldiers to attack and retreat based upon whatever God had communicated to her through her visions. Her army was, for the most part, successful, and Charles VII was crowned king at Rheims as Joan had foretold.
But after being crowned king, Charles VII became lazy. He no longer wished to discuss battle strategy or even try to win the war against the English. The position of the French slowly declined until the day that Joan was captured by the English. They tried her as a heretic and found her guilty. She was burned at the stake.
In the nineteenth century, the Catholic church changed its opinion of Joan. She is now considered to be a saint.
M. Boutet de Monvel’s portrayal of Joan of Arc is a face value one; he presents her life as she professed it to be. This included her angelic visions, messages from God, etc. It is very Catholic. Below is an example.
One summer day, when she was thirteen years old, she heard a voice at midday in her father’s garden. A great light shone upon her, and the archangel St. Michael appeared to her. He told her to be a good girl and to go to church. Then, telling her of the great mercy which was in store for the Kingdom of France, he announced to her that she should go to the help of the Dauphin and bring him to be crowned at Rheims. “I am only a poor girl,” she said. “God will help thee,” answered the archangel. And the child, overcome, was left weeping.
From this day, Joan’s piety became still more ardent. The child loved to go apart from her playmates to meditate, and heavenly voices spoke to her, telling her of her mission. These, she said, were the voices of her Saints. Often the voices were accompanied by visions. St. Catherine and St. Margaret appeared to her. “I have seen them with my bodily eyes,” she said later to her judges, “and when they left me I used to cry. I wanted them to take me with them.”
The girl grew, her mind elevated by her visions, and her inmost heart keeping the secret of her holy conversations. No one guessed what was going on in her – not even the priest who heard her confessions.
At the beginning of the year 1428, when Joan was sixteen, the voices became more urgent. The peril was great, they said, and she must go to help the King and save the kingdom.
Her Saints commanded her to seek out the Sire de Baudricourt, Lord of Vaucouleurs, and to ask of him an escort to conduct her to the Dauphin.
Not daring to tell her parents of her project, Joan went to Burey, to her uncle Laxart, and begged him to take her to Vaucouleurs. Her fervent prayers overcame the timidity of the cautious peasant, and he promised to go with her. [pgs. 10-12]
I do not pretend to know what was truly happening in Joan’s life – whether she was sincere, unhinged, etc. – but I do know that whenever a woman leads a nation in battle, it is a sign of God’s judgment, not his favor, which is what Joan claimed France would receive if the people obeyed her.
Joan uses the name of God liberally, applying it to many of her own plans.
Conclusion. An interesting account of Joan’s life. As a historical figure she is worth learning about, but her example is not one to follow.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret