Saint Joan of Arc

30 May

Nowadays, nobody is surprised to see female soldiers participating in active warfare, being frontliners in rescue teams, and facing hazardous situations.
It was not the same in the early 15th century, when a young woman, only seventeen years old presented herself as a leading general of an army in a war between France and England. She was Joan of Arc, known as the Maid of Orleans and later acclaimed as a saint.

Joan was born some time during the year 1421, in Domremy, France. It was a time known as the Middle Ages, a time of ‘kings and castles, knights and battles’ fighting for power to gain kingdoms. Most people were poor, having to work hard not to go hungry. Many people were dying from the Black Death, a deadly sickness that had spread throughout Europe. Joan was born in such a family. She had to work hard on their farm besides doing all the chores to help the family that consisted of a brother and three sisters, besides her parents. She was kind and she would visit the sick to help and comfort them, even bringing them food.

During this time, a war that became known as ‘The Hundred Years War’, was going on between France and England. The English had managed to take control of parts of France and the French had been fighting the English to reclaim their land.
When Joan was thirteen years old she had visions of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, and experiences of voices with a message that she was to be instrumental in driving the English out of France  besides strengthening the Royal House of France that was also in disarray. When she predicted the outcome of a siege and battle at Orleans, the French King, Charles VII, believed that she could help the French in reclaiming their land.

Joan was equipped with armour, a sword, and a banner that said “Jesus and Mary” as she rode leading the French, claiming that she was doing God’s bidding. The army was commanded by a nobleman while she continued to inspire the army with her encouragement. Eventually, Joan’s prediction became true as Orleans was relieved from the siege and the English retreated. Joan continued to spur the French army in other battles, even though she was also wounded by arrows as she rode holding her banner. However, she was captured by the Burgundians, a political faction in France at the time, and who had formed an alliance with the English. They sold her to the English for 10,000 gold coins. She was accused of being a heretic in a trial that was not completely legal and impartial. During her trial she was kept in prison where she was subjected to humiliation and abuse. Her suffering continued until May 1431 when she was finally condemned to be burned to death.

Her body was reduced to ashes and thrown in the river Seine. She was nineteen years old.

The life story of St. Joan of Arc is riddled with conflicts and violence.
We can never shield our children from the awareness of situations of violence in society, of war between countries, that emerge from the media and are even represented in their video games.
As parents and carers we need to filter these messages so that we avoid the possibility of the development of aggressive children, who will resort to violence as a method of resolving conflicts.

Discuss with the children where and when they feel they are caught in conflict with others, when they feel the need to be aggressive, not only physically but also verbally:

  • explore situations with peers
  • in the classroom
  • on the playground
  • on the school bus
  • in activity groups.
    (They might include family situations. Do not hesitate to explore these as well)

Discuss with them:

what makes them angry, alternative ways to diffuse their feelings of anger, frustrations, the need to fight back.

Consider role play or imaginative ways of situations that the children might find themselves in St. Joan of Arc acted on the messages conveyed to her in her visions. God also sends us messages, not necessarily by means of visions and angels.

Children need to know that positive suggestions from parents, teachers, catechists, and good friends are all ways God gives us messages that prompt us to do good or better things that will bring us closer to Him.

God also allows good thoughts that prompt us to behave, speak, in certain ways and not in other ways so that we become better people.

Family Prayer Time:
Depending on the age of the children, make them aware that even in these days there is war between certain countries. They would ask ‘why’. ‘Power’ could be a simple answer.  

Lead prayer:

  • for people in power to seek peace and avoid conflicts that lead to war.
  • for those who are suffering because of war : losing relatives, homes, their own life.
  • for soldiers who are not only engaged in war. Soldiers are also frontliners in helping victims of natural disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, illegal immigrants lost at sea. Pray for soldiers so that they have courage and protection to be able to help others.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.