Today is the celebration of one of the greatest martial saints in Catholic history and this profile from the Tradition in Action website is remarkable.
On May 30, 1431, the eve of the feast of Corpus Christi, Joan was led to the old market square of Rouen. She was tied to a stake surrounded by a pile of firewood ready to be lighted. From her neck a placard was hung with the words: “Heretic, apostate, and idolater.” A great crowd was present in the square. Six hundred English soldiers guarded her.
When she arrived at the site, she asked for a cross. An English soldier broke the stick of a lance, tied the two pieces together in the shape of a cross and gave to her. After receiving the precious symbol she was tied to the stake over the firewood. Then, she called out loudly to St. Michael. The executioner lighted the firewood that was soaked with oil, and the fire grew furiously from bottom to top. As the flames enveloped her, Joan shouted out strongly, reaffirming her fidelity to her mission: ‘I was not mistaken, the voices came from Heaven!’
In a few minutes everything was finished. The ashes were swept into the waters of the Seine River. Even the heart of the Maid, which remained intact since it had not burned in the flames, was cast into the river.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
We can comment on several points in this very beautiful martyrdom.
First, the injustice of the sentence on the placard hung around her neck causes indignation. She was a saint – a virgin who had accomplished the mission God gave her to save the French people. And now she was going to be burned at the stake on the orders of French Archbishop Cauchon, the president of the tribunal, for an infamous reason. To understand the significance of this, I ask that you, you who have offered your lives to fight against Progressivism, imagine that you were condemned with a placard around your neck with the word “progressivist” written on it. It would be an analogous unjust injury, a similar fabrication, a comparable lie.
Second, there are her words about the voices from Heaven. She used to say that those voices came to her from Heaven; and that it was by following the orders of those voices and through the strength communicated to her by them that she had accomplished the marvelous work that she did – the partial liberation of France and the restoration of the legitimate King.
On the contrary, the tribunal that judged her – a mixed tribunal, ecclesiastical and civil – affirmed that all those wonderful victories she achieved over the English troops were accomplished through witchcraft. They said that the English army had been defeated because she had made a pact with the devil. Therefore, according to them, the voices came from Hell.
The problem, then, was not to determine whether the voices were true or not. No one questioned that fact, because they still were not yet under the deleterious influence of the systematic doubt of Protestantism. People had faith and knew that this kind of communication was not rare. The problem was that the tribunal had to say that the voices were coming from Hell because they did not favor the Kingdom of England. It was for this reason Joan was condemned as a heretic, a witch, etc.
Right before she expired, when she was preparing herself to stand before the tribunal of God, she gave another manifestation of sanctity. What did she do? She asked for a cross – a cross because an oath made in the presence of the cross is much graver. A warrior until the end – she died fighting. She did not die meekly permitting her enemies to kill her, but she died calling out a challenge, a protest, and an encouragement to the French resistance against English domination. Her shout said this:
“French people, continue to fight, because the voices in whose name I led you to victory truly spoke orders that came from Heaven. Heaven will give you, therefore, the complete victory.”
For this cry she chose the perfect, supreme, and most tragic moment, the moment when she was already being consumed by the fire. The members of the tribunal were present assisting at the scene, the English soldiers standing guard, the Catholic people watching. She was tied to the stake, the flames were growing rapidly since the wood was soaked with oil. The fire was rising from bottom to top, so it had not yet reached the vital parts of her body.
At this crucial moment, no wail of pain, no cry for mercy came from her lips. She called out loudly to St. Michael, probably to ask strength from the Archangel – her great protector – to do what she would do. After that, like Our Lord who cried out in a loud voice before He expired, she also cried out in loud voice, a voice that could be heard throughout the square. It was her protest:
“Know this, all of you – you friends and enemies, you men of my time and you men of the future until the end of the world – know that the voices I heard came from Heaven. With this last proclamation, my mission is accomplished.”