SAINT JOAN OF ARC
Saint Joan was born at Domremy, in Champagne, France, probably on Jan 6, 1412, the youngest of her family.
She never learned to read or write, but she was known as being grave beyond her years, often kneeling in the church deeply absorbed in prayer.
It was at the age of thirteen and a half that she first became aware of the "voices". It seems that when she heard the "voices", she also experienced a "blaze of light". She said she clearly saw the spirits who spoke to her and was able to identify them - Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and many others.She could not explain how she saw or recognised them, but she told the judges at her trial "I see them with these very eyes as well as I see you".
By May 1428, she no longer doubted that the voices had told her to go to the aid of the King. The voices insisted that she must present herself to Robert Baudricourt at nearby Vaucouleurs. A month later she met him but he treated her and her mission with little respect, telling the cousin who accompanied her, "Take her home to her father and give her a good whipping."
Meanwhile the military situation of King Charles and his supporters was growing more precarious. Joan's "voices" continued and she resisted saying "I am only a poor girl. I don't know how to ride or to fight!"
But the "voices" continued, telling her "It is God's command"
So she yielded to the voices at last, and went again to Vaucouleurs. Baudricourt was still unimpressed, but her persistence slowly made an impression on him.
On February 17 she made an announcement that the French had suffered a great defeat outside Orleans.(The Battle of the Herrings).
It was a few days later that this was officially confirmed, and so her cause gained credibility. Finally on March 8 she met King Charles VII. To test her he had deliberately disguised himself, but she saluted him without hesitation.
A strong party at the Court opposed her vehemently, but she told the King a secret about himself which had him half convinced.
She had taken to wearing male costume, probably as a defense against unwarranted attention from the rough soldiers with whom she was now travelling. She always slept fully dressed.
She was sent to Poitiers to be examined by a committee of learned Bishops and doctors. Finally after much detailed examinations, the theologians found nothing heretical in her claims, and decided that it was safe to let her continue in the duties she was taking on.
Returning to Chinon, she began to prepare for the campaign. The King offered her a sword, but she begged that they search for an ancient sword which her "voices" had told her was buried behind the altar in the Chapel of Ste-Catherine-de-Furbois. The sword was found in the exact spot she had indicated.
A letter exists, written on April 22, 1429, by one Sire de Potslaer, in which he said, "The Maid (Joan - "The Maid of Orleans") says that she would save Orleans, and would compel the British to raise the siege, that she herself in a battle before Orleans would be wounded by a shaft, but would not die from it, and that the King, in the course of the following summer, would be crowned at Reims."
Before beginning her campaign, Joan summoned the King of England to withdraw his troops from French soil. The English commanders were furious at her audacity. But Joan, in a rapid advance, entered Orleans on April 30. By May 8, the English forts which encircled the city had all been captured, and the siege raise, even though on the 7th, Joan was wounded in the breast by an arrow. A short campaign was begun upon the Loire, and after numerous victories, ended on June 18 with a great victory at Patay. The English reinforcements sent from Paris had been completely overwhelmed.
On Sunday July 17, 1429, King Charles VII was solemnly crowned at Reims, just as Joan had predicted.
An unsuccessful attempt was made on Paris at the end of August. The assault on St-Denis was made on September 8 and Joan was shot through the thigh with a bolt from a crossbow. It was April before she was able to take to the field again, and her "voices" told her that she would soon be taken prisoner.
On May24 she had returned to battle to defend the town against the Burgundian attack, when she was dragged from her horse and became a prisoner of a follower of John of Luxembourg.
He subsequently sold her to the English for a large sum of money. The English were determined to take her life, partly beacuse they feared her and what she could do, partly because they were ashamed of the dread she inspired.
They couldn't put her to death simply because she had beaten them, but they could get her sentenced as a witch and a heretic. Pierre Cauchon, an unscrupulous and ambitious man, the Bishop of Beauvais, was the tool of the English.
On a technicality he had her trial in his court, and his assessors were all stacked against Saint Joan.
Court meetings started in January, but it was not until February 21 that Joan was allowed to appear. She was denied the use of an advocate, and though she was accused in an Eccleciastical Court, she was illegally detained in the Castle of Rouen, a secular prison, guarded by male English soldiers. Some of that time she was kept in an iron cage, chained by the neck, hands and feet. She kept her male costume for the better protection of her modesty. She asked to be transferred to the Church prison, where at least she would have had female attendants, but this was refused.
The judges pressed her for details of what the "voices" had told her, but many times she refused to answer. On March 1 she announced that "within seven years space, the English would have to forfeit a bigger prize than Orleans". And so it happened that on November 12, 1437, six years and eight months later, that Paris was lost to Henry VI.
When Joan's trial was conducted before a large assembly, it soon became clear that her truthfulness and honesty were beginning to draw sympathy from the onlookers. So Cauchon decided to have the remainder of her trial in font of a small committee of judges in the prison itself.
On March 17, the examinations came to an end with a large majority of the 22 judges declaring her "voices" to be "false and diabolical", and finally decided that she ought to be declared heretical and handed over to the civil power. The English and the Burgundians were determined to have her life, and on May 29 a court of 37 judges unanimously declared that she must be treated as a relapsed heretic.
On May 30, 1431, she was burned at the stake, and her ashes thrown into the Seine River.
Twenty-four years later a revision of her trial (a "Rehabilitation") was opened in Paris with the consent of the Holy See. Now an Appellate Court constituted by the Pope conducted a long inquiry, examining many witnesses, and they reversed and annulled the sentence pronounced by a local tribunal under Cauchon's presidency. But, of course, far too late for Joan.
The cause for her beatification was opened in 1869 by Mgr Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, and after all stages and the necessary miracles, the decree was published by Pope Pius X on April 11,1909.
Saint Joan was canoinised by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Saint Joan was declared a patroness of France, second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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