During our summer message series, Wonder Women: Female Heroes of the Bible, we will highlight a saint who exemplifies the qualities of our biblical heroine for the week. This week’s heroine is Deborah.. Listen to her story on our past messages page by clicking here.
Almost three thousand years after the heroic judgement of Deborah delivered the Israelites from persecution under the Canaanites, another strong woman steps onto the battlefield. This time, she wears a suit of armor and hands down orders from a horse instead of from beneath a palm tree: St. Joan of Arc, who plays a crucial role in the conclusion of the Hundred Years’ War. A series of ghastly conflicts between the rulers of England and the rulers of France over the right to rule France, the war drags on for over a century.
That is, until Joan of Arc comes into the picture.
Born in the tiny village of Domrémy, in Eastern France in approximately 1412, Joan purportedly began having visions of the saints at age thirteen. St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret would visit her, commanding her to drive out the oppressive English rulers threatening France and to bring the crown prince to Reims for his coronation.
In 1429, Joan was finally able to petition the crown prince Charles to allow her into battle. He was highly skeptical of this passionate, fiery, committed farm girl and could not really believe that she had been granted visions from God.
But, he was close to giving up. The English army had held the advantage for the majority of the hundred years, and Charles had exhausted all of his logical options. So, after receiving a cursory report of her religiosity and virtuosity from his theologians at Poitiers, he approved her for battