Sunday, May 26, 2013

St. Joan of Arc's Feast Day: Her Memorial Day

"Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends"

Every year on Memorial Day we remember our fallen soldiers and their sacrifices in the service of our country.  In much the same way I always remember St. Joan of Arc this time of year because the anniversary of her death is either on or close to when we observe Memorial Day each year. St. Joan was perhaps God's greatest soldier and her sacrifices in defense of her country and people exemplify what Jesus spoke of when he taught that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

This Thursday, May 30th will mark the 582nd anniversary of St. Joan's death when she was burned to death at the stake by her enemies.  It was a horrible way for Joan to end what was such a brilliant life of service to God and to her people.  But even in the midst of this "horrible business," as one eyewitness later put it, Joan continued to serve God until the bitter end crying out the name of Jesus with her very last breath.   The heroic way that Joan died was described by an eyewitness as causing everyone present including even some of Joan's enemies to have "recognized God's hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end."

The anniversary of the death of Saint Joan is celebrated each year by Catholics as her feast day which is a way to remember her life and service to God (The special page at can be found at Feast Day). Let us all take a moment this year to remember Joan and honor her for her service to God in the same way that we remember and honor all our soldiers on Memorial Day.  Ultimately, Joan was fighting for God and gave her last full measure of devotion so that all of us are able to receive the true freedom offered only though God's son Jesus Christ. 

Vive la Jehanne! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Joan of Arc's Longest Day & Victory in Orleans

"The next day May 7, 1429 would be long 
and hard, but would end with spectacular success.
You asked Father Pasquerel to always stay near 
your side, so he could aid you in your distress.
'Tomorrow blood will flow from my body, above 
the breast,' to the father you had to confess."
 from Maid of Heaven: The Story of Saint Joan of Arc

On May 7,1429 in Orleans St. Joan of Arc led the french forces against the seemingly impregnable fortress Les Tourelles held by the English. The day before Joan had told her confessor Father Pasquerel: “Rise tomorrow very early, earlier even than today, and do the best that you are able. It will be necessary to keep always near me, for tomorrow I shall have much to do, and greater need of you than I have ever had. Tomorrow the blood will flow from my body, above the breast.” During the course of the fighting Joan was severely wounded as she had predicted when an arrow pierced her body just above her breast. Without Joan to lead them the soldiers and their commanders quickly lost their resolve fearing the battle was lost without Joan and the assault on Les Tourelles appeared as if it would end in failure. Then the miraculous occurred when Joan re-appeared on the battlefield and seized her banner and lead the French army forward to make another assault upon Les Tourelles. Jean d'Aulon, who was the head of Joan's military household, later recalled the amazing turn of events: ". . . the lords and the captains who were with her, seeing that they could not well gain it this day, considering how late it was and also that they were all very tired and worn out, agreed among them to sound the retreat for the army. This was done, and, at the sound of the trumpet call, each one retreated for the day. During this retreat, [d'Aulon] who had been carrying the standard of the Pucelle and still holding it upright in front of the boulevard was fatigued and worn-out, and gave the standard to one named Le Basque, who was with the Lord of Villars. And because [d'Aulon] knew Le Basque to be a brave man, and he feared that harm would come from the retreat, and that the fortress and the Boulevard would remain in the hands of the enemy, he had the idea that if the standard were pushed ahead, due to the great affection in which it was held by the soldiers, they could by this means win the boulevard. And then [d'Aulon] asked Le Basque if he would follow him when he entered and went to the foot of the boulevard; he said and swore he would this. And then [d'Aulon] entered the ditch and went up to the base of the side of the Boulevard, covering himself with a shield for fear the stones, and left his companion on the other side, believing that he would follow him step-by-step. But when the Pucelle saw her standard in the hand of Le Basque, because she believed that she had lost it, as [d'Aulon] who had been carrying it had gone into the trench, she came and took the standard by the end in such a way that he had to let it go, crying, "Ha! My standard! My standard!" And she shook the standard in such a way that the one who is testifying imagined that others might think that she was making a sign to the others by doing this. And then he who was speaking cried: "Ha, Basque! Is this what you promised me?" And then Le Basque tugged at the standard that he dragged it from the hand of the Pucelle, and after this, he went to [d'Aulon] and brought the standard. Because of these things, all those in the army of the Pucelle gathered together and rallied again, assailed this boulevard in such great fierceness that, a short time afterwards, the boulevard and the fortress were taken by them, and abandoned by the enemy, and the French entered the city of Orleans by the bridge . . ."
This was indeed Joan of Arc's "Longest Day" and a day that not only led to victory at Orleans but was also the turning point in the Hundred Years War. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Joan at Orleans

After Joan of Arc arrived in Orleans on April 29, 1429, she continued to try to warn the English besieging the town to leave with two more letters (Joan first warned the English in a letter on March 22, 1429). Joan sent a letter to Lord Talbot, the English leader in Orleans, that was later described by Lord Dunois the “Bastard of Orleans” at her trial of rehabilitation as follows:

“She did in fact address to the English a letter, written in her mother tongue, to raise the siege or, if they refused, to attack them so strongly they would be forced to retire. This letter was addressed to my Lord Talbot. And I affirm that from that hour, while formerly the English with two hundred of theirs could put to flight a thousand of ours, it required only four or five hundred of our soldiers to combat all the power of the English, and we were so successful with the enemy that they no longer dared to leave their strongholds and bastilles."

 Joan then had a letter shot into the fort Les Tourelles on May 5, 1429 that contained her final warning:

 “You, men of England, who have no right in the kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends word to you, and commands by me, Joan the Maid, that you leave your fortresses and return to your own country. Otherwise I will produce a clash of arms to be eternally remembered. This is the third and last time I will write to you, and I will not write to you any more. Jesus Maria Joan the Maid”

Unfortunately for the English they did not heed Joan's warnings and would pay a heavy price only a few days later.