Happy Easter to all!

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

On Good Friday, the Church commemorates the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the next day, Holy Saturday, we remember the burial of our Lord, and how he lay in the tomb. At midnight, the beginning of Easter Sunday, we commemorate his Resurrection.

I love the Easter Vigil Liturgy, and this year I took part in it once again.
The Easter Vigil is a ceremony that takes place after dark on Holy Saturday, i.e. Easter Eve. It includes a ceremony to make a new fire and light the Paschal candle.

Watching the Paschal Candle (symbolizing the light of salvation) being lit in the darkness, I truly felt glad to be a Christian. I hope to light a small fire of faith.

I pray that the light of Christ’s resurrection will bring hope and salvation for people all over the world, and that God’s will be done for all people.

Saint Joan d’Arc: The Maiden on Fire (4) 

[O God,] thou hast been my protector and helper
and hast delivered my body from destruction
and from the snare of a slanderous tongue,
from lips that utter lies.
Before those who stood by
thou wast my helper, and didst deliver me.
in the greatness of thy mercy and of thy name,
from the gnashings of teeth about to devour me,
from the hand of those who sought my life,
from the many afflictions that I endured,
from choking fire on every side,
and from the midst of fire which I did not kindle.

(Ecclesiasticus 51:1-4) 

The records of Joan of Arc’s heresy trial dispel the common impression that medieval society was obsessed with mystery and superstition.

What emerges from the records is a picture of a clergy that ignored the supernatural and other matters unless they could be used as evidence against Joan. They did not believe in the mysteries of God, and clearly were not concerned about the whereabouts of souls after death.

Joan succumbed to threats.

On May 24, 1431, in order to intimidate Joan, who had so far refused to succumb, Cauchon took her to the cemetery at St. Ouen, and threatened to have her burned there. He also made her an offer, namely: that if she stopped dressing like a man, and signed a “confession,” she would be transferred to a church prison where she would be guarded by women, as she wished. 

Joan was exhausted from months of confinement in prison, and by her lengthy trial at the hands of the Inquisition. Finally, in her weakness, the fear of being burned overcame her. Joan, who had made obedience to God her first priority, was deceived by the sweet-sounding words, not of God, but of a man, Cauchon. She agreed to sign the “confession.” Unable to write, she made a small cross mark instead of a signature. 

Cauchon had no intention of keeping his promises to her. While waiving the sentence of excommunication, he asserted at the same time that Joan’s crimes were so terrible that he had no choice but to sentence her to life in prison—namely, her former prison. 

Rowdy prison guards are sent to prison. 

Cauchon’s sentence of indefinite imprisonment angered the 13th Earl of Warwick; he had wished to have Joan summarily executed. After all, she had caused his mission to fail! One of the magistrates, observing the situation, told him not to worry, saying: “Fear not, my lord; you will catch her yet.” (p235) 

In order to perfect their cruel plan against Joan, the judges had sent a group of rowdy, lecherous men to act as watchmen. They were convinced that Joan, in order to protect her chastity, would return to wearing male attire.

And if she did that, her accusers would have her right where they wanted her, since they could claim that for her to dress in men’s clothing again, after having promised to stop doing so, was equivalent to relapsing into heresy after having once recanted. And, of course, a relapsed heretic could be punished by being burned at the stake.

Joan forced to wear men’s clothes 

Joan stopped wearing men’s clothes on Thursday night, and began wearing them again on Sunday. Little is known about the days in between. We do know that when she awoke on Trinity Sunday morning, she asked the soldiers to leave her alone for a moment while she dressed; that one of them stripped her of her women’s clothes and gave her men’s clothes instead; that she had to wear the latter in order to avoid being naked.

The prison guard did not listen to Joan’s pleas. Joan, who needed clothing to not be naked, had no choice but to change into men’s clothing at noon. 

Voices told her of their disappointment. 

St. Catherine and St. Margaret brought Joan a terrible message. In Joan’s words:

“They told me of the great sorrow they felt on account of the treason to which I have been led, namely, my abjuring and renouncing my deeds in order to save my life. By so doing, they said, I have lost my soul.” 

It seems that the deadly sin that Joan’s voices spoke to her of was tantamount to a betrayal of God. The most famous person in the Bible who betrayed God is probably Judas Iscariot.

Referring to Judas Iscariot, our Lord said, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). Jesus knew that unless Judas repented, his sin of betraying God would land him in the deepest pit of hell for all eternity.  

The courage to follow God. 

Better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men” (Psalm 118:8).

Having obtained information that Joan was dressed as a man, Cauchon visited her in prison. 

Joan, who had regained the courage to obey God, voluntarily chose physical death over the death of her soul. In answer to Cauchon’s questions, Joan explained that if she was going to be around men, doing men’s work (leading battles), it was more convenient for her to be dressed as a man. She also replied that she had been promised that, if she wore women’s clothing, she would be allowed to attend Mass, be set free from the chains that bound her, and be monitored by women; in fact, she added, all of those promises had been lies. 

When Cauchon asked Joan about her voices, she explained to him that the saints were saddened that she had committed a mortal sin. She admitted that she had signed the “confession” out of fear of being burned, but added that it had been a great mistake, that she had no intention of denying her voices, and that she still believed that she was a messenger of God. Finally, she stated that he would rather die than remain a prisoner any longer. 

Into secular hands to be burned

Joan was once again found guilty of heresy. Since she was now (in the judges’ view) a relapsed heretic, the judges saw fit to hand her over to the secular authorities. The medieval Church forbade Church authorities to sentence heretics to death, to execute them, or even to assist in their execution. The Ecumenical Council of 1215 (the Fourth Lateran Council) states this clearly, as follows: 

“No cleric may decree or pronounce a sentence involving the shedding of blood, or carry out a punishment involving the same, or be present when such punishment is carried out.” 

In heresy trials, therefore, the Church’s aim was simply to use its theological expertise to determine whether a person was or was not an impenitent heretic. If a person was found to be so, it was up to the secular government to administer the appropriate punishment, in accordance with the law. In those days, it was commonly accepted that obdurately impenitent heresy was a horrible crime, and the legal penalty for it, in many jurisdictions, was death by burning.  

Regarding Joan’s heresy trial, Pope Benedict XVI said that “the whole trial was actually conducted by a large group of theologians from the famous University of Paris, who participated in the trial as judges” (256th General Audience Address of St. Joan d’Arc, January 26, 2011). 

When Joan’s judges handed down their decision that she was a relapsed and impenitent heretic, fit to be handed over to the secular legal system, no one raised any objections. Some, no doubt, were silent because of fear, but it seems as though most theologians and clergymen at the time were fully supportive of Cauchon. 

The Morning of the Burning 

Early in the morning of Wednesday, May 30, 1430, two priests were sent to Joan to give her the terrible news that she was to be burned. When Joan received the news, she sobbed and lamented her fate, saying that she would rather be beheaded seven times than burned. 

When Cauchon entered the dungeon, she said, “My fate is due to your decision, for I would not have been sentenced to burn if I had not been handed over to the secular authorities. You are responsible for my death.” To which Cauchon replied, “You broke your promise, and you are going to die.” Joan declared to Cauchon that she would hold him accountable before God. 

Joan on her way to the pyre 

“Am I not to be given a cross?” asked the Maid. An English soldier, overcome by pity, took two pieces of wood, and made a rough cross out of them with a piece of twine.

Joan, dressed in a long white robe, with a hat on her head, was placed on a cart and taken to the square where she was to be executed. The streets were filled with crowds of people, and the sound of Joan’s prayers moved them to tears. 

In the center of the square stood a stake set high so that her burning could be seen from everywhere. The high pyre was also to prevent Joan from being suffocated by smoke before she was burned to death by fire.  A preacher, Nicolas Midi, declared that since Joan had reverted to being a heretic, the church excommunicated her, separated her from the church, and placed her in secular hands. 

Joan, who forgave all and went up on the pyre 

If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). 

As the cart arrived at the square, a certain friar brought a cross from the Church of Saint-Sauveur for Joan, who had been begging for one. Joan piously kissed the cross and went up to the pyre weeping. 

Once on the pyre, Joan turned to the crowd and told them that the king was blameless and asked them all to pray for her soul. She forgave everyone. She also told them that she had never doubted her voices, and asked them to forgive her if she had done them any harm. 

Joan’s humble and pained tone brought tears to people’s eyes, including many of her enemies, who had done everything in their power to kill her. It is said that even Cauchon had tears in his eyes. 

White Dove and the Death

Joan’s hat was taken away, and in its place a paper hat, shaped like a judge’s hat, was placed on her shaved head. On the hat were written the charges against her: “heretic, sinner, apostate, idolater,” and so on. Joan was bound with chains attached to a stake.

Seeing the fire strewn across the four corners of the pyre, she called out to the priest Isambard de la Pierre, who was standing nearby. She asked him to hold up the crucifix so that she could see it. “Keep it,” she said to him, “keep it always before my eyes, till death.”

The smoke and flames coming from all directions soon made it hard for people to see her. When the flames first touched her, her screams of grief terrified the people, and the crowd fell silent. Joan’s voice calling out to God and the saints was mingled with the sound of the flames.

“Jesus!” She cried out, so loudly that her head snapped back and then fell to her chest. At that moment, many people saw a white dove fly away. Many considered the white dove to be a sign that Joan had gone directly to Heaven after her short life of 19 years.

Joan died a penitent woman who persevered to the end and never held a grudge against anyone. Even if she had sinned, she must have been forgiven by God, as stated in Matthew 6:14. 

The Desecration of Joan’s Ashes

When the execution was over, the executioner moved the wood on the pyre and exposed Joan’s charred body, with its clothes burned off, to the public. There had been rumors that the woman being burned was not the real Joan, and it is said that this was done to prove that the rumors were false.

Her body was then further burned and reduced to ashes to prevent it from being recovered as a relic. While gathering the ashes, the executioner reportedly discovered that her heart was still intact. Later, the executioner visited the Dominican friary and cried out to Fr. Ladvenu, “I fear Heaven will not forgive us; we have burned a saint! “

By order of Cardinal Winchester, Joan’s ashes were cast into the Seine River, without a Christian burial. This fact was recorded by Friar Matthew, who remained with Joan until the end.

What Happened Afterward to Those Who Passed Sentence on Joan 

After Joan’s martyrdom, what happened to those involved in her cruel execution? 

Nicolais Midi: Before Joan’s execution, he was the one who maintained that it was necessary to cut away the “corrupt and rotten body” (the guilty Joan) from the “body of the Church,” in order to prevent others from falling into sin. After Joan’s execution, he was stricken with leprosy and died. 

In the Bible, leprosy is seen as (in some cases) a “curse from God” resulting from terrible sin. Not surprisingly, it was whispered by many that Midi’s death was retribution for the murder of a saint. 

Jean d’Estivet: A man of ill repute who was said to never open his mouth except to speak ill of others. He was the prosecutor in Joan’s heresy trial. He visited Joan in prison and continually abused her, calling her “trash,” “a whore,” and so on. Shortly after Joan’s death, he was found dead in a muddy ditch with his head smashed in. 

Nicolas Loiseleur: Teacher of theology, and close friend of Cauchon. He was also one of the people who most strongly wanted Joan to be tortured. He tried to trap Joan by pretending to be kind to her, in order to get her to reveal secrets to him. He also urged her to submit to Cauchon and sign (with her cross mark) the “confession” document.

During the years when there were two Popes, one at Rome and one in Avignon, he supported the French Pope, and thus was at odds with Rome. This led to his being deprived of his source of income, the church of Rouen. Afterwards, he took refuge with his sisters, but died suddenly in Basel around 1442, before Joan’s rehabilitation trial. 

Nemesis, Pierre Cauchon 

Pierre Cauchon: He played the most important role in the heresy trial, and remained alive for about 10 years after Joan’s martyrdom. He wanted the Archbishopric of Rouen, but, even after the execution of Joan, he could not get it, and instead became bishop of Lisieux. 

In 1431, he brought Henry VI of England to the throne as King of France, but the English did not maintain their power for long.

On April 13, 1436, Paris was occupied by French troops. Joan’s prophecy, that “within seven years England would lose more than it had gained at Orleans,” had come true. 

By 1441, England had lost almost all of the conquered lands that it had gained over the previous 100 years. 

What did Cauchon feel about the fulfillment of Joan’s prophecy regarding the decline of England? No doubt it was a great vexation for Cauchon, who had hoped to receive a reward from the English. 

