May 30: Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), Mystic and Soldier, 1431

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Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was born the daughter of peasant stock in France in 1412. Called the “Maid of Orleans,” she was a religious child, and at a young age she began to experience spiritual visions, which she described as voices emerging from a powerful flash of light. She believed that Saint Michael and Saint Catherine, among other saints, called her to save France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy. At first, her visions were looked upon skeptically, but she eventually convinced King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, of the genuineness of her visions.

In consultation with several of his theologians, Charles decided to allow Joan to lead an expedition to Orleans. According to legend, she wore a suit of white armor and carried a banner bearing the symbol of the Trinity and the words “Jesus, Maria.” Charles’ troops were inspired and won the battle for their city. She convinced Charles to proceed to Reims for his coronation and she stood at his side throughout the ceremony.

Joan was eventually taken prisoner by Burgundian troops and sold to the English. In 1431, she returned to France, appeared before the Bishop of Beauvais, and was tried at Rouen on charges of witchcraft and heresy. Her visions were declared “false and diabolical” and she was forced to recant. Later that year, however, she was tried and condemned as a relapsed heretic and burnt to death and Rouen. In 1456, following an appeal of her trial, Pope Callistus III declared her to have been falsely accused. She was Canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

Although her efforts were unsuccessful in ending civil war in France, she inspired later generations with her faith, her heroism, and her commitment to God and to her King. She is today one of the patron saints of France.


I.   Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor thy calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear thy standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of thy saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II.    Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Psalm 144:1–12

Judith 8:32–9:11

2 Corinthians 3:1–6

Matthew 12:25–30

Preface of the Epiphany

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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20 thoughts on “May 30: Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), Mystic and Soldier, 1431

  1. I’ve heard of people going to (or being reduced to) “rack and ruin,” but this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone
    “burnt to death and Rouen.”

  2. This commemoration is for Trial Use. All elements (Title, Collect, Lections, and Proper Preface) are new.

  3. Title: We should choose the English: Joan of Arc and drop the French, or put the French in italics or parentheses. This issue has occurred with other commemorations, too. Whatever is decided it should be followed for all commemorations: Spanish, Brazilian, French, German, Welsh, etc.

    Collect: This collect strikes me as a bit ‘exalted’ in comparison to some of the other new collects. Something about the words: ‘valor to bear your standard for her country’, ‘endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat’ seem odd in the collect.

    Bio misprint, paragraph 3: ‘burnt to death in the city of Rouen.’

  4. I see the connection between Memorial Day and the Joan of Arc cult, but I think it
    cheapens Memorial Day. Why not have a straightforward, heartfelt, recognition of those who died in military service serving the nation they honored with their courage, sacrifice and valor?
    In which Baptismal promise do we see Joan of Arc excelling (in its entirety)?
    Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
    Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
    Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
    Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
    Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
    What is the gospel of Jesus we see embodied in the life and actions of Joan of Arc? Is there a promise of new life, or redemption, or reconciliation, or even forgiveness? We’re told about a secular power struggle, not a matter of justice or injustice, much less sin and sanctification. We’re told of archetypal figures (credited with divine equivalence) directing her to take up arms, but with no Christian objective specified, and no particular regard for scripture, nor vision of life in Christ. Legend intrudes to such an extent it is difficult for readers to know where history resumes. Mixed judgments, even in her time, by secular and church authorities, attest to how tenuous and questionable her credibility was – unless we settle for the idea that the last group to claim her as their self validating poster child must have been the truthful one. On that point, we see those who endorsed her simultaneously laying claim to God’s favor for their own vested interests, whether King, France, or Pope, in self serving ways.
    The collect’s invocation of God with “whose power is made perfect in weakness” flies in the face of common sense, choosing “weakness” for its entre where leading an army in armed combat is the context! (Since when is an armed camp a symbol of weakness?) If being female is the alleged justification for highlighting “weakness,” then it is blatantly chauvinistic as well, and an offensive assault on the capability of women serving in military service!
    I truly wish Joan of Arc had never been put forward for our calendar, and I pray the possibility will be withdrawn. There are other military figures who are clearer models of Christian norms, whose commemoration on Memorial Day would be far more appropriate. Joan of Arc is not a good model for us as a church.

    • She was martyred on the 30th of May. She died in the defense of both her country and her God (by her religion). Seems a pretty good model of Christ to me.

  5. I agree with John LaVoe. If I remmeber correctly – and this is going back to college history courses, so I may be wrong, her beatification was far more a French political move , post WW One ‘s devastating losses, than a religious one. perhpas someon with more specific knowledge can either correct me or ecpand on this. In any ase, John’s objections suffie for me,

  6. I have mixed feelings about this one and I’m still sorting them out so I’ll restrict myself to literary comments:

    1) With Mr. Hartney, HWHM is an English language book and the names should be given in the English equivalents. We didn’t call John Calvin Jean Cauvin and, similarly, there’s no need refer to Joan of Arc as Jeanne d’Arc. If a Spanish or French HWHM is produced someday, then go ahead and give her her rightful name in those languages, but it doesn’t belong here any more than referring to the country of which she is patron as La France (pronounced in the French way, of course). It’s not culturally insensitive — in my book at least — to recognize that her name has a proper English equivalent.

