‘To the Very End’: Honoring the Courage of St. Joan of Arc


(photo: Pixabay)

One hundred years ago, on May 16, 1920, a crowd of 70,000 faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica to witness the canonization of the “Maid of Orléans,” St. Joan of Arc. Pope Benedict XV, who guided the faithful through the horrors of World War I and the Spanish Influenza, proclaimed that this young saint was “a most brilliantly shining light of the Church Triumphant.” 

A maiden who led France to victory in a dark time in that country’s history, Joan was unfairly tried and condemned for heresy by her political enemies in 1431 and was burned at the stake while proclaiming her love for Jesus. Twenty-five years later, her sentence was overturned by Pope Callistus III, and she was pronounced a faithful child of the Church.

Joan was canonized a century ago not because of her military exploits. She was proclaimed a saint because of her holiness and her unfailing love for Jesus and his Church. Pope Benedict XVI said of her, 91 years after his predecessor, “In the love of Jesus Joan found the strength to love the Church to the very end.”

The Maid of Orléans shows us the courage we need today as we take our slow steps to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Abandoned by the ones whom she led to victory and left to face months of isolation, loneliness and injustice, Joan never lost her faith. Neither should we, even as we await expectantly the doors of our churches to open and the public celebration of the sacraments to resume. 

In her last moments on earth, Joan asked a priest to hold up the crucifix used in the procession, telling him, “Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so I may see it until I die.” She gazed upon the cross until the very end, crying out for all to hear, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

These weeks have been a great spiritual, financial, physical and emotional challenge for Catholics everywhere.

May we, like Joan, always love the Church “to the very end,” may our gaze be always upon the crucifix, and may the name of Jesus always be on our lips.

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.

God bless you!