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In the Roman Catholic religion saints are regarded with an immense amount of respect. Saints are still a key part of life for those who are religiously devoted. What some people may not think about, however, is the actual process which takes place to get to sainthood. For some historical figures, it may take no time, but for some it may take centuries. This was the unfortunate case for Joan of Arc, a young heroine whose life was exciting but in the end turned tragic. While Joan of Arc’s short life was undeniably heroic and full of importance, the most significant event happened after her death; hundreds of years’ worth of work, from uncovering her innocence to declaring her canonization all took place in her journey to sainthood.
Joan of Arc lived in Domrémy-la-Pucelle, France with her mother, father, and two brothers. She also had a sister who passed away at the age of sixteen. Neighbors labeled Joan as being especially religious, which shows her undeniable devotion to her Lord very early on in her life. At the age of twelve years old, however, Joan’s world changed as she began to have visions. She later claimed that she had believed the visions to be of an angel, but during her trial she was pressured into saying that these visions had the voices of St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and St. Michael. However odd that these visions may have seemed to the young Joan, she did listen to the mission they held for her; her visions told her that she was to be the savior of France. Steve Bonta stated, ‘The illiterate peasant girl, Joan of Arc, began at a tender age to have visions, which she ascribed to God, informing her that she was to be an instrument in liberating France’. Joan was the chosen one sent to drive the English away and crown the true king, Charles the Dauphin. The unyielding devotion Joan possessed for this mission is actually what led her down the path to her eventual death.
Eighteen years after Joan of Arc’s execution, King Charles began to have doubts about how her trial was conducted. He assigned the task of investigating the trial to his counselor, Guillame Bouillé. After interviewing all of the witnesses again and their testimonies, Bouillé came to the decision that the first trial had been a sham, he even declared it as void. Along with this came worries for his king, so he was sure to brief Charles on what had to be done next. The text says, “In his summary he indicated that the King shouldn’t be associated with a person who had been sentenced as a witch and a revision must be undertaken as soon as possible”. Justice for Joan was slowly but surely on its way, as the next step was the trial of rehabilitation. This new trial was meant to shed a light on any new evidence that could prove that the original decision of Joan’s guilt was incorrect. Four examinations were held in Paris, Orleans, Domremy, and Rouen; in the new trial evidence from those examinations came out and were a key part of the final verdict. The original trial was deemed invalid due to the judges involved being far too biased. Another issue was the fact that procedure wasn’t followed the entire time. Joan was pardoned of those charges, but some didn’t mind pointing out that she shouldn’t have been charged in the first place. In her book, Thiel says, “Joan was pardoned for sins she had never committed but of which she had been convicted”. Joan was charged, put to trial, and executed all due to the prejudice few had for her outweighing the faith and love others had in her.
Before the process of sainthood is revealed, it is important to know just exactly what a saint is; a saint is defined as a person who is acknowledged as holy and they typically are regarded as being in heaven after death. It is obvious to see that Joan was a saint from the moment her soul departed from this earth. Mary Gordon explains, ‘Joan of Arc was a virgin and died for what she believed, but she does not fit the type of the virgin martyr. . . she is like all great saints, a personality of genius’. Sainthood requires various steps to be taken in order for the process to be properly carried out. One of the most important steps is known as beatification. Beatification is when a Pope declares that a deceased being is in a state of bliss. Four miracles are typically required in order for beatification to be secured, but Pope Pius IX did grant dispensation of one miracle since Joan had managed to save France. Now only three miracles needed to be linked to Joan, and they all ended up originating from three nuns living in France. Sister Therese was cured of leg ulcers, Sister Julie was cured of a cancerous ulcer in her breast, and Sister Marie was cured of stomach cancer. The Pope deemed all of these as authentic and accepted them. Joan of Arc was officially declared as blessed on April 11, 1909. The next stepping stone to sainthood is canonization.
Canonization is the last step in the process and the official admission of a deceased person into sainthood. Even after the three miracles which are required for beatification, two more must be authenticated in order for canonization to be granted. According to the text, ‘Two such miracles were attributed to Joan of Arc which sealed her sainthood – a healing from tuberculosis and the healing of a hole in the sole of a woman’s foot’. Joan of Arc was canonized on May 16, 1920, and the celebration took place in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Although being granted canonization was an enormous victory for Joan of Arc’s legacy and her supporters, it is hard to look over the fact that it took four grueling centuries to get to that point.
Joan of Arc still proves to be of significance in today’s society. She represents and serves as an excellent example of true courage. Joan began her heroic journey as a young girl of only fourteen, and it took overwhelming amounts of gall for her to face grown men and brush off all of their attempts to make her stray away from her mission. Even when her family, her own band of men, and her country may not have believed in her she still managed to carry on. Joan also showcased the importance of faith. Every decision that the young hero ever made, she made sure to base it off of what would please her God. Even as a young girl when she began to have visions, no matter how unusual they seemed, she agreed to follow through with their plans for her in order to obey her Lord. Joan shows total devotion throughout her entire life, even her last dying breath was used to plead to God. If the life of Joan of Arc was inspected, it would without a doubt be noticeable that her entire life was impacted by her faith and she had no qualms with letting the entire world know just how much it meant to her. For even when she was taunted for letting her faith guide her, she would not let it outweigh her perseverance.
While Joan of Arc has been known as defying common gender roles in her time period, she also managed to have enough influence to guide her country back onto the right path during the war. Her accolades alone are enough to engrave her memory in the minds of everyone in today’s world, but her journey to sainthood is what is most memorable about her. Over a time period of 400 years countless bishops worked in order to clear Joan’s good name, and put the injustices done to her in the spotlight. Even today her significance lives on as she serves as an excellent example of what it is like to truly be courageous; for those who look to St. Joan for guidance they may even be impacted by her remarkable way of keeping her faith, never letting anything push her from the path of righteousness. Joan left such a mark on this world, and connected with so many people, that she will forever live on in history as a young heroine turned saint.
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