On Tuesday, December 18, 1442, he died suddenly, at the age of 71, while having his beard shaved. Cauchon’s body is buried in the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Lisieux. 

The Special Antiphon at Vespers on the day of Cauchon’s death 

The official daily prayers of the Church are known as the Divine Office (Divinum Officium), sometimes referred to as the Liturgy of the Hours (Liturgia Horarum). The Divine Office contains various prayer services to be said (or chanted) at various hours of the day.

Some elements of the Office are the same every day; others vary according to the day of the week and the season of the year. For example, at Vespers (Evening prayer), the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) is sung or said every day. However, before and after the Magnificat a special short sentence or phrase is said, known as an antiphon. Different Magnificat Antiphons (or Antiphons at Vespers) are used for different days of the year; some are specific to certain saints’ days, others are for certain seasons, and so on.

In the week leading up to Christmas, the Divine Office prescribes a special set of Antiphons at Vespers, each beginning with the Latin word “O” (an interjection used when calling out to someone). These “O” Antiphons use imagery from the Old Testament to implore Christ, the Light of the World, to save the souls bound in the darkness of despair. Each “O” Antiphon is said only on its appointed day, and is not used during the rest of the year.

Today, the “O” Antiphons are the same everywhere, but in the Middle Ages, they varied somewhat from place to place. On the day that Cauchon died, December 18, 1442, the “O” Antiphon used at Vespers in France was as follows: 

O Clavis David 

OClavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; 
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; 
claudis, et nemo aperit: 
veni, eteduc vinctum de domo carceris, 
sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis. 
O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel; 
who openest and no one shutteth; 
who shuttest and no one openeth: 
Come and lead forth the prisoners from the prison house, 
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. 

Remember, this particular antiphon was used only on this one day in the whole year. And it was exactly suitable for the dying Cauchon, who had wrongfully impeached Joan.

Jesus preaching repentance

15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

In Mark 1:15, Jesus preaches repentance. Repentance is emphasized throughout the Bible. Did Cauchon and the other enemies of Joan ever feel remorse for having put her to death? Did they ever repent of their sins against her? Only God knows the answer. It would seem, however, that they were taken by death suddenly, and without adequate preparation.

Cauchon, for example, who died suddenly while having his beard shaved, would not have been able to receive the last sacrament, let alone attend Vespers, with its special antiphon. The horror of dying without receiving the sacrament must have been felt most keenly by a clergyman such as himself. What must have been the feelings of the others left behind who had also accused Joan of heresy and helped put her to death?

Rehabilitation Trial

Joan’s father was informed of her death, and died two years later, in sorrow. The rest of her family wanted to somehow clear Joan’s name, since she had been executed as a heretic.

Meanwhile, the French armies continued to win battles against the English. The tide had turned in the Hundred Years’ War, in favor of the French. King Charles VII must have been uncomfortable (to say the least) knowing that the now-legendary “Maid of Orléans,” who had been instrumental in enabling him to secure his throne, was, according to the official records, a condemned heretic and suspected witch. Charles wanted to prove to the world that his claim to the throne of France was not associated with heresy and witchcraft, but rather had been validated by God through a miracle-working saint.

In 1459, the city of Rouen, where the records of Joan’s trial were stored, was re-taken by the French. Now it was possible, for the first time since the trial, to re-examine the case against her.

On February 15, 1450, Charles VII declared that it was the king’s intention “to reveal the truth about Joan” in order to clear her name, and remove from her the stigma of heresy and witchcraft.

At the same time, Joan’s mother and brothers petitioned Pope Nicholas V to have the Inquisition’s judgment corrected. However, the heresy trial was not re-examined until the accession of Pope Calixtus III in 1455.

The Testimony at the Rehabilitation Trial

With the accession of Calixtus III, the investigation for Joan’s rehabilitation trial began.

At the rehabilitation trial, many witnesses were called, including Joan’s childhood acquaintances, soldiers, and priests. They testified to Joan’s simple character, her being a good Catholic, and her incredible knowledge of battle. They also believed that Joan had saved the land from the English in the name of God.

The next witness was John d’Aulon, knight, Seneschal of Beaucaire, member of the King’s Council; he made it clear that Joan was declared a witch for political reasons convenient for the English. Also, John de Mailly, Bishop of Noyon, who had been in the service of the King of England, revealed that Cauchon had received money from England.

Then there was the record-keeper, or judges’ clerk, William Manchon. Manchon recorded the general view that “never was there a greater sign of a good Christian than in the way she endured her last ordeal.”

Guesdon, Aron, Caval, Marcel, and Fébry declared that “she had died as a Catholic.”

It is on record that several people testified, regarding her, that she had been free from heresy (and heresy, of course, had been the official reason for her burning).

Rape Allegations

In the Rehabilitation trial that began some 25 years after Joan’s death, the Dominican friar Isambard de la Pierre testified to Joan’s appearance on the day she went back to wearing male attire. He testified that when Cauchon went to Joan’s dungeon, she was weeping, hurt, and indignant, and showed signs of having undergone a violent struggle. (p. 235) 

Moreover, the testimony of Martin Ladvenu, the priest who heard Joan’s last confession, indicated that not only soldiers, but also a certain English nobleman committed shameful acts against her. 

The Horror of Sexual Sin as Preached by Jesus 

The Bible says that if you have the urge to commit sexual sin, it is better to get rid of the part of the body that was trying to sin than to have your whole body cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30) 

The shameful act against Joan took place on the feast of the Holy Trinity. On the Church calendar, then as now, the Feast of the Holy Trinity is a major Feast Day, of the same rank as Christmas. On such a sacred day, they did something that blasphemed God. It is clear that they were people devoid of faith, who did not worry about what happened to their souls after death.

Canonized as a Virgin, not a Martyr

In June 1456, the verdict of “heresy” against Joan was finally declared null and void. It was recognized that she had been a devout Catholic, but had been executed because of an unjust trial.

A martyr is a person who is killed because of his or her Christian faith. In Joan’s case, she was executed not because she was a Christian (after all, her judges were Christians, too, albeit not good ones), but because her accusers were corrupt and determined to kill her for political reasons. For this reason, Joan is canonized as a virgin, not as a martyr.

Four Miracles Recognized as Intercessions of St. Joan

Although martyrdom does not require proof of a miracle, Joan, being categorized as a Virgin, needed four miracles in order to be canonized.

On January 6, 1904, Pope Pius X approved three miracles, in each of which a nun prayed for Joan’s intercession and was healed of a serious illness. The fourth approved miracle was that, during her lifetime, Joan saved France from the English. By 1920, two more miracles had been attested and approved.

On May 16, 1920, almost 500 years after Joan’s death, she was canonized by Benedict XV as Saint Joan, the Maid of Orléans. Since then, she has continued to work miracles for the faithful.

Benedict XVI’s message

Almost 600 years have passed since Joan was burned. The time in which she lived seems to be a story from the past that has nothing in common with the modern world, but in fact, it is not.

Benedict XVI once compared St. Catherine of Siena and St. Joan, telling us that they each lived in a time of conflict between two Popes, and that they were both devout mystics, while living in the very dramatic reality of the Church and the world (256th General Audience: Address on St. Joan of Arc, January 26, 2011).

What no one anticipated at the time was that two years later, in 2013, Benedict XVI would step down, while continuing to live in the Vatican and wear Papal vestments. That meant that, from the election of Pope Francis until the death of Benedict XVI, it looked as though there were two Popes. Moreover, the Church and the world today are in serious trouble, just as they were in Joan’s days.

Benedict XVI, referring to St. Joan’s love and trust in Jesus, her constant dialogue with the Lord in prayer, and her love for the Church to the end, encourages the faithful to strive for a higher standard of Christian life. He concludes by saying that, like St. Joan, we should love the Church deeply, with the love of Jesus.

The Pope’s message about St. Joan tells us what is most needed in our time. No doubt the love and faith of St. Joan must have protected the Church, as well as France, in the past; and no doubt she continues to guide and protect the Church today. And the late Pope Benedict XVI, like St. Joan and many other saints, is surely working from his heavenly kingdom for the good of the Church and of the world.

I would like to take the message of Benedict XVI to heart. I pray that, like St. Joan, I too may have an abundance love and devotion toward God.

Fabré, Lucien. Joan of Arc. London: Odhams. 1955.

Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Lord. Joan of Arc. London: J.C. 1893.

Image: Scene From The Life Of Joan Of Arc , ca 1913 by Lionel Noel Royer

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The Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

September 15 is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary suffered seven great sorrows in her life, connected with the life of her Son Jesus. On this day, we pray with all our hearts while meditating upon the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.

The beginning of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows

Catholics had a tradition and custom of praying to Our Lady of Sorrows long before this feast was officially established by the Church.

In 1221, at a monastery in Schönau, Germany, the first altar to Our Lady of Sorrows was set up. Around the same time, the “Stabat Mater,” a Gregorian hymn to Our Lady of Sorrows, was composed by the Franciscan Order.

Sequentia: Stabat Mater

Our Lady of Sorrows and the Servite Friars

Around 1233, in Italy, seven sons of noble families left Florence for Mount Senario, where they began a life of seclusion. Their spirituality attracted more and more people who wanted to live as they did, and the Order of Servites was born. Their Order, which is officially known as “The Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” was especially devoted to the sorrows of Our Lady. To spread their devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, they composed prayers to her, and designated September 15 as her special feast day.

The Chaplet of Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows

One of the devotions propagated by the Servite Order is the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. To pray this Chaplet, we begin with an Act of Contrition, such as the following:

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because I have offended thee, my God, who art all good and worthy of all love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.”

Then we meditate on the Seven Sorrows, while offering one Our Father and seven Hail Mary’s for each Sorrow. The Seven Sorrows are:

1. The Blessed Virgin is grieved by the prophecy of the aged Simeon.

2. The Blessed Virgin flees to Egypt with Joseph and her Son.

3. The Blessed Virgin, on her return from the Temple, loses her Son.

4. The Blessed Virgin meets her Son carrying his Cross.

5. The Blessed Virgin stands at the foot of the Cross.

6. The Blessed Virgin holds the corpse of her Son.

7. The Blessed Virgin beholds her Son buried in the tomb.

Finally, in remembrance of Our Lady’s tears, we say three Hail Mary’s.

At the end of the Chaplet, it is customary to add the following prayer:

“Pray for us, Virgin most sorrowful,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us Pray.

Let intercession be made for us, we beseech thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of thy mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of thy bitter passion. Through thee, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest one God, world without end. Amen.”

The Seven Promises of Our Lady

“I look around at all who are on earth, to see if by chance there are any who pity Me, and meditate upon My Sorrows; and I find that there are very few. “ - A Message from Our Lady to St. Bridget

In the 14th century, Our Lady appeared to St. Bridget of Sweden, lamenting that many people did not care about her (Our Lady’s) sorrows. Our Lady made seven promises to St. Bridget, regarding the graces which would be bestowed on those who pray the Chaplet of Sorrows daily. These are the seven promises:

  1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
  2. “They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries.”
  3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
  4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of My divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
  5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
  6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death. They will see the face of their Mother.”
  7. “I have obtained this grace from My divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to My tears and sorrows will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and My Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

 (Source: https://ourladysorrows.com/seven-promises/)

Changes in the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows since the 18th century

In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII (reigned 1724-1730) instituted the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on the Friday before Palm Sunday, and both he and Pope Clement XII (reigned 1730-1740) encouraged the faithful to pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows.

In 1809, Pope Pius VII was taken prisoner by Napoleon. In 1814, the Pope regained his freedom, and, after his triumphant return to Rome, gave thanks to God by proclaiming September 15 to be a second feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. September 15 was an appropriate day for that feast, because it comes one day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14.

Thus, in every year there were two feasts of the Cross, one in spring (Good Friday) and one in autumn (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), and each one had a nearby feast of Our Lady’s Sorrows, to represent our Lord’s Mother standing by his Cross.

In 1955, Pope Pius XII eliminated the feast on the Friday before Palm Sunday. The feast on September 15, however, was left intact, and, even after the extensive liturgical changes which were made in 1969 and the following years, it has remained on the Church’s calendar to this day.

Our Lady of Sorrows and Father Sidotti

Be gracious to me, O God,

     for men trample upon me;

     all day long foemen oppress me;

my enemies trample upon me all day long,

     for many fight against me proudly.

When I am afraid,

     I put my trust in thee.

