Joan of Arc Seen as Model of Love for Church

Even Condemnation From Ecclesiastics Didn’t Deter Her

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2011 ( St. Joan of Arc’s deep love for the Church — despite the ecclesiastics who condemned her to death — has a truly heroic character, says Benedict XVI. 

The Pope affirmed this today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He continued with his series of catecheses on the saints, taking up today the story of St. Joan of Arc. 

He reflected on her spiritual life, which intensified from the age of 13, when she felt called to “commit herself personally to the liberation of her people.” 

“One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission,” the Holy Father said. 

Joan died when she was only 19. The Pontiff described her final months in this way: “After the years of hidden life and interior maturation, the brief but intense two-year period of her public life followed: a year of action and a year of passion.” 

Joan participated in the fight over the city of Orleans, as well as the coronation of King Charles VII. “For a whole year,” Benedict XVI noted, “Joan lived with the soldiers, carrying out among them a real mission of evangelization.” 

Needing purification 

Eventually, however, Joan fell into the hands of her enemies, and was put on trial. 

“This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is ‘at the same time holy and always in need of being purified,'” the Pope reflected. 

During her interrogations, she found in prayer the light for her answers to her judges. But the ecclesiastics who had her life in their hands were also her political adversaries. Thus, “on the morning of May 30, 1431, she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market. She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession. Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus.” 

The Pontiff said that Joan contemplated the reality of the Church in Jesus: “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 […] has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, 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.” 

Benedict XVI proposed Joan of Arc as a “beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations.” 

“Faith,” he said, “is the light that guides [her] every choice.” 

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