4 Joans of Arc, 1 God and Us
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings. Note: More guides are available under “Resources.”
Sunday, May 30, is Trinity Sunday (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II). May 31 is the feast of the Visitation (not a holy day of obligation).
May 30, the feast of St. Joan of Arc, is supplanted this year by Trinity Sunday.
Joan of Arc is a fascinating saint to share with your children because her story brings into sharp relief certain facts that kids will have to face as they grow older. For example, the Church is a saving institution, but her members — and sometimes her leaders — can be disappointing, even severely disappointing. In the story of Joan of Arc, Church leaders, both lay and ecclesial, miss the opportunity to follow God’s will with Joan. God has given them real freedom, and they use it poorly. God has done the same with us: We can follow his will, or thwart it. Virtue isn’t automatic.
There are several Joan of Arc movies to choose from. Tom’s favorite is Joan of Arc starring Ingrid Bergman. It has a 1950s’ Hollywood epic feel about it, but it drags in parts, with too much talking.
We suggest skipping the one starring model Milla Jovovich. The film turns Joan into a woman who is haunted more than inspired by her faith. She’s more unbalanced than holy.
The best Joan of Arc movie to engage the kids is the 1999 Joan of Arc starring Leelee Sobieski. The leading actress is the movie’s weakest link, unfortunately. But the movie does a good job of presenting the elements of the story in an engaging way.
You could also try the old silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. The acting is phenomenal, and the story of Joan’s trial is told in depth, but it is very slow moving for a generation raised on modern movies.
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8:4-9; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Today’s readings describe what God is like — and how we are like him.
First, God is awe and majesty. The Psalm compares the awe we have looking up at the stars with the awe we should have in God: “When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place — what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?”
Second, God is self-giving. Jesus explains the Holy Spirit in the Gospel: “He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine.” This perfect harmony and communal sharing is sort of a divine version of humility. None of the Persons claims the graces of divinity exclusively for himself, but each glorifies the other.
Third, God’s life isn’t all awe and majesty: It is also “delight” and “playfulness.” Today’s first reading gives a rare glimpse of the “inner life” of the Holy Trinity. It depicts the relationship of God the Father and God the Son “long ago ... before the earth.” The reading shows the two working as partner “craftsmen” in creation. And it includes this detail, from the voice of Wisdom, traditionally identified with the second Person of the Trinity: “I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth.”
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and share exactly these three characteristics.
First, we have a share in the awe and majesty of God. Says the Psalm, “You have made [humanity] little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.” Knowing how high our calling is should help us aspire to a high standard of character.
The second reading shows how the Trinity, in very practical ways, helps us meet that high standard in the rough and tumble of life. “Through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us,” writes St. Paul, “affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint.”
Third, the readings make clear that the “delight” and “playfulness” of God isn’t reserved to his own inner life. In the course of creation, the second Person of the Trinity says “I found delight in the human race.”
We’ve always loved the Marie Bellet song “It Was His Delight to Walk Among Men,” taken from a verse in Sirach. God doesn’t just tolerate us: He delights in us, and that’s the greatest help we have in the Christian life.
Tom and April Hoopes write
from Atchison, Kansas.