In God, whose word I praise,

     in God I trust without a fear.

     What can flesh do to me?

 – Psalm 56: 1-4

In Japan, there is a famous painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, believed to have been painted by an Italian artist. The painting is commonly known as “Our Lady of the Thumb.” It belonged to the Italian missionary Giovanni Battista Sidotti, the last priest to be martyred in Japan.

Father Sidotti disguised himself as a samurai in order to enter Japan

Fr. Sidotti was born in 1668, in Palermo, Sicily. Determined to follow the path of a clergyman, he obtained degrees in philosophy and theology at the Jesuit University of Palermo, and at Sapienza University, also in Palermo.

When Fr. Sidotti heard about the many martyrs in Japan, he decided to go there as a missionary. Having obtained from Pope Clement XI permission to go to Japan, he first went to Manila, where there was a Japanese settlement. There he learned the Japanese language and customs, procured some Japanese currency, disguised himself as a samurai, and headed for Japan.

On October 11, 1708, Fr. Sidotti succeeded in landing on the island of Yakushima. In his black cotton sack was a painting of “Our Lady of the Thumb,” in addition to Mass utensils, a crucifix, and a few personal items. He was discovered soon after landing.

Captured, the priest Sidotti was carried in a basket 400 ri (about 1571 km/ 976 miles) to Edo (now Tokyo). During this long journey, his legs became so weak that when he finally arrived in Edo, he was unable even to stand.

Interaction between Priest Sidotti and Hakuseki Arai

Upon his arrival in Edo, Fr. Sidotti was interrogated by Hakuseki Arai (a military leader, politician, and scholar). At that time, Arai made a copy of Sidotti’s picture of the Virgin, and wrote, “The eyes are sunken, the bridge of the nose is high, and the face is full of charm.”

Hakuseki Arai was impressed by the personality and culture of the priest as he conversed with him. Instead of torturing him, he placed him under house arrest in the “Christians’ House” in Myogadani (present-day Kohinata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo). Arai wrote about his interactions with Sidotti at this time, in a book called Seiyo Kibon (Western History), circa 1713, and in another book, called Sairan Iigon (The Rule of the Saints), circa 1725.

Fr. Sidotti chose martyrdom.

Although Sidotti was treated exceptionally well for the time, missionary work was strictly forbidden. However, he secretly baptized an elderly couple, Chousuke and Oharu, who were caring for him. Later, it came to light that they had been baptized, when they were found wearing wooden crosses in the magistrate’s office. Both of them, together with Fr. Sidotti, were transferred to a small underground room.

On October 21, 1714, at the age of 47, Fr. Sidotti was martyred. The elderly couple was martyred along with him. It is said that Fr. Sidotti continued to encourage Chousuke and Oharu up to the moment of his death. The remains of the priest and his fellow victims were buried by the back gate of the “Christians’ House.”

In the description of this incident on the website of the Giovanni Treccani Institute (which contributes to the dissemination of Italian science, literature, and art), no mention is made of an underground room; the site says rather that the three martyrs were locked in a small pit filled with the smell of decay. It also lists several different sources for Fr. Sidotti’s date of death.

Japanese National Treasure Nicknamed “Our Lady of the Thumb”

The painting belonging to Fr. Sidotti of our lady wearing a blue veil and having a small teardrop on her cheek is now in the collection of the National Museum in Tokyo.

The Virgin wears a purple garment under a blue veil. In Catholicism, purple is the liturgical color used on Good Friday and during the fasting season of Lent. (Black, on the other hand is used on All Souls’ Day, and for funerals) In this painting, the Virgin is clad in purple, which suggests that she is saddened by the Sufferings of her Son Jesus, and by the sins and sufferings of all mankind.

Was Carlo Dolci the artist who painted the Madonna of the Thumb?

Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) was known as a devout Catholic during his lifetime, and his religious zeal made him an emotional painter of his subjects. The “Madonna of the Thumb” in Japan is commonly considered likely to be Dolci’s work, because the style and composition are similar to his known works.

In particular, there is another painting known as the Madonna of the Thumb, in the Galleria Borghese, Italy, which is by Dolci, and shows remarkable similarities to the painting carried by Sidotti. Both paintings show emotional deep faith and devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.

It has not been confirmed, however, that the painting once in Fr. Sidotti’s possession is, in fact, a genuine work of Carlo Dolci; it could also be the work of his daughter, Agnese Dolci (1635-1686), who also worked in his workshop. Her work is very similar in style to Carlo’s, making it very difficult to attribute their works correctly.

Bones of Father Sidotti Found

The Last Missionary: Requiem for Father Sidotti
Yakushima Heart TV

On July 24, 2014, a Salesian friar, Renato Tassinari, conducted a thorough investigation of the previously identified human remains at the “Christians’ House” in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Three sets of human remains were discovered at the site. Mitochondrial DNA analysis identified one set of remains as having come from Tuscany, Italy. Further investigation confirmed that the individual was over 170 cm tall, matching the documented height of Fr. Sidotti (175.5-178.5 cm), and thus confirming his identity.

It is reported that this person (Fr. Sidotti) had been buried in the ground in a Christian manner, and that there was a cross-shaped inscription on the gravestone. Using his skull, the National Science Museum has reconstructed Fr. Sidotti’s face. The result can be seen in the above video, starting at the 23-second mark. After a lapse of about 300 years, the face of a missionary who had a great impact on Japanese history has been revealed.

For Sidotti and his two companions, “the cause is opened.”

In 2019, the process was initiated (“the cause was opened,” in technical terms) that may someday lead to the canonization of Fr. Sidotti and his two fellow martyrs, Chousuke and Oharu. Fr. Mario Torcivia, Fr. Mario Canducci O.F.M., and Fr. Noboru Tanaka are involved in the investigative process.

At the 2019 Sophia University symposium on Fr. Sidotti, Fr. Mario Torcivia (who, like Fr. Sidotti, is from Palermo) said the following:

“Father Sidotti was a man of strong faith who wanted to work as a missionary in Japan. He was determined not to abandon Christianity, even at the cost of his life. …I hope that both Chosuke and Haru, having been brought to the glory of God, will be recognized as noble martyrs, and that they will be known again to the people of this beautiful country.

Father Sidoti: Reevaluation of his life and death
Yakushima Heart TV

Fr. Sidotti gave his life for the baptism of two faithful followers

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

– Hebrews 10:39

A non-Christian Japanese said to one of my acquaintances that it was a shame that Fr. Sidotti decided to baptize Chosuke and Oharu, since their lives would have been spared had he not done so. This opinion, which was spoken out of sympathy for Chosuke and Oharu, may have been based on the belief that Fr. Sidotti, in his missionary zeal, baptized them forcefully. However, such a thing would have been impossible for Fr. Sidotti, who remained faithful to Christ and the Church to the very end.

Baptism in the Catholic Church is given on the basis of the freely-willed request of the individual. It is strictly forbidden by Church law to baptize an adult who does not wish to be baptized. When Fr. Sidotti baptized Chosuke and Oharu, it was because Chosuke and Oharu wished him to do so. Now that all three of them are in Heaven, they surely do not regret their decision.

In response to Hakuseki Arai’s interrogation, Fr. Sidotti said, “I came here to preach Christianity, and to help people.” As a priest, his God-given mission was the salvation of souls. To fulfill that mission, in accordance with the Gospel, he sold all his possessions (Matthew 13:45, 19:21), made disciples and baptized them (Matthew 28:19), and gave his life (John 15:13).

Mario Kandowicz, a researcher of Sidotti’s life, said of him that “it was a great joy for him to baptize Chosuke and Oharu. No doubt he went to his death willingly, knowing that the day would come when the Gospel would be preached in Japan openly.”

The Virgin’s heart pierced by a sword

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

– Luke 2:34-35

In his Encyclical Salvifici Doloris (February 11, 1984), Pope St. John Paul II explained that God sometimes uses sorrow to help us know Him more deeply.

In the Gospel for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we find the words of Simeon to the Blessed Virgin (Luke 2:34-35). There it is said that many of the thoughts that are in the hearts of men will be revealed, and that a sword will pierce the heart of Mary. The Passion and Martyrdom of Fr. Sidotti and the elderly couple must have been a cause of great joy to our Lady (since it brought about the salvation of their souls), and at the same time a cause of deep sorrow. And Our Lady of the Thumb must have been most saddened by the sinfulness of the Japanese people.

Sidotti Memorial Church

On February 14, 1988, the Sidotti Memorial Church was built on the cape where Fr. Sidotti landed. The church was completed through the late Father Contarini of the Xaverian Missionaries, who was so impressed by Fr. Sidotti that he moved from Italy to Yakushima. In the church is a stained glass window depicting Our Lady of the Thumb.

The Salesian Himon’ya Catholic Church in Meguro, Tokyo, was also named after the Virgin of the Thumb, and is called “The Church of Our Lady of Edo.” It houses a replica of the “Our Lady of the Thumb” painting.

I pray that someday the original painting brought by Fr. Sidotti will be formally installed in that church, and that a Mass for Our Lady of Sorrows will be offered there.

Source: One version of the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows can be found at number 383 of the Pre-Vatican II “Raccoltà” or Manual of Indulgences (Sacra Paenitentiaria Apostolica. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum… Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis MCML: Versio Anglica. New York, Benziger Brothers. 1957.)

image: Mater Dolorosa by Carlo Dolci

St. Joan of Arc: The Inquisition (3)

After receiving a heavenly revelation, Joan liberated Orleans in 1429, and enthroned Charles VII as King of France. The next year, however, Joan was captured by the Burgundians and placed under the guardianship of John II of Luxemburg.

In July of the same year, Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais (and later the chief judge at Joan’s trial before the Inquisition), asked the Burgundians, in the name of the Prince of England, to grant him custody of Joan. Accordingly, on July 14, the Duke of Burgundy sold her to Cauchon for 10,000 pounds tournois.

Joan was accused of heresy and put on trial. The battle that Joan faced now was not against flesh and blood, but, as the Bible says, “against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).

Joan jumping from the prison tower in Beaurevoir

Joan was held prisoner in a tower at the castle of Beaurevoir. While in captivity, she learned that the town of Compiègne was about to be taken by the English, who were planning to massacre all of the people there, including women and children. In a desperate attempt to help the people of Compiègne, she tried to escape from the 60-foot (about 18 meters) tower. Tying a cord to something (it is not clear how she obtained the cord, or what it was tied to), she attempted to lower herself from the window, but fell in the process. Despite the height, Joan survived, and was found lying unconscious at the bottom of the tower.

Joan had tried to escape several times before. Therefore, after this escape, she was put under even stricter surveillance. Then St. Catherine spoke to her, chiding her for her actions and telling her to ask for God’s forgiveness. Joan obeyed the order and was shriven by a priest. St. Catherine also told Joan that the English would fail to take Compiègne; and that is what happened.

At her trial, Joan said that, hearing the news of the planned massacre at Compiègne, she had felt that she “would rather be dead than live on after such a destruction of good people.” The prosecutors used this statement to accuse her of attempted suicide.

What is the value of 10,000 pounds tournois?

“The love of money is the root of all evils.”

(I Timothy 6:10)

The value of the monetary amount that Joan was sold for can be estimated using the price of her armor (as stated in the court records) as a reference point.

According to one website, the suit of armor that Charles VII provided for Joan cost 100 écus, equivalent to 2,500 sols or 125 pounds tournois.

The website continues, “In comparison, this suit of armor cost twice as much as the cheapest equipment used, yet cost eight time less than the most expensive. (Suit of Armor | Joan of Arc | Joan-darc.info)

Simple calculation shows that the amount of money the Duke of Burgundy received from Cauchon was equivalent to 80 suits of armor of the kind worn by Joan, or ten suits of armor of the most expensive kind then made.

The Duke of Burgundy chose to acquire temporal wealth in this life. The gold he received was not only a payment for Joan. It must have been a payment from the devil, the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4). it is he who controls the world’s wealth, betraying the God who teaches us to lay up treasure in heaven.

Bishop Pierre Cauchon (1371 – 18 December 1442), obsessed with power

The man responsible for Joan’s trial by the Inquisition and her execution by fire was Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. The English had offered Bp. Cauchon a post at the University of Paris, but in 1413 he was expelled from Paris for misconduct. Records indicate that Cauchon was a man of learning, full of ambition, and thoroughly determined to eliminate anyone who stood in his way.