    2) The bio starts out: “Called the “Maid of Orleans,” she was a religious child, ” — was she called that from birth or was it a later title? The placement suggests it was a nickname from her youngest days.

    3) “King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, ” — So why did we just call him “King Charles”? Wouldn’t it be better to refer to him as “Crown Prince”?

    4) I can’t quite say how, but the collect is quite wordy….

    • This is another one of those weird bits of trivia: He became “king” upon the death of his Father, even before the coronation. He would be, under the French usage: Charles, King of France, not King Charles of France, until the ceremony at Rheims.
      It’s a quibble, but if we are going to throw titles around, lets use them properly.

      • A trivial point on your comment. He became king upon the death of his father (lower case “f”). His Father (upper case “F”) “lives and reigns now and forever. 🙂

  7. (1) In English we call her Joan of Arc. Yes, she’s French, her name was Jeanne, and the French know her as Jeanne d’Arc, but MIchael Hartney is right. That’s not how we do it.

    (2) The Collect is another instance of our tendency to pray, “Almighty God, we know you are very busy and can’t keep track of us all, so here’s a bio of the person we are commemorating today in case you don’t remember….”

    (3) I think May 30 is St. Joan’s day in the Roman calendar. It’s coincidence that it falls on or near our Memorial Day. I think John LaVoe’s points are well taken.

    (4) I think Joan was a sincerely devout young woman who was moved to serve and inspire her people, which she did, ultimately at the cost of her life. I think it’s fine if the French want to commemorate her. I don’t think she really qualifies as a Saint of the Universal Church. I note that she was formally canonized by Rome right after the Great War. Surprise.

    • I agree with Bill and Michael on all counts here. It’s a terribly awkward collect; sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re addressing God or a group of inattentive Formation students. May 30 is indeed the traditional RC feast day for Joan, being the anniversary of her burning in (not and) Rouen, so it really is a coincidence that it falls on Memorial Day this year.

      I think including her in our calendar is another example of the effort to honor all lands, all traditions (or those of no religious tradition who just, you know, did good stuff), and pretty much anyone else we can think of as exemplary in any way. And I think that’s a mistake.

      What I’d appreciate seeing (and I realize it’s not going to happen, with the clock clicking away here) is some way of explaining how each of those commemorated in HWHM either is, as Bill mentions, a “Saint of the Universal Church” or in some way excelled in carrying out one or more of our Baptismal promises. And for those who lived after the English Reformation, I’d really like to see preference given to members of the Anglican tradition; I think we can depend on the Vatican and the Orthodox Patriarchies to commemorate those in their traditions. It’s not only futile to try to scoop up every good exemplar from every tradition and walk of life (and then what does that say to those left out?), it’s also rather presumptuous. Are they not real Saints till they get our imprimatur? (We may not mean it that way, but I suspect it will look like that to others.)

  8. She has been Joan of Arc in English centuries, so drop the French. This is yet another example of HWHM’s stylistic inconsistencies. We didn’t have Jean Cauvin, Tomasso d’Aquino or Caterina da Sienna, so why Jeanne d’Arc? My favorite HWHM name inconsistency is “Juan” Bosco, an Italian (“Giovanni,” John in English), who as best I can determine never set foot out of Italy, so who knows why HWHM chose to give him a Spanish first name.

  9. Right, she’s been Joan of Arc for speakers of English and has been well known by them/us for centuries. Has anyone read Mark Twain’s fictionalized biography of her? He was riveted by the details and transcript of her trial, translated and made public in the 19th century for the beatification process. (Some have said she’s the best documented person of her time). He very much admired her courage and devotion and military skill and even credited her with a sense of humor. John–yes, there is a promise of new life and redemption in the story of Joan of Arc. The English had been laying waste to the countryside around her for many years, making it impossible to live a peaceful life. (I have no idea why the bio doesn’t mention the English claims to parts of France and the long war in which they sought to enforce them). She felt called by God to do what she could to release her people, and when called to account during her trial her Christian witness was exemplary. It was amazing that an illiterate could have absorbed so much theology, but she was a good listener, and good thinker, lived what she believed, and had a good memory. I visited the church she attended in Domremy, where she grew up–very moving. –A couple of French scholars thought they’d write a book a few years ago to debunk all the “myths” about her they’d been taught in high school, but found more truth than myth and wound up admiring her. They went into the house of Bourbon politics mentioned in the bio, but did not treat the military struggles of the time as though it was just a civil war. –Steve: about Sarah Palin. It’s true that Joan of Arc has been misused by the far right in France. Yes, people like Sarah Palin used “the Maid” for centuries. But such misuse should not diminish who she really was.

