Today is the feast of Saint Joan of Arc, the French peasant girl who led the troops of France against the English. She was captured, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake – at the age of nineteen.
There is much about Jean D’Arc, the Maid of Orleans, that is troubling. The saints whose voices urged her on – Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret – may never have existed. She also led troops in battle.
But, surprisingly, she was one of Dorothy Day’s favorite saints – and Dorothy Day was a firm opponent of war.
As Jim Forest notes in All Is Grace, in response to his query about her devotion to this “military” saint, Dorothy Day told him that “Joan of Arc is a saint to the fidelity to conscience.”
Yet, there is another aspect of Saint Joan. In All Saints, Robert Ellsberg, who worked with Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker, writes (page 238):
An illiterate peasant girl, a shepherd, a “nobody.” she heeded a religious call to save her country when all the ”somebodies” of her time proved unable or unwilling to meet the challenge. She stood up before princes of the church and state and the most learned authorities of her world and refused to compromise her conscience or deny her special vocation. She paid the ultimate price for her stand. And in doing so she won a prize far more valuable than the gratitude of the Dauphin or the keys of Orleans.
Again, God chooses the poor of this world to confound the rich and powerful