St. Joan of Arc is one of the most celebrated and well-known saints throughout the world despite the fact that she only lived to the age of about 19. And until the age of 17, she was completely unknown outside of her hometown.
The popular image of Joan is one of her clad in armor astride a horse and charging into the thick of a battle with arrows flying and knights clashing with each other all around her. She did wear armor. And she did ride into battle. However, she never actually fought in the battles. Instead, what is even more miraculous is that she simply carried a standard with the names of Jesus and Mary on it and rode around throughout the battles urging on the troops.
The Beginning and the Obstacles
Joan was farm girl with very little formal education who began to receive special revelations at the age of 13. The archangel St. Michael along with St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret of Antioch spoke with her and urged her to prepare for a mission which was as unexpected as it was daring. Joan was to help the rightful heir to the throne, Charles the Dauphin, be crowned as King of France.
Aside from the fact that Joan did not know Charles and did not know anyone who knew Charles, there were several major obstacles to this mission. At the time, what we now know as the country of France was controlled by forces that were either in support of Charles or in support of England which had been trying to wrest control of France for decades in the Hundred Years' War. Through this divisions, the country was carved into these opposing forces.
The war had been dragging on for decades and recently France had been doing very poorly. It had been a long time since there had been a true French victory.
Thus, from a purely human perspective, what Joan was being asked to do might seem impossible. She was supposed to travel hundreds of miles across the countryside, which included enemy territory, in order to meet the Dauphin and convince him that she was called by God to lead him to Reims where he would be crowned King of France.
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Joan Takes the First Steps
Joan's cousin, Durand, was 15 years her senior, and thus, she called him "uncle". After confiding in Durand regarding her mission, she pleaded with him to introduce her to Baudicourt. Her cousin took Joan to Vaucouleurs and made the introduction. It is possible that they were able to reference Joan's father to help make the meeting possible. Joan's father was an official who helped collect taxes, and in the previous year, he had met with Baudicourt regarding the village taxes for Joan's home town.
Getting the Support She Needed
This proof was almost enough for Baudicourt. He took one final step. Baudicourt called upon a local priest to have Joan exorcised. Baudicourt and the priest arrived at the home where Joan was staying. Such a visit by the lord of the region was quite unusual to say the least. The priest, whom Joan knew, performed the exorcism and proclaimed that any evil in her must leave and that if she was a good spirit, she should come forward. At that word, Joan stepped forward and knelt in front of the priest. Joan was a very frank person, and so even after kneeling, she told the priest that he had acted improperly. Joan stated to the priest that he surely knew that there was no evil spirit in her because he had just her confession.
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The Journey to Meet Charles
Thus, the young maid who had recently been helping on the family farm arrived in Chinon in order to take the next step in her journey, namely to meet with Charles and to convince him that she could rally the armies of France to clear a path to the city of Reims where Charles would be crowned king.
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Want to Learn More about St. Joan of Arc?
I highly recommend this book about St. Joan of Arc. It is based on the extensive documentation that was done at her trial and provides a clear view of what this young woman had to undergo as she followed God's call and suffered martyrdom for her obedience to the Faith.
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