  10. I tend to think that Joan of Arc does not belong in HWHM. Though her life was studied during the trials and after her death, It seems as though she will forever be a political figure whose imagine was and is manipulated to suit the needs of the time. What about her life will help us resist evil and proclaim the good news or serve Christ or seek justice? Joan of Arc’s image has been manipulated for many causes, even in her own time to serve to reanimate a France which was in the process of falling under English domination during the 100 years war. Joan’s gifts from God seemed to be the lifting of the seige at Orleans and the anointing of Charles VII as King of France at Reims (where Clovis had been baptized). But then, she was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was 19 years old. Since then all sorts of myth and superstition has grown up around her. Joan of Arc is a popular figure because she was seen as a protector of France. But I am far from sure that political popularity is a reason for inclusion though a number of politically popular figures are included in the proposed HWHM.

  11. I suggest that since this is an English Language work, the title should be simply “Joan of Arc”, the name by which she is universally known. Then, as in the exiting text of the bio, both names can be used at the outset.

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “a peasant couple” for “peasant stock”.
    The phrase “peasant stock” makes it sound as if we were discussing breeding.

    Line 8, first paragraph: I suggest deleting “, the not yet consecrated King of France,”. This seems totally irrelevant.

    Line 6, 3rd paragraph: substitute “at” for “and”.

    Line 8, 3rd paragraph: use a lower case “c” in “canonized”.

  12. Joan of Arc’s story may have been manipulated by those who want to use it for their own political ends; so have the lives of other saints and religious leaders. The fact remains that the truths of her life, in words and in action, have been a powerful Christian witness to many English speaking people as well as French. We talk of “liberation” as though it is a good a noble thing, and that was what she felt called by God to do. –Read Twain’s book (he said he wrote it for his daughters), Jean Anouilh’s _The Lark_, Bernard Shaw’s _St. Joan_, go visit Domremy, and you’ll get a sense of why this 18 year old girl’s life is such an important witness. Especially to young girls. This was a young woman who was devout, who acted on what she felt called to do with thought and skill, who “thought for herself,” etc. , and acted in a cause larger than herself.

  13. I just spent several weeks researching the history of the life of Joan of Arc and wrote a long post about her on I understand that the entries in Holy Women Holy Men must be short, however, the summed up life story should be based on facts, therefore:

    Go ahead and switch it to Joan of Arc, (Jeanne d’Arc) for this book written in English.

    The line “saving France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy” is only part of the true story. She was called to save France from the invading English with whom the Burgundians had joined forces.

    “According to legend” should be changed. It’s according to eye witnesses and the transcript of her verbal testimony at the first trial that the banner was of “the Lord holding the world, with two angels, one on either hand,” plus the names Jesus Maria (Jhesus Maria). The suit of (not white) armor is real as well.

    Yes, Charles’ troops were inspired, but there is also historic testimony that her military strategy played a vital role as well.

    She was sold to the English and taken to ENGLISH/Burgundian France, and was tried by her enemies who, unfortunately, represented the Church.

    Including the 4 to 5 months she was held by John of Luxembourg before he sold her to the English, plus the lengthy trial, she was a prisoner for about 1 year. Between the time that she “recanted” her testimony and “relapsed” was only three days.

    In the nullification trial, Joan was cleared of all of the original false charges and named a martyr. Pierre Cauchon (Bishop of Beauvais) was labeled a heretic for convicting an innocent woman in a secular vendetta. For clarity, they added that the biblical rule about woman’s clothing had been obsolete for a long time.

    “Although her efforts were unsuccessful in ending civil war in France,” is just wrong. The opposite is true. The delay from the French successes at Orleans and Reims and the end of the Hundred’s Year War in 1453, was caused by King Charles, VII and his desire to proceed with peace treaties and truces instead of battles. But the routing out of the English, spurred by the acts of Joan of Arc, was completed in 1453, which is why she’s remember as a national hero as well as one of the patron saints of France.

    As Episcopalians with our Anglican heritage, it’s easy to tell this story from the English point of view. Yet the English were at war with Joan’s Armagnac (loyal to the Valois Dynasty) France at the time and so it’s easy for that view to be biased.

    Also, we were all one Church then, and it was representatives of the Church who condemned and murdered Joan of Arc. Certainly, that fact has something to do with the reason that it took 4 ½ centuries to canonize her.

    What I’m saying here is that as American researchers we have it in us to be unbiased about the life of Joan of Arc and the three-paragraph summary of her life should be as historically accurate as possible.

    (More information and my sources can be found on my blog.)

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