What St. Joan of Arc Can Teach Politicians

Pope: 'Faith is the light that guided all her choices.'

Pope Benedict XVI leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 26.
Pope Benedict XVI leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 26. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With her deep prayer life and total devotion to serving God and the good of her fellow citizens, St. Joan of Arc is a wonderful model for Christian politicians, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for laypeople involved in politics, especially in difficult situations. Faith is the light that guided all her choices,” the Pope said Jan. 26 during his weekly general audience.

The Pope’s remarks about St. Joan were part of an ongoing series of audience talks about influential Catholic women of the Middle Ages.

Addressing about 3,000 people gathered for the audience, the Pope said that St. Joan of Arc, like St. Catherine of Siena, was a young laywoman and mystic who lived her faith commitment “not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and the world of her time.”

St. Joan and St. Catherine are perhaps the best examples of “those strong women who at the end of the Middle Ages brought the Gospel to bear on the complex events of history,” he said.

From the transcripts of the young French saint’s trial, “we know that her religious life matured with mystical experiences beginning when she was 13 years old. Through the voice of the Archangel Michael, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and to work personally for the liberation of her people,” the Pope said.

Those involved in condemning her as a heretic and having her burned at the stake included priests and theologians who disagreed with her politically and were unable to overcome that disagreement to judge her fairly, the Pope said.

The role of Churchmen in condemning the saint, he said, is a “disturbing and enlightening” picture of the reality of the Church on earth, which, as the Second Vatican Council said, “is always holy and is always in need of purification.”

The truth is that St. Joan of Arc was involved in the French political situation because of her total love for Jesus and for her neighbor, he said. “This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and earth, of the Church and the world,” he said.

The young French saint carried a banner with an image of Jesus holding the world, “the icon of her political mission. The liberation of her people was a work of human justice which Joan engaged in with charity for love of Jesus,” the Pope said.

After Pope Benedict finished his main audience talk, a man from Malta yelled out to the Pope and tried to make his way up to hand a letter to the Pope. The man was escorted from the audience hall by Vatican police. Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office, said the letter had “devotional content.”