By: Debbie Herbeck
Have you ever met another girl your own age and wished you could be like her? I mean something more profound than: “I wish I had her looks or her brains or her wardrobe.” If I had known about this girl when I was seventeen, I think I would have been stirred and inspired to reach beyond myself and my small life, to a greater calling and purpose.
If you don’t know much about St. Joan of Arc, here is a brief version of her fascinating, but short life: born to peasant farmers during the Hundred Years War with England, this uneducated girl from a small French village helped her father on the farm and prayed fervently. Her friends teased her for her piety. At age 13 she heard voices and received visions from St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret of Antioch, who encouraged her deepening faith. They also informed her that she had a great mission to perform. At 16 her “voices” told her that it was time to undertake this mission to save her country by helping the King of France regain his throne. The events that followed are hard to fathom.
Imagine yourself as a teenage girl, going to the Pentagon in Washington, DC and insistently demanding to see the Secretary of Defense, saying that God had given you a plan to end terrorism, and all you required was an army of soldiers with weapons, who you would lead into battle. That is precisely what seventeen-year-old Joan did as she stood before the French officials in 1429. Not only did it seem inconceivable that she was sent by God, but everything she said came true, exactly as she said it would. She heroically led the French army in battle, recapturing major cities, and restoring Charles VII to the throne.
Honestly, I’m not sure any of us can imagine ourselves doing what Joan of Arc did. She was so brave and so extraordinary in her faith and obedience to God. But her young life should challenge our deepest expectations about what our lives can be too.
Joan would have preferred to stay home with her family as a “normal” girl, but she was convinced that God was calling her to this mission and she would not disobey or stop until she had done what He had asked her to do. How often, in our daily lives do we choose what is safe and comfortable, rather than stepping out even in small ways to do what God is asking?
Joan’s life-line was prayer, and it was there that she received her marching orders, conviction, and consolation. How often and how readily do we discard our time of prayer, and allow that precious, life-giving time with Jesus to be replaced by other things? Joan knew with striking clarity who she was, and what she was called to do, not because she was full of herself with delusions of grandeur, but because she was full of Jesus.
She was persistent, courageous, unrelenting, and clever but it was her purity, her youth, her innocence and humility, that allowed her to do what she did. Today’s world tells women that to accomplish something great, powerful, and heroic, we must be just like men. But it wasn’t Joan’s "manliness" that allowed her to put on the heavy armor and become a warrior. Despite being surrounded by rough soldiers and the sufferings she saw in battle, she never compromised her dignity or her womanly virtue. Although a small young woman, she was great in stature and even the roughest of men admired her and stood in awe of her.
This is how Mark Twain, in his famous biography Joan of Arc, described her:
In many ways, we live in similar times. Each one of us has a mission in this life; we are called to do something no one else can do. You may not think your mission can shift the course of a nation’s history as Joan’s did, but how you live your life in Christ and respond to His call matters immensely.
Joan’s sacrifice gained much for France, but the cost was her very life; she was burned at the stake by the English, as she repeatedly called on the name of Jesus. Are we willing to risk comfort and reputation, to push through laziness and selfishness to make a difference in our world? Will we speak for the unborn, the marginalized, the weak, the poor? Will we be led by the unseen but powerful voice of God who desires to direct our steps? Will we be authentic love to a world that so often values productivity and progress above human connection?
Joan of Arc is a great model for the Be Love Revolution! May her courage, strength, and love of God inspire us to great heights and to the conviction that we can change our world. Let’s begin each day by praying the words of this beloved saint: “I place trust in God, My Creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart.”