The diocese which Bp. Cauchon administered, known as Beauvais, was located near the border between the English and French territories. On account of its location, it was often ravaged by warfare. Cauchon, who sided with the Duke of Burgundy, and became his strongest supporter, had been given the diocese of Beauvais as a reward. Not satisfied with his good fortune, Cauchon sought to use his ties to the Winchesters to acquire the diocese of Rouen as well. His attempt failed. However, this did not mean that he gave up.

The liberation of Orléans by the French army, inspired and led by Joan, was a threat to Beauvais. In fact, Cauchon was forced to flee from Beauvais. Cauchon understood with hatred that Joan’s success was his misfortune.

It was therefore an unexpected stroke of luck for him that Joan happened to be captured in his own diocese. The English wanted to brand Joan a witch and prove that Charles VII was not God’s chosen king. As judge, Cauchon could condemn Joan as a witch. Not only that, but if he eliminated Joan, an enemy of England, he could see the possibility of becoming Archbishop of Rouen, a long-held dream.

Cauchon chose vice over virtue

Cauchon was a learned clergyman, so he could not have been ignorant of what constituted sin in the eyes of God. However, his desire for wealth and status was insatiable. As it is written: “A greedy man’s eye is not satisfied with a portion, and mean injustice withers the soul” (Sirach 14:9).

Although he was a bishop, it is clear that he sought his own gratification rather than the glory of God. Cauchon was known, even before Jeanne’s trial, as a man who preferred bribery to the pursuit of truth. Cauchon bought Joan from the Duke of Burgundy and sold her to the English. If he had not given Joan to the English, she would not, at least, have been burned.

The Duke of Bedford eagerly awaited Joan’s death

Duke of Bedford by the British Library.

“ Churchman Peter Migietthe testifies that the English feared Joan of Arc more than a hundred soldiers, and that her very name was a source of terror to the foe.” (Fabré, Lucien. Joan of Arc. London: Odhams. 1955.)

Joan had many enemies. One of her most powerful enemies, the Duke of Bedford, seems to have recognized Joan’s charisma more than anyone else. He longed for Joan’s death. Because of Joan, the morale of the English army was lowered, anti-English sentiment was thickened, even in cities that were not hostile to the English, and the economy was hit hard.

Bedford’s faithful co-conspirator Cauchon investigated Joan’s background but was unable to make her out to be a witch. Bedford demanded that if the church could not burn Joan, it should give her to him. By now, her fate was already a foregone conclusion: she was to be burned.

Lord Bedford, who boasted a spectacular career

The miraculous nature of Joan’s military victories becomes apparent when one learns about her adversary, Lord Bedford, who was one of the most strategically adept military men of his time, whereas Joan was a peasant girl with no combat experience.

Bedford’s talents were not limited to warfare, but included politics as well: in 1415, and again from 1417-19, he was Lieutenant in charge of the English government, and together with Henry V, he sealed the Treaty of Troyes (1420), which recognized Henry’s claim to the throne of France. Bedford’s notable military victories included the Battle of Verneuil (1424), where, by defeating a Scots-French army, he ended Scottish involvement in France. During his lifetime, Bedford exercised at times the powers of a king, both in England and in France, and maintained the English hold on French territory.

After Joan had been burned, Bedford arranged for the coronation of Henry VI, which took place on December 16, 1431, at Notre Dame de Paris. However, the tide had turned against England. Bedford died in Rouen on September 14, 1435. A week later, the Treaty of Arras cemented the new Franco-Burgundian alliance against the English.

John, duke of Bedford – Wars of the Roses

Why did King Charles VII not try to save Joan?

Charles VII

King Charles VII did not seem eager to help Joan in her predicament. Historians are divided as to whether his indifference to Joan was due to political shrewdness or mere ingratitude.

Perhaps Charles feared the possibility of starting a new war by trying to get Joan back from England. Or perhaps he was told by Joan’s enemies, such as La Trémoille, that he should not spare her. The ransom that King Charles was willing to pay was not an unusual amount. Charles appears to have been unwilling to pay a large ransom.

Joan had told Charles that she had only one year in which to help him. Perhaps Charles decided that Joan, being in captivity, had lost God’s favor and was not worth saving.

Charles demanded the truth about Joan’s trial

After Joan’s death, Charles VII demanded that she be given a rehabilitation trial, in order to (if possible) clear her name. Many believe that Charles’s real motive for this was a self-serving one, namely, to bolster his claim to the throne by showing that it had been approved by God.

On the other hand, it is said that Charles’s heart was broken when he heard that Joan had been executed. The indecisive and timid king must have had a sentimental side to his personality.

In 1453, having defeated almost all the English troops, Charles ended the Hundred Years’ War, and brought about a restoration of peace and order in France. Despite his accomplishments, however, he is most often remembered as the king who abandoned Joan of Arc.

Did Joan suffer from mental illness?

Regarding the mystical voice that inspired her to lead France to victory, her testimony is described as follows:

“Joan also said at her trial that her Voices were the Archangel Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, and further stated that: “I saw them with my bodily eyes, as clearly as I see you; and when they departed I used to weep, and wish that they would take me with them” (Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Lord. Joan of Arc. London: J.C. 1893.)

Regarding Joan’s voices and visions, which are a subject of controversy, some psychiatrists have suggested that Joan may have had schizophrenia, a type of mental illness that involves auditory hallucinations. On the other hand, they also acknowledge that she had a high level of intelligence, memory, and clarity, despite her lack of education. Those who analyzed this information and wrote about her were doctors experienced in mental illness.

Medical writer Clifford Allen reports that schizophrenia usually begins to manifest itself around the age of 15. In Joan’s case, she heard voices at age 13, which means that her symptoms appeared early, but this is by no means impossible. (The Schizophrenia of Joan of Arc – Medievalists.net)

Were Joan’s tactics skilled?

On the other hand, the many strange anecdotes about her are difficult to dismiss as psychosis or mere coincidence. Suppose the cause of the voices was schizophrenia. In that case, Joan would be the only example in history of a schizophrenic teenager leading an army to victory.

At Joan’s rehabilitation trial, the knight Sir Thibauld d’Armagnac, Sire de Thermes and Bailli de Chartres, testified that “in commanding troops, giving orders, arranging battles, and inspiring soldiers, Joan of Arc was as competent in the art of war as the most accomplished captains.” It is hard to explain logically how Joan, with no combat experience, could have known how to fight in a way that would surprise an experienced soldier, especially when it came to artillery.

Death of a Blasphemous Soldier.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

There is no clear answer as to the true meaning of the voices. What is clear is that Joan followed those voices and made accurate predictions in many battles. Many people testified at the trial; one interesting anecdote about her mysterious foreknowledge was told by a certain priest named Pasquerel.

Fr. Pasquerel told how, when Joan was on her way to enter a certain castle, a soldier used some coarse language as he saw the young Maid pass by — some rude remark. Turning to him, the Maid rebuked him for blaspheming, and added that he had denied his God at the very moment in which he would be summoned before his Judge, for that within an hour he would appear before the heavenly throne. The soldier was drowned within the hour. Such is the incident as told by Fr. Pasquerel.

From the testimony of Fr. Pasquerel, we learn of Joan’s foreknowledge, which we believe was taught to her by the voices. Sometimes, people can foresee tragedies involving family members and other people close to them. Joan, however, clearly foreknew of the death of a soldier who was a complete stranger.

It was not unusual at that time for soldiers to use the name of God lightly. Joan, however, was very strict in her criticism of such casual blasphemy. Many people today, like the soldier in this anecdote, probably do not realize the consequences of using God’s name so carelessly.

An anecdote from the Inquisition

Joan’s trial began on Monday, February 21, 1431. Lent, which is a time of fasting and prayer, often begins in March, but in 1431 it began on Wednesday, February 23. What kind of Lenten prayers did Joan offer, aligning her heart with the Passion of Jesus?

God was indeed protecting her. At the trial, Bishop Cauchon and the inquisitors laid traps to ensnare Joan. Soon they would discover that Joan was not easily trapped.

In the name of the devil

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Once, during the trial, Cauchon witnessed Joan being counseled by La Fontaine (who served as her instructor) and two Dominican friars. Cauchon, upon seeing that, immediately realized that they intended to interfere with his trickery, and lost himself in anger. He shouted at them, “In the name of the devil, be silent!” Not only that, but he also took note of Joan’s appeal to the Pope and the Synod, had it struck from the record, and pretended that it had never happened. 

The two Dominican friars who had given Joan friendly advice were saved by the tact of their superior. But La Fontaine fled from Rouen before the trial was over.

The devil must have been at work through Cauchon. If the thoughtless utterance of God’s name is a denial of God, then giving orders in the name of the devil must be the most dreadful blasphemy of all.

Joan’s answer astonished the Inquisition officials

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Joan’s enemies, led by Cauchon, did everything possible to get her to testify against herself and admit to some kind of heresy; moreover, Joan was not even given a formal defense attorney. Nevertheless, her answers surprised the inquisitors, who were well-versed in all things theological.

For example, Cauchon asked Joan, “Do you think you are in God’s favor — in a state of grace?”

Joan replied, “If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God keep me so. If I knew I was not in God’s grace, I would be the saddest creature on earth.”

This answer astonished the inquisitors, for Cauchon’s question concealed a trick that a simple country girl like Joan could never have known.

Cochon’s question trap

“They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves.” (Psalm 57:6)

According to the Church’s teaching, for a person to affirm absolutely that he or she is, and shall remain, “in a state of grace” would be the sin of presumption. Thus, if Joan affirmed as much, the inquisitors could say that she was committing a sin, i.e., she was inclined to evil. On the other hand, if she denied that she was in a state of grace, she would be admitting that she was an insufficiently repentant sinner. Either answer would mean that Joan was acting in a state of sin. In other words, they could have ruled that it was the devil, not God, who was leading her.

The Law of Moses and Joan’s male attire

A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 22:5)

Cauchon was accusing Joan of heresy, using a litany of false evidence and charges that were completely contrary to her testimony. Fearing, perhaps, that the case against Joan was rather weak, and wanting to declare her a heretic at any cost, he accused her of wearing men’s clothes, citing the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 22:5.

Not only that, Joan’s enemies had recourse to horrific machinations in order to get her to sign a statement to the effect that she had never had any visions or revelations, that she had lied about acting at God’s command, and that she was a blasphemer and a heretic.

The Inquisitors planned to torture her, on the pretext of thereby saving her soul. To strike fear into her heart, they showed her the instruments of torture, but she would not yield.

The records of Joan’s trial by the Inquisition and her posthumous restoration trial provide a glimpse of her simple and straightforward personality. There are also numerous anecdotes detailing the family, the voices, and the miracles attributed to Joan. (Unfortunately, we cannot present all of them here.) Many anecdotes demonstrate Joan’s holiness, as well as the fact that her holiness was never recognized by Cauchon and the inquisitors.

Blasphemy of Communion

One of the accusations made against Joan by her judges was that it was equivalent to blasphemy for a woman to receive holy communion while dressed in male attire.

However, it is not clear whether the law of Moses regarding male and female clothing is actually binding on the Christian conscience. To put it briefly, Jesus Christ, being God, used his divine authority to fulfill the ancient covenant with Moses, and to make a new Covenant. In so doing, he upheld all of the moral laws of Moses, but not the civil and ceremonial laws, which he rendered obsolete.

Ritual law considered outdated

The laws about clothing are usually considered by theologians to belong to the obsolete ceremonial laws. That is why the inquisitors accused Joan not merely of cross-dressing, but of receiving the Eucharist while so dressed. By bringing up the Eucharist, they were able to charge her with blasphemy.

Moreover, the passage in Deuteronomy about men’s attire is not well known, and would have been difficult to find without diligent searching. We can see clearly that Cauchon and the Inquisition took time and effort to relentlessly hunt down their prey.

Image: The Trial of Joan of Arc, by Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel 


Fabré, Lucien. Joan of Arc. London: Odhams. 1955.

Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Lord. Joan of Arc. London: J.C. 1893.

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The Feast of the Visitation

The Feast of the Visitation commemorates the visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth while both of them were pregnant (Mary with Jesus, and Elizabeth with John the Baptist). It is traditionally celebrated on July 2; in the Novus Ordo it is on May 31. There is a wealth of meaning in the events that took place during the Visitation. The Bible says:

 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 

–          Luke 1:39–45

The Joy of John the Baptist, who was an Unborn Child

As mentioned above, the child in Elizabeth’s belly was John the Baptist. As all the prophets of the Old Testament had done, John prophesied that the Messiah would come (John 1:19–28), and one day, when he saw Jesus coming toward him, John told the people, “This is the Messiah” (John 1:29–34). For this reason, John is known as the last prophet of the Old Testament.

