Saint Joan of Arc
January 6, 1412 – May 30, 1431
Patron Saint: France and soldiers
Feast Day: May 30
It is fitting the Saint for the Month (SOM) for May has a feast day a days after Memorial Day, a National Holiday in the US, used to honor those who served in the military. The SOM this month is, not unlike many of the previous SOM or like others who are called into ministry, in the way that they are often seen as the least likely to be called. Saint Joan of Arc was born into a peasant family, but at an early age was said to hear messages from Saints Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioc. These encounters began when she was 12 years of age and continued throughout her life.
Again as with many saints, Saint Joan of Arc, was not afraid of being cast outside of the public expectations for women at the time. Furthermore she knew that the actions she took were those that could and eventually did lead to her death. (Matthew 16:24) Though the actions taken were not ones that she did with the intent toward martyrdom, which seems to be the difference with Saints and Holy people than others seeking power, is that their actions are toward a higher purpose.
It is often expressed that God does not call the prepared, but prepares the called. It is said Saint Joan of Arc could not read or write and did not have a formal education. Instead, she was taught through instruction by the three Saints that spoke to her, preparing her for what she had been called to do. Even giving her the hidden location of the sword, she would come to use in battle. These Saints gave her instruction that at that time were typically reserved for military people. More specifically, only for men.
The thing that stands out to me is how many Saints and Holy people to walk upon the earth and have their earthly existence eclipsed early. They go into situations unthinkable and ignite a profound change within their community. They are willing to lay down their life, in their full surrender to God. (John 15:13) They perform unimagined acts of bravery, without the intent of being seen as brave, but because they know it will create a better life.
As with many situations, their contributions are not honored in their life time. The same happened to Saint Joan of Arc, who was exonerated for the charges she was put to death for 25 years after she was put on trial. Placed on trial for heresy, witchcraft and cross dressing, eventually being burned at the stake, by the very person she helped move into power. It seems to be that these people who have moved into power are able to see the strength of someone willing to cast themselves out of the social expectations, to ignite change.
Saint Joan of Arc was imprisoned by the English rulers she helped remove from power in France, after being turned over by those who in France, Saint Joan of Arc was instrumental into moving into power. Even then, the strength and surrender to God of Saint Joan of Arc can be seen in the calm of which she responded to the accusers during her trial. The records say a hush fell across after her response to the question that put her faith on defense, when she said, “If I am not in God’s grace, May God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”. Such focus, seems to demonstrate the faith that can be found when contemplation moves us into action.
As with many Saints and Holy People, their actions can be seen as impossible odds. While maybe today we may not think favorably about someone responding to voices as she is referenced doing. These actions though are different than the ones used to harm people, because most often their actions done lift people up toward empowered opportunity. To think of a few modern people who responded similarly in their faith, would have us looking at Martin Luther King Jr. and Saint Oscar Romero, who also spoke out about social injustices. Though some may see the gift that these Holy People and Saints are offering during their time, many see what they are doing as impossible and are unwilling to participate in the changes they are trying to create. The Saints and Holy People in our past and current lives, are uncovering the truth of our potential. In that act of faith, the seed of positive possibility is planted. Our choices can be found, in how we will respond to the call to uplift anyone in the margins.