According to the traditional interpretation, the unborn John, who was a prophet, danced for joy when he realized that Jesus, the unborn child in Mary’s womb, was the Messiah.

Ave Maria

The words that Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to Mary are part of the most fundamental Catholic prayer to the Blessed Virgin: the “Ave Maria,” or “Hail Mary.”

    Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.

    Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus.

    Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,

    Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae.


    Hail Mary, full of grace,

    The Lord is with thee.

    Blessed art thou among women,

    And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God,

    Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

(The bolded portions were added in the 16th century.)

Ave Maria – Gregorian Chant – Chants of a Lifetime

The Gospels were written in Koine Greek. Koine Greek was the common language of the Roman Empire, and would have been used by Jews in public, and when talking to Gentiles. Elizabeth, however, probably greeted Mary in Aramaic, the native language of the Palestinian Jews at that time, and the language that they would probably have used among themselves in their homes.

In the following video, we can hear the Ave Maria, Schubert version.

Schubert: Ave Maria, ‘Ellens Gesang III’ D839
Friar Alessandro

Mary’s words: Magnigicat

Mary’s words to Elizabeth are found in Luke 1:46-55, and are called the Magnificat. The Magnificat is traditionally sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer), which is usually said at around the time of sunset. Here is a portion of it:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.”

–          Luke 1:46–49.

Magnificat chanted by the Monks of Fontgombault Abbey-Lucas Orsot

The Canticle of Zechariah

After the Canticle of Mary at Vespers, the Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29–32) is sung at Compline (the prayers said before bedtime); then, around sunrise, the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68–79) is sung at Lauds (Morning Prayer). The following is a portion of it:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people,

and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

that we should be saved from our enemies,

and from the hand of all who hate us;

–          Luke 1:68–71.

Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah, Solemn Psalm Tone 1f

Traditional Irish Marian Hymn from an old book

July 2 this year was a Sunday, but the parish priest, in his homily at Mass, did not speak specifically about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. This is not surprising, since most parish priests preach according to the Novus Ordo calendar. Even so, I felt somewhat sad that there was nothing said about the traditional calendar, even though it was a Feast Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After Mass, as usual, I stopped by the small book corner in the church. The church’s book corner has a lot of used books that seem to have been left behind from bygone times, and you can borrow them at your leisure.

As I was pulling out a few books to borrow, I noticed, in an inconspicuous place, a book with a red spine and a picture of a medieval-style woman. I picked it up and took a closer look. The woman pictured on the spine was Saint Lucy—one of my patron saints! Intrigued, I opened the book, titled My Nameday—come for Dessert, by Helen McLoughlin.

The page I happened to open to was the page for July 2, The Visitation, with a recommended hymn. The hymn had a simple, rustic charm not found in modern music.

It makes me happy to think that God introduced this song and prayer to me through my Patron Saint, on one of Mary’s Feast Days.

Oh Mary of Graces, a quiet prayer melody

The hymn was originally a traditional Irish Gaelic folk song. The traditional Irish singing style was a cappella, with no instrumental accompaniment, and the song was sung with eyes closed as the story was told and sung.

This short but beautiful song was translated from Gaelic into English and is called “Oh Mary of Graces.” The quiet melody of the original song has a haunting, prayerful melancholy. My impression of this piece was that someone who had suffered a tragedy was praying to the Virgin. At the same time, one can feel in it the strength of a person who, instead of lamenting his own misfortune, tries to overcome it through prayer.

Although not sung in traditional Gaelic, Jonas Eklund’s video fits the mood of the song perfectly. The girl sings in a clear voice at a relaxed tempo, accompanied by a simple guitar accompaniment.

O Mary of Graces- Jonas Eklund

I pray that this beautiful prayer and hymn to the Blessed Virgin will not be forgotten, but will be passed on to future generations.

Source: McLoughlin, Helen. My Nameday–Come for Dessert. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1962.

Image: The Visitation 1433-1434 Fra Angelico

LGBT Ideology and Catholic Faith

In the United States these days, there is a strong endorsement and celebration of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) ideology. Not only that, but it is considered taboo to have a viewpoint opposing the LGBT movement, the “woke” agenda, and the “tolerant” camp.
Some additions have been made to the movement’s name over the years, and the full acronym is now “LGBTQIA+,” but I will use the abbreviation “LGBT” for short.

Basically, there are two sides to this issue. One side is emotionally sympathetic toward the cause of LGBT people, viewing them as an oppressed minority, and therefore urges that individuals, and society as a whole, should practice God’s love by moving in the direction of acceptance, even celebration, of them. The other side, on the contrary, is looking at the issue, not in terms of acceptance or rejection of people, but rather in terms of truth and falsehood. The argument of this side is that anything that leads to the destruction of the soul must be avoided, and that love (defined by Thomas Aquinas as “that which wills the good of the other”) means trying to help people understand the truth about what behaviors lead to destruction and what behaviors lead to salvation.

How did LGBT Pride Month begin?

How did Pride Month begin in the first place?
The origin of Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBT community, was a series of protests in New York City, now known as the “Stonewall Riots,” or the “Stonewall Rebellion.” The following description of this incident (or series of incidents), summarized from Wikipedia, is based on the reports of the gay community, and does not include testimony from the police, but it is generally believed to be accurate.

The “Stonewall Inn,” a gay bar, was frequently raided by the police because of its association with the Genovese crime family, and because of its exposed go-go dancers. Although the police were mainly there to prevent crime, they also behaved in ways that could be considered harassment of the LGBT people gathered there.

June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall was not the same as any other night. The patrons were feeling sad after the death, six days earlier, of actress Judy Garland, who had been in favor of homosexual rights. They had gathered at the Stonewall Inn in memory of Judy when the police raid began. The repeated raids by the police, plus the death of actress Judy Garland, had taken their patience to the limit, and they began to attack the police officers. The situation quickly escalated into a riot, which continued for the next few days, eventually involving over 2,000 LGBT people and over 400 police officers.

On June 28, 1970, a parade was held to commemorate the first anniversary of the riots. Since then, June has become a memorable month for LGBT people, and Pride Month was born.

U.S. Presidents Who Supported LGBT Ideology

In June 1999, President Bill Clinton, in honor of the Stonewall riots, designated June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

In June 2011, President Barack Obama added “bisexual” and “transgender” to the categories to be celebrated during Pride Month.

In 2012, then-Vice-President Joe Biden (who is now the President), a member of the Catholic Church, began to publicly endorse same-sex marriage, with complete disregard for Catholic doctrine. Prior to that, as a Senator, Biden had consistently voted against same-sex marriage. Nobody knows why he suddenly changed his mind in 2012; however, support for LGBT ideology has been one of the major elements of the Democrat Party platform since the days of Bill Clinton. It is likely that Biden, a Democrat, supported same-sex marriage for political reasons.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24). Biden supports not only same-sex marriage, but also abortion “rights,” and transgender “care,” putting his career ahead of God, and is clearly a Catholic in name only.

Questioning Moral Issues

The Pride events held in Washington D.C. this year, including one held at the White House on June 10, were well attended, and approved of by many, but some moral questions were raised.

In the U.S., we are free to have events and celebrate. (Needless to say, though, you can’t have illegal, publicly unauthorized events.) This means that there is nothing wrong with LGBT people celebrating Pride Month, as long as the events are done in an appropriate way by people who agree with the celebration.

However, at a recent Pride parade, some participants wore costumes that were so extreme that they would normally be considered indecent exposure. A parade that you wouldn’t want your children to see took place in broad daylight.

The Problem Behind the Events

As the website ChurchLaw & Tax points out, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution embraces two concepts: freedom of belief, and freedom of conduct. Unlike belief, conduct can be regulated in order to protect the community.

I believe that the real issue behind the “Pride” events is the question of what kind of activities, what kind of lifestyles, should be celebrated with great “pride” by the non-denominational (but not, officially, atheistic or secularist) U.S. government.

Furthermore, there is a tendency, at government-sponsored events, to condone behavior that would otherwise be unacceptable. People get the impression that as long as they are participating in a Pride parade, they can do whatever they want. Is it too unreasonable to ask that, parade or no parade, a minimum standard of public decency should be maintained? Surely society can insist on that much, without being considered “discriminatory” and “hateful.”

The Bible: Harmful to Children?

The issue of LGBT ideology affects not only the Church, but also (recently) schools as well.

Books that favor LGBT ideology are now being placed in school libraries; some of these books have explicit sexual content.

According to a June 29 article by Colorado Public Radio (CPR) News, conservative parents are protesting against the presence, in school libraries, of LGBTQ books, and books with sexual content. In response, one parent is demanding that the Bible should be removed from school libraries, because of its (supposedly) explicit and inappropriate sexual and violent content.

The article states: “The American Library Association has recorded more than 1,200 challenges in 2022, the highest number since it began keeping data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago” (After a Colorado Springs school district banned several books, one parent is requesting they pull the Bible, too | Colorado Public Radio (cpr.org)).
Many states in the U.S. are currently experiencing similar problems.

The Fatima saint Jacinta warned that it is dangerous to neglect the teachings of the Church, which are eternal, and to follow fads. It is a great contradiction to compare the teachings of the Bible, which are the truth, with books that teach a shifting secular ideology, as if they were equal. In any case, there is no doubt that the culture war is intensifying.

Catholic Doctrine Regarding Chastity and Homosexuality

Catholic concerns about homosexuality are not new, and in recent times, the Church has simply reiterated what it has always taught. For example, in October 1986, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict XVI) addressed homosexuality in a letter to the Bishops of Rome as follows (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (vatican.va)):

“Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity.” 

So, what exactly is the Catholic doctrine with regard to homosexuality? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following (Paragraphs 2357–2358):

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,* tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”** They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

* Cf. Gen. 19:1–29; Rom. 1:24–27; 1 Cor. 6:10; 1 Tim. 1:10.

** CDF, Persona humana 8.

Protecting Freedom and Dignity

Of course, homosexual practices are only one way of committing sins of lust (one of the seven deadly sins); the Catechism deals with many other forms of lust as well, some of which it mentions, in a summary section, as follows (Paragraph 2396):

2396 Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.

Cardinal Ratzinger explains that the issue of homosexuality is complex and requires theologically balanced advice. He further clarifies that the use of sexual faculties can only be good between a husband and wife. He goes on to emphasize that the Church’s rejection of false ideas that hinder salvation is not a restriction of personal dignity and freedom, but rather a defense of freedom and dignity. (A truly pastoral approach to LGBT persons must acknowledge sin and proclaim the truth about sexuality.)

Is the church guilty of teaching that sin is sin?

Jesus Preaching (1652) Rembrandt

Some people say, “The Catholic Church rejects LGBT people,” and further, “I strive to love and accept all people, because God is love, and he wants us to love one another; not to accept LGBT people is to be a hater who does not practice God’s teaching.” To such people I say, “Calling a sin a sin is not the same as being a hater. God loves all sinners (in other words, all people), and commands us to do the same.

He also hates sin, and wants us to save us from it. To avoid confusion, God has told us clearly (in the Bible and in Church teaching) what things are sins. The Bible says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). He has done this not because he is mean, but because sin leads to misery, and God wants us to be happy. “

As for the Church supposedly ”rejecting people:” the Catholic Church asks all its members to be faithful to Catholic doctrine and morals. In other words, anyone who believes what the Church teaches, and is willing to put it into practice, may join the Church. Even if a member of the Church does not correctly believe or practice, he can repent and be forgiven and amend his life, and he will remain a member of the Church in good standing. This is because the Church rejects sin, not people.

If you don’t believe what the Church teaches, don’t join it. To accuse those who do believe it of being “haters,” however, is neither honest nor fair.

Anna-Kate Howell against the LGBTQIA+ Pride Mass

As part of the “culture war,” LGBT ideology has already made its way into the Catholic Church. On June 14, for example, the third annual LGBTQIA+ Pride Mass was held at the Jesuit-run Holy Trinity Church, attended by President Joe Biden. Opponents of the Mass point out that, while it is not entirely or clearly contrary to Catholic doctrine, it is nonetheless problematic (Catholic With Same-Sex Attraction Calls on Cdl. Gregory to Cancel DC ‘Pride Mass’ – LifeSite).

Anna-Kate Howell is a 31-year-old student pursuing a master’s degree in theology. She experiences SSA (same-sex attraction), and also opposes the Pride Mass. She confesses that, in the past, she lived a sinful life that was sexually promiscuous, and even, at the age of 26, had a same-sex marriage. The following are the key points from a letter that Anna sent to Cardinal Gregory of D.C., the parish director of Holy Trinity Church.

Anna’s Letter

–          LGBTQ is not our identity. We experience same-sex attraction, but we do not wish to be identified by our disordered impulses. That would be the sin of pride.

–          Clarifying the teaching of the Catholic Church is more important than ever. This is because of the concern that there are people within the Church who exploit ambiguity, and use it as a weapon.

–          We do not celebrate the impulse to sin (the impulse known as same-sex attraction), and we do not want to mislead people outside the Church.

–          People may say, “But participation in Pride doesn’t mean that we agree with every person, every float, or every message we are marching alongside.” True, but I could say the same thing about a Catholic who gives large sums of money to Planned Parenthood: perhaps he or she does not agree with every procedure they perform. Both arguments are ridiculous. Everyone knows that “Pride Month” is mainly about celebrating sexual sins, just as Planned Parenthood exists mainly to perform abortions. For Catholics to show support for either one is scandalous.

–          “Your Eminence [Cardinal Gregory], it is my desire as a Catholic to assume the best of every person I encounter. In that spirit of charity, I choose to believe that you are not someone who wishes to create confusion, scandalize believers and nonbelievers alike, or harm the witness of the Church to persons with same-sex attraction.”

–          “I believe that it is your desire to accompany persons like me with respect and sensitivity, never forgetting that we are human beings imbued by almighty God with dignity that transcends any disordered dispositions from which we might suffer. It is because I believe these things to be true of you that I am asking you with all my heart as your sister in Christ to please put a stop to the Pride Mass. … It will do no good and a great deal of harm for this event to occur.”

Finally, Anna ends her letter with a prayer for God’s blessing.

Take up your cross, and follow me

Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). This is no easy task. The suffering Anna has gone through must have been extraordinary. I find in Anna’s letter a special strength and persuasiveness that comes from someone who is prepared to carry her own cross.

Cardinal Gregory of D.C. did not order the Mass to be canceled. But I am convinced that her letter gave me, as well as many other Catholics, the courage to continue defending our faith. I pray that the Cardinal will be a good example to the priests and faithful in his diocese, clearly showing them what is right, and guiding them to avoid the death of their souls.

Image: An ancient painting from a Greek tomb. Archaeological Museum of Paestum in Italy

St. Joan of Arc: Prelude to Tragedy (2)

Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,
who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

-Psalm 41:9.

The common people worshipped Joan and were intoxicated by the victory and peace she brought. In contrast to such enthusiastic people, some of the French nobles and military commanders were jealous of Joan. Joan’s real enemies were among her allies, as Psalm 41:9 says.

The Gift of the Red Dress, and the Prediction

Near Châlons, on her way to Reims, Joan met with some friends who had arrived from the village of Domrémy. After spending a pleasant time with them, Joan was sent a red dress. Then she said something that seemed to foreshadow the tragic fate that awaited her; she told her two old friends that her only fear for the future was betrayal. (See: Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Lord, Joan of Arc. 1893.)

Was Joan simply telling her friends about her vague fears? Or was she receiving some kind of warning from God? Perhaps coincidentally, the red color of the dress that was sent to her is the liturgical color of a martyr. It seems as if it symbolized her death, as she followed God’s guidance to the end, and was burned.
In any case, this little episode foreshadowed the tragedy that was to take place in Compiègne.

July 17, 1429: The Coronation of the King. Divine Prophecy is Fulfilled

The will of God, as Joan had told it to the king, had been fulfilled. Charles VII was finally crowned king.

The king entered the cathedral of Reims with the Maid of Orléans at his right hand. He was anointed and made King of France with the holy oil of the old abbey church of Saint-Rémy. Joan is said to have carried a banner and stood by the king’s side during the coronation.

IV. Le sacre de Charles VII: V. “Te deum”

It was not a tradition at a coronation ceremony for someone to hold a banner at the king’s side. The king, by allowing this breach of protocol, made it clear that he was still grateful for Joan’s achievement.

After the coronation, Joan is known to have knelt down, embraced the king’s feet, and proclaimed the following:

“Noble King, now is accomplished the pleasure of God, who willed that I should raise the siege of Orleans and should bring you to this city of Reims to receive your holy coronation, thus showing that you are the true King, him to whom the throne of France must belong.”

It is said that upon hearing these words, all those present (except the king) wept. From Joan’s words, we understand that she had no arrogance, and did not take credit for the king’s glory.

Joan’s wish for a place of eternal rest

“When I die, I should wish to be buried here among these good and devout people,”
she said. “I know not—it will come when God pleases; but how I would that God would allow me to return to my home, to my sister and my brothers! For how glad would they be to see me back again! At any rate,’’ she added, ‘‘I have done what my Saviour commanded me to do.” (Gower, Ronald Sutherland, Lord, Joan of Arc. 1893.)

The coronation was a success. And yet, in spite of all the pomp and circumstance, somehow she left the archbishop with words that sounded as if she had forebodings of her future.

Joan was speaking of her death and burial. At this time, she was still in her teens. At such an age, it seems unnatural for her to have been concerned with where she would be buried when she died. She went on to assert that the mission entrusted to her by God had been fulfilled.

Charles VII praised Joan’s achievements and made her, as well as her family, nobility, giving them a coat of arms and monetary rewards. According to Dr. Jeremy Adams, after the coronation, the king declared that Joan’s work was done and asked her to return to the countryside. Having accomplished her mission, she could have returned to her native village of Domrémy and lived a quiet life there, serving God as a nun. In fact, however, she chose a different path.

April 1430: Failure to Retake Paris

Joan believed that Paris had to be retaken to maintain the future security of France. But the people of Paris had already sworn allegiance to Henry VI of England. Fearing reprisals if the King of France took control of Paris, the people fortified the walled city’s defenses. Unfortunately, Joan’s troops were insufficient to attack a place with such strong walls and towers as Paris. The indecisive Charles VII finally sent more troops, and Joan launched an attack, but her army failed to retake Paris.

Joan was wounded in the thigh by a crossbow bolt, but remained on the battlefield. In the end, she had to retreat, against her will, but she protested that she would have won the battle if her troops had continued the attack.

Two Avengers—False Mouth, False Right Hand

Stretch forth thy hand from on high,
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of aliens,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

-Psalm 144:7–8.

Joan’s failure to retake Paris delighted her enemies, who pretended to be her allies. Two enemies in particular, the Archbishop of Reims, and Georges de la Trémoille (c.1382 – 6 May 1446), influenced the king to put all the blame on Joan. As a result, the king authorized the Archbishop of Reims to conclude a truce with England, contrary to Joan’s wishes.

Regnault de Chartres (1380–1444)

The Archbishop of Reims at this time, Regnault de Chartres (1380–1444), was the very bishop who had heard the ominous words of foreboding from Joan at the coronation. Joan would not have thought that he was an enemy.

How did the archbishop feel when he heard Joan speaking about where she wanted to be buried after her death? No one knows. It is said, however, that later, when Joan was captured, the archbishop was overjoyed, saying that it was proof of God’s justice. He was also the one who brought the news of Joan’s capture to the people of Reims, telling them that Joan was proud and had incurred God’s wrath by trying to follow her own will rather than God’s.

Georges de La Trémoille (1382 – 1446)

The other main adversary of Joan was a nobleman named Georges de la Trémoille (c.1382 – 6 May 1446). He was distantly related to Gilles de Ré, a loyal follower of Joan who later became known as a murderer. La Trémoille, through his shrewdness, had a great influence on Charles VII. His cruelty can be seen in the fact that, merely for his personal financial gain and status, he kidnapped and drowned Pierre de Jacques, who had been one of Charles VII’s favorites.

He had done everything in his power to keep the king from going to Reims. He also thwarted Joan on various occasions, and when she wanted to attack Paris again, he prevented her from doing so. It is said that his influence was also responsible for the king’s failure to obtain Joan’s release when she was later captured.

Joan’s Dark Fate Spelled Out by Her Voices

Joan’s voices no longer gave her any clear commands as they once had done, but she continued to fight to save France.
In early April 1430, while Joan was in the town of Melun during Easter week, St. Catherine and St. Margaret spoke to her telling her that she would be taken prisoner before St. John’s Day (June 24), but not to fear. It is said that she asked of the saints that, when she was captured, she might die immediately. The Battle of Jargeau 12 Jun 1429 (jeanne-darc.info)

After this, Joan decided to go to the battle of Lagny-sur-Marne. Even the fear of possible capture did not dampen her burning desire to save France. Joan of Arc | Biography, Death, Accomplishments, & Facts | Britannica

April 1430: The Battle of Lagny-sur-Marne: The Beheaded Man

The Burgundians, on the side of the English, had assembled a large force at Arras to reinforce their defense of Paris. The Burgundian army was led by Franquet of Arras, who was heading for Lagny. However, on their way to Lagny, they sacked another city, alerting the French to the danger and allowing them to prepare for battle.

Thanks to the troops at Lagny, French reinforcements, and the efforts of Joan and her men, Franquet of Arras was captured, and his men were either killed or taken prisoner. Franquet was then supposed to have been exchanged for a prisoner of war that Joan wanted, but it turned out that that prisoner was already dead. Moreover, it was revealed at his trial that Franquet of Arras was guilty not only of plunder, but also of murder. Asked what to do with him, Joan told her men, “Do with this man as justice demands.” The Battle of Jargeau 12 Jun 1429 (jeanne-darc.info)

God has mercy on human sin.

Joan was not specific about the punishment that justice demanded. The punishment that Franquet received was beheading. Later, the beheading of Franquet would be a determining factor in Joan’s fate: the Inquisition held Joan responsible for it, and it was one of the reasons for her execution by fire.

Was the execution of Franquet justified? Well, on the one hand, he was tried by a jury and found guilty of murder, and the penalty for murder, in those days, was death. On the other hand, as a prisoner of war, he was entitled to some rights, including, it could be argued (but this is a gray area), the right to be returned to his own nation, to be tried there by a jury of his fellow-countrymen.

The Bible says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

We do not know how much responsibility Joan bore, in God’s eyes, for the beheading of Franquet. But if she had had compassion on him, as Christ had compassion on us sinners, Franquet would have had a chance to survive.

May 23, 1430: Joan captured at the siege of Compiègne

The Capture of Joan of Arc, ca. 1850 by Adolphe Alexandre Dillens

The final battle of Joan’s life was the siege of Compiègne on the Day of Pentecost. In theory, to engage in battle on a Sunday, let alone a major Holy Day such as Pentecost, was forbidden by the Peace and Truce of God, a set of rules which had been established throughout Europe, beginning in the 10th Century, to regulate and limit the conduct of warfare. By the 15th Century, however, the Peace and Truce of God was being ignored by pretty much everyone. (While researching this topic, I was surprised to learn that the spirit of secularism was already so widespread in the mid-fifteenth century.) Perhaps Joan did want her army to fight on the holy Feast of Pentecost; perhaps her army insisted on doing so in spite of her wishes. We will never know.

At any rate, Joan, with about 500–600 cavalry and infantry, attacked the Dukes of Burgundy. During the battle, Joan was dragged off her horse by an archer, and taken prisoner by the Burgundians. It is said that the English and Burgundians were more pleased with the capture of Joan than they were with the capture of 500 soldiers. (See: The campaigns of Joan of Arc, according to the Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet (deremilitari.org))

Once captured, Joan was placed under the guardianship of John II de Luxembourg (1392–1441). His aunt (also named Joan), known as the Demoiselle de Luxembourg, was sympathetic to Joan, and opposed selling her to the English. She threatened to cancel her nephew’s inheritance if he did so.

Joan sold to England

Her sympathy for Joan may have been due to the fact that she, like Joan, was very devout. Unfortunately for Joan, in 1430, the Demoiselle visited Avignon to pray at the tomb of her brother Pierre, and, while there, died.

The Demoiselle’s brother, Pierre de Luxembourg, who had been a Cardinal at Avignon until his death in 1387, was considered by some to be a saint (he was eventually beatified by Pope Clement VII in 1527).

John II, no longer worried about his inheritance, sold John to the English in exchange for a ransom. He ignored the terms of his aunt’s last will and testament, which stipulated that he would not sell Joan to the English in exchange for a ransom. John II had acquired a vast fortune. However, he never spent it, for he died the following year.

Joan had a series of fortunate moments in quick succession, up until the coronation of King Charles VII. After that, however, a dark shadow seems to have been cast over her life. Again and again, Joan found herself in situations where she should have been set free; again and again, she was betrayed.

Image: Joan in Reims Cathedral by Jules-Eugène Lenepveu

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The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated on the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus dates back to the 17th century, when the visionary and nun St. Margaret Mary Alacoque of France received a divine revelation. It is a relatively new feast in the 2000-year history of the Church, but after several stages of approval by the Vatican, it is now considered one of the most important feasts on the Church’s calendar.

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Flesh and Spirit

The Breviary is the book that contains the words (but not the chants) of the Divine Office, that is, a collection of Catholic prayers, psalms, and readings (from the Bible and other sources), arranged according to the Liturgical Year, and traditionally used daily by all priests and nuns in the Western Church. Of course, it is written in Latin. The traditional Latin Breviary has been translated into beautiful English and published by a certain liturgical foundation as the (unofficial) English version of the Breviary. That version contains a very clear and easy-to-understand commentary on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, based on Catholic theology. The following is a summary of that commentary:

When did devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus begin? – from the Breviary

There is no record of when devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began, but there can be no doubt that it is an old tradition. It is clear that this devotion already existed in the early Church (at least in embryonic form). The following is a summary of the Breviary’s comments on the Sacred Heart:

For example, regarding the love of God, our Lord explained to Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). The symbol of love is the heart.

Paul’s letters also mention God’s love and mercy.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Not only the love of Jesus, but also the wounds of his Passion began to be an object of meditation and devotion in the early Church. St. Paul writes:

“Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17), traditionally interpreted as a reference to the Stigmata.

St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom, both 4th century saints, compare the crucified Christ with Adam. They explain that just as Adam slept and Eve was taken from his side, so Christ crucified, “sleeping” in death, was pierced in the side by the spear, and blood and water flowed out, giving birth to the Church.

A Commentary on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Our Lord said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, …” (Matthew 11:29). Our Lord’s use of the word “heart” shows us that the concept of Jesus’ Sacred Heart already existed in his own lifetime.

In Biblical usage, the heart symbolizes not only the emotions but also the whole inner or spiritual life of a human being. So, the heart of Jesus symbolizes his love, his mercy, his wisdom, and so on. But the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more than just a symbol.

The Essence of Christianity

The essence of Christianity is that, at a certain time, a little before the beginning of the First Century A.D., God, the Eternal Word, became a human being with a physical human body. That human being is named “Jesus,” and he is simultaneously God and man. To worship the humanity of Jesus is to worship the divinity of Jesus, who is God, because they are inextricably linked. Therefore, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a day on which we praise and worship God by praising and worshipping the physical heart of Jesus, the muscle in his chest which pumped the blood through his body. Thus far the summarized Breviary.

An interesting aspect of Christianity is that in addition to worshipping God the Spirit, it also worships the physical body of Jesus Christ. As far as I know, Christianity is the only religion that makes an actual body, a physical heart, the object of worship, while at the same time insisting on monotheism. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a feast that is full of the mysteries of God, deeply related to the Trinity, which is incomprehensible to human beings.

As a side note, the word “heart” mentioned above refers to the physical heart, in both Greek and Hebrew. Furthermore, to better understand the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the physical heart, we need to know the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I cannot explain the Trinity, so I will not do so here. If you are interested, please ask your parish priest.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the 12 Promises

Chanted Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Latin | Litaniae Sacri Cordis Iesu (English Captions)

Jesus made twelve promises to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque regarding those who have faith in his Sacred Heart. It is said that St. Margaret Mary, who spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, instituted the Holy Hour. Also, on the first Friday of each month, she prostrated herself on the ground and prayed, sharing the sorrows of Christ. She also received communion every first Friday. Just as St. Margaret Mary received Communion every first Friday, the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus consists of attending Mass on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months. Here are the twelve promises mentioned above:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.

2 I will give them peace in their families.

3 I will console them in all their troubles.

4. They shall find in my heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.

5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.

6. Sinners shall find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.

9. I will bless the homes in which the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.

10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in my Heart and it shall never be effaced.

12. The all-powerful love of my Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; my Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

12 Promises from the Sacred Heart of Jesus (catholicexchange.com) 

God’s Mercy on JFK for his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

American President John F. Kennedy is famous for his tragic death. However, few people know about the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at his deathbed. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic President of the United States, but, as is clear from the details of his personal life, he was not a very devout Catholic. However, when he was still a young man, his mother made sure that he performed the devotion of the Nine First Fridays, the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (12 Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Peace in Home and Life – YouTube)

On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. At the hospital to which Kennedy was taken, it just so happened that a priest was there, preparing to visit another patient. That priest was able to administer the last rites to the dying Kennedy.

When Kennedy was brought to the hospital, “the president was unresponsive, had slow agonal respirations (gasping) and no palpable pulse or blood pressure” (Could We Save JFK Today? | MedPage Today). No one can say precisely when the soul leaves the body. However, I believe that Kennedy’s soul was still in his body when, by a strange coincidence, he was able to receive the last sacrament, as promised by the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whenever I learn of such a story, I am reminded of the words Mother T. wrote down, “What is coincidence in the eyes of man is inevitability in the eyes of God.”

St. Margaret Mary: Jesus Hidden in the Eucharistic Bread

“Jesus is found in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which love keeps him tied like a victim, always ready to be sacrificed for the glory of his Father, and for our salvation. His life is totally hidden from the eyes of the world, which succeed in seeing only the poor and humble appearances of bread and wine. […] Jesus is always alone in the Blessed Sacrament. Try to never miss any Communion, lest we give great joy to our enemy the devil!”

–  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (See: MIRACLES-Mystics panels (santuariodesanjose.com))

The Eucharistic Bread cannot be described without the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Eucharistic Bread is the Body of Jesus, and the heart is a central and essential part of that body. Without the heart, the body cannot live or function as a body. That is why symbolically, the heart can stand for the whole body.

There are many mystical feasts in June. Corpus Christi and the Feast of the Sacred Heart are among the most important of them. Whenever I celebrate these feasts, I feel very happy to be a Catholic.

Image: Two Angels with the Sacred Heart in Stained Glass

Source: The Anglican Breviary, Containing the Divine Office According to the General Usages of the Western Church, Put into English in Accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. New York, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc. 1955.

Corpus Christi: The Holy Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

In Catholicism, this day (the Second Sunday after Pentecost, or, more traditionally, the previous Thursday) is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the celebration of the Eucharistic Bread, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In our local priest’s homily for Corpus Christi, he mentioned that there are two major differences between Catholics and mainstream Protestants, namely: the Pope, and the Eucharistic Bread. We Catholics believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ in the one and only Church created by God, and that the Eucharistic Bread, after having been consecrated by a priest, is the body of Jesus.

The feast of the Corpus Christi began with a revelation from God

Juliana of Liège (c. 1192—5 April 1258) was a 13th-century nun and mystic who, being an orphan, was placed in a convent when she was five years old. Life in the convent led Juliana to develop a special reverence for the Eucharist.

In 1208, our Lord appeared to Juliana and instructed her to petition for a new liturgical feast day for the celebration of the Eucharist. Juliana, however, did not immediately tell her superiors about the vision, but kept it a secret. Similar visions continued for the next 20 years, and the request for a new feast day was finally transmitted to the bishop of Liège by a priest who heard her confession. Juliana also sent a letter to the Dominicans and to the Bishop, requesting that the feast of the Eucharist be instituted.

Upon receiving Juliana’s letter, the bishop instituted the feast of the Eucharist in the diocese of Liège in 1246. A certain archdeacon in the diocese, Jacques Pantaléon, found this new feast to be very moving, and considered it a very important addition to the Church’s calendar.

In 1264, Jacques Pantaléon became Pope Urban IV, and that same year he instituted the feast of the Corpus Christi for the whole Latin rite Church.

Author of the Corpus Christi Liturgy: St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

When the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted, Urban IV asked Thomas Aquinas to write and arrange the liturgy for the Divine Office and Mass of the new feast day. Adoro Te Devote, one of the hymns written by Thomas Aquinas for the occasion, was given a melody and continues to be sung at Masses on the feast of Corpus Christi to this day.

Adoro Te Devote, Sisters of Aquinas -Sisters of Aquinas

Adoro Te Devote

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee, Who truly art within the forms before me; To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee, As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived; The ear alone most safely is believed: I believe all the Son of God has spoken, Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.

God only on the Cross lay hid from view; But here lies hid at once the Manhood too: And I, in both professing my belief, Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.

Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see; Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be: Make me believe Thee ever more and more; In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.

O thou Memorial of our Lord’s own dying! O Bread that living art and vivifying! Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live; Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.

O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord! Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood; Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt, Is ransom for a world’s entire guilt.

Jesu! Whom for the present veil’d I see, What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me: That I may see Thy countenance unfolding, And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas, tr. E. Caswall.  (Source from EWTN)

The Mystery of Transubstantiation

In the Bible, Jesus speaks of the Eucharist, the “bread of life,” as His body and blood. For the apostles, Jesus’ words were at first incomprehensible. Only after His resurrection did they understand the meaning of His words.

Both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church teach that the Eucharistic bread becomes the Body of Christ, but the Eastern Orthodox Church is content to leave the details of this great mystery unexplained. How, then, does the Western Church, the Catholic Church, explain the mystery of the Eucharistic Bread?

Eucharistic Bread, the Body of Jesus

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)

The Church teaches that, when the priest at Mass says, “This is my body,” speaking the words of Christ, it is Christ, the Word, who is speaking through the words of the priest. At that moment, the bread on the altar becomes the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.

This mystery has been discussed by theologians using Aristotelian philosophy. It has been defined as “transubstantiation.” In order to understand transubstantiation, one must think in terms of the Aristotelian categories of “substance” and “accident.” Simply put, “substance” is the noun that says what a thing is, and “accidents” are the adjectives that describe that thing.

In the case of the altar bread, or “host,” one could say that, before consecration, it is “thin, white, round, bread-flavored bread.” The substance in this case is the noun “bread;” the accidents are the adjectives “thin, white, round, bread-flavored,” and whatever other adjectives one might use to describe the bread. “Transubstantiation” means that the substance changes, but not the accidents. So, after consecration, the host would be correctly described as “the thin, white, round, bread-flavored body of Christ.”

Thanks to this sacred mystery of transubstantiation, the Eucharistic bread we partake of at Mass is not a bloody piece of meat.

With the Bread of Life, we will never hunger.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

When I knew very little about Christianity, one of the things that strongly attracted me to Catholicism among the many denominations was the Eucharistic Bread, one of the Catholic sacraments. When I saw the faithful receiving Holy Communion in Catholic churches, I was eager to have the Eucharist. I started attending Bible classes at the church in order to get baptized, and was really disappointed when I found out that it would take several months to prepare for baptism. I felt as if I had been left without food when I was hungry. Finally, after finishing the Bible classes, when I was baptized and received the holy Eucharistic bread, I felt as if my body and mind were filled with wonder.

Since then, I have not felt the hunger that I felt before my baptism, but during the pandemic, when the churches did not celebrate Mass for the general congregation, I began to feel the same hunger that I had felt before. To be honest, I was happy to attend Mass online, since it was so much easier and more convenient. Then, however, a hunger returned that is hard to explain in words. My faith in the Eucharistic Mysteries was not deep, at first; but when I began to feel that spiritual hunger, I realized for the first time how much the Eucharist had filled my body and soul.

Receiving the Precious Eucharistic Bread

Catholics emphasize the importance of the Mass and the Eucharist.

Padre Pio loved the Mass and Communion so much that he said, “It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Mass.” The example of Padre Pio indicates just how important the Eucharist is. Prolific Catholic authors Bob and Penny Lord wrote about him as follows:

“Padre Pio … had a lifelong love affair with Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. To him, the Eucharist was the center of all spiritual benefits. It was the life breath of the soul. … After his ordination, he took a long time for the Consecration of the Mass, to the point where parishioners complained about all the time he spent, in ecstasy, before the bread and wine as they became the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus.” (Saint Padre Pio – devoted to the Eucharist and Mary

Most of us will probably never experience Mass the way Padre Pio did, but his experience shows us that the Mass is a supernatural event of great magnitude, and not a mere human ceremony. Also, Pope St. Gregory the Great is said to have witnessed our Lord’s Passion while saying Mass, and there have been many Eucharistic miracles to show us clearly that the consecrated host is truly the body of Jesus (you can read about some of them here: http://www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html).

In his homily for Corpus Christi, my parish priest stressed the need for confession before receiving Holy Communion. With regard to the need for faith in the Sacrament, he said, “If you don’t believe, don’t receive.” Also, he recommended receiving the host on the tongue (as it has been done for centuries), and urged people, if they insisted on receiving in the hand, to please consume the host as soon as possible after receiving it. Finally, he advised us to remember to say a prayer of thanksgiving after communion.

Stay with me, Lord – Prayer of Padre Pio

After receiving Holy Communion, Padre Pio would give thanks and pray (in part) as follows:

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without meaning and hope.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.

Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me, Lord, so that I can hear Your voice and follow you.

Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You ever more, and to be always in Your company.

Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be always faithful to You.

Stay with me, Lord, for, as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a dwelling-place for Your love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late; the days are coming to a close, and life is passing. Death, judgment, and eternity are drawing near. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way; and for that, I need You. It is getting late, and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need you, my Jesus, in this night of exile!

Stay with me, Jesus, because, in the darkness of life, with all its dangers, I need You.

Help me to recognize You as Your disciples did at the Breaking of the Bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion may be the light which disperses darkness, the power which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.

Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death I want to be one with You, and if not by Communion, at least by Your grace and love.

Stay with me, Jesus; I do not ask for divine consolations, because I do not deserve them, but I only ask for the gift of Your Presence. Oh yes! I ask this of You.

Stay with me, Lord, for I seek You alone, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You, and I ask for no other reward but to love You more and more, with a strong and active love.

Grant that I may love You with all my heart while on earth, so that I can continue to love You perfectly throughout all eternity, dear Jesus.  (From Padre Pio prayed this prayer after receiving Holy Communion, Aleteia)

May your Eucharistic feast and week be filled with grace.

image: Eucharist, painting on the church altar

Saint Joan of Arc: The Maid of Orléans. (1)

Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), France’s national hero, was canonized by Benedict XV in 1920. Her feast day is May 30 (or May 31 in some places). You have probably heard of Joan and how she saved France, since her dramatic life has been made into several books and movies. Almost 600 years after she was captured and burned at the stake, Joan continues to fascinate people in France and around the world.

Historical Background of Joan’s Life

At that time, France was rapidly developing under a king with strong political power. However, in England, where the power of the monarchy was similarly strengthened, King Edward III asserted his royal authority over France, on the grounds that his mother was a Capetian, and the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) began. Furthermore, during the same Hundred Years’ War, Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, and Charles VII, King of Valois, fought for control of French territory.

Life in the Village of Domrémy: Joan’s Father’s has a Prophetic Dream about her.

While Joan was still a little girl, her father had a dream about her. He saw his daughter traveling with an army—a camp follower.

When he awoke, he told her brothers that if this ever happened, he would ask them to drown her, if they refused, he would do it himself (Mary Gordon, Joan of Arc: A Life).

Joan of Arc was probably born on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1412 (Joan of Arc: A Life). Her father was James (Jacques) of Arc, a peasant from the village of Domrémy in northeastern France, and he and her mother, Isabelle Romée, raised Joan as a devout Catholic. She spent most of her free time in the church. A priest who knew Joan said that she often came to confession.

It would be interesting to know if Joan was indeed born on the Feast of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Epiphany is the day when the wise men took their gifts and went to offer them to Christ the King. It seems to symbolize the life of Joan, who, under God’s guidance, left the village of Domrémi for Chinon, to meet the future king and lead him to coronation. Judging by her father’s dream, and the day of her birth, it would seem that the mysterious divine guidance concerning Joan had already begun.

Joan Guided by Mysterious Voices

In 1425, Joan was about 13 years old.

Some Burgundian and English troops drove away the livestock from the village of Domrémy, looted the church, and burned it to the ground. That same year, Joan heard mysterious voices for the first time one summer day in the garden of her house. At first Joan was afraid, but later she believed that the voices were real and that they was sent by God to guide her (SAINT JOAN OF ARC).

John 14:21 says, “He who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him.” Because of Joan’s deep love for God, God granted her a special favor. That favor was that she would go to fight in the battle that would bring a miraculous victory to France.

The curious anecdote of Joan’s audience with the future Charles VII

In 1428, Joan requested the assistance of the local military commander, Robert de Baudricourt, to gain an audience with the Dauphin (the heir to the throne of France). She wanted to convey to the Dauphin a message that she had received from God. Part of the message was that the Dauphin was to be crowned King of France.

At first, Joan was not taken seriously, but she prophesied (correctly) that the French army would be defeated at the Battle of Louvray (the “Battle of Herrings”) on February 12, 1429, and she succeeded in gaining the trust of some high-ranking people. Finally, she was granted an audience at Chinon with the Dauphin, to accomplish the mission entrusted to her by St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret of Antioch.

At the time, the Dauphin considered battle more important than coronation. One reason was that the traditional coronation site, Reims, was in hostile territory. The Dauphin, unwilling to meet Joan, hid among his courtiers in order to deceive her.

However, something unexpected happened. Joan quickly found the Dauphin in hiding. Undaunted, she told him that she did not want him to stop fighting, that the Lord would send help, that the kingdom belonged to the Lord, and that the Lord wanted the Dauphin to become the King. She then told him of her God-given mission to liberate Orléans and march on Reims, where the Dauphin would be crowned.

This anecdote of Joan’s conveyance to the Dauphin of the mission entrusted to her by God impressed upon me the strength of Joan’s faith. During this period, one of the few times a woman could speak out in public was when she was speaking about a God-given prophecy. This social context helps us understand that Joan truly believed that she was obeying the voice of God.

Joan’s Appearance

In Joan’s time, it was not customary for painters to depict a commoner like her; portrait paintings were only for the rich and noble. There are no portraits of Joan made by painters who met her in person.

What little we know of her appearance comes from the few remaining descriptions. Joan is described as being about five feet two inches tall, with a sturdy, short-necked, muscular body; she had short black hair, “large, dark, and grave” eyes (set far apart), and tanned skin. 

The following video is based on historical accounts, and recreates Joan’s appearance.

Joan of Arc Brought to Life| Her Story & Face Revealed | Royalty Now

According to Charles VII’s chamberlain de Boulainvilliers, Joan was strong enough to spend six whole days and nights in heavy armor. It is clear that she was not the delicate waif that later generations romanticized her as, but a sturdy peasant girl.

What does Joan have in common with the saints who appeared to her?

Here we can find similarities between Joan and the saints who appeared to her. I think that these similarities are not coincidental. For example, St. Margaret of Antioch was sometimes conflated with St. Marina, a woman who dressed as a man and entered a monastery. And she was imprisoned in a cave for a sin she did not commit. Joan, too, dressed as a man and was imprisoned. St. Michael the Archangel is often depicted fighting the devil with a sword, and Mary Gordon (in the book of Joan of Arc: A Life) mentions that Joan, though a woman, took up the sword and fought.

May 8, 1429: Battle of Orleans won in the name of God

In early April 1429, Joan, entrusted by Charles VII with the command of the army, took armor and a sword. She had a banner made depicting Jesus and Mary, and set out for Orléans, a walled city 74 miles southwest of Paris.

The Siege of Orléans | Joan of Arc | Jeanne-darc.info

At this time, Duke Dunoy, the military commander of Orléans, gave advice to Joan, who had no combat experience. In reply, she told him that the Lord’s advice was safer and wiser than his, and that through the intercession of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne, the Lord would deliver Orléans from misery and oppression.

Joan also persuaded the other captains of the army to follow the Lord’s advice and attack Fort Tourel, where they won a great victory, though Joan was wounded. It is recorded that she actually knew in advance that she would be wounded in this battle, but she did not hesitate to go to the battlefield.

Joan foresaw that the bridge would fall.

“Courage! Do not fall back; in a little, the place will be yours. Watch! When the wind blows my banner against the bulwark, you shall take it!” That is what Joan said to the soldiers fighting with her in the assault on the bridge at Orléans. (In her own words | Joan of Arc | Jeanne-darc.info)

During the attack on the bridge, she foresaw that the temporary wooden bridge that had been built over a gap in the broken stone bridge would not last long. When the English troops were about to cross the bridge, she warned them to stop. However, the English misunderstood her advice and thought that Joan and her men were afraid of them. They continued to advance, and the wooden bridge collapsed under their weight, causing them to drown in their heavy armor. Needless to say, this unfortunate event for the English gave the French the upper hand. (The battle is explained in detail in this video.)

Finally, the French succeeded in recapturing Orléans. This victory marked a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War. Since then, she has come to be known as “the Maid of Orléans.”

Joan’s Beloved Banner

Rather than engaging in violence, it seems that Joan carried a banner on the battlefield, to inspire her soldiers. Banners were also important for rallying allied soldiers in the chaos of battle.

At the trial in 1431, Joan described her banner as follows:

“I had a banner, which I carried in the field, a standard whose field was sown with lilies. There was a figure of Christ holding the world and on each side of Him was an angel. It was made of a white fabric called “boucassin”. Written above: Jhesus Maria, as it seems to me, and it was fringed in silk” (Banner | Joan of Arc | Joan-darc.info).

It is reported that Joan was more fond of the banner with Jesus and Mary than of the sword. Unfortunately, this banner was destroyed by fire during the French Revolution.

St. Joan of Arc’s Ardent Faith in God.

10 Fear not, for I am with you,

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

11 Behold, all who are incensed against you

shall be put to shame and confounded;

those who strive against you

shall be as nothing and shall perish.

12 You shall seek those who contend with you,

but you shall not find them;

those who war against you

shall be as nothing at all.

— Isaiah 41:10-12      

According to “Joan of Arc: A Life” by Mary Gordon, people who met Joan felt transformed, able to do things they could not do before. Her strong faith, fiery enthusiasm, and immense trust in God inspired those around her and freed them from fear.

Her accomplishments, brought about by God, are like the description in Isaiah. In the 15th century, a peasant girl did not have much opportunity to make an impact on history, but with God’s help, human limitations can be overcome.

Because she followed God’s calling, Joan ultimately achieved the triumph of divine glory. The people who betrayed her and sent her to her executioner perished, but Joan became Saint Joan, and she continues to inspire people today.

The Battle of Patay, 18 June, 1429: Another Miraculous Victory

After her success in the battle of Orléans, Joan immediately reported the victory to the Dauphin. She then urged the Dauphin to be crowned as soon as possible. But in order to reach Reims, the traditional site for coronations, it was necessary to defeat the English army at Patay. Again, Joan promised a great victory for the French. And true to her word, the battle of Patay ended with an overwhelming French victory. On the other hand, Joan was shocked to see the reality of this tragic war. The story of Joan holding the head of a dying English soldier on the battlefield and listening to his dying confession is passed down to posterity as an anecdote that demonstrates this fact.

Fortune at the Battle of Patay

The event that led to victory in the battle was actually the sudden flight of a deer from the forest. The English soldiers raised their voices, and the French, who had now learned their location, launched a surprise attack and were able to repel the longbowmen.

The longbowmen, who were the strength of the English army at the time, had inflicted tremendous damage on the French army. At the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, which must have been still fresh in Joan’s mind, the French army, which was far superior in numbers and equipment, was helplessly defeated by the resourceful strategy of Henry V and the heavy fire of the English longbowmen.

At the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V, who hid his men in the woods, ordered his troops to “make no noise under any circumstances.” If the English had not raised their voices at the Battle of Patay, the British would have had a good chance of success. Knowing the strength of the English army at that time, we can believe that without God’s help, it would have been difficult for the French to win the battle.

On the other hand, while the battle of Orleans was full of mysterious events that can only be attributed to divine intervention, the battle of Patay was not like that.

To what extent was the Victory at Patay due to divine intervention in response to the prayers of St. Joan, to what extent to the strategy and military might of the French army, and to what extent to mere chance? All three played a role, but only God can measure with exactness the contribution of each.

The campaign of Joan and her men in the Loire Valley:
They captured Jargeau on the 10th of June, re-entered Orléans on the 13th, captured the bridge at Meung on the 15th, and took Beaugency on the 16th. It ended with a glorious victory at Patay.

Image: The Maid by Frank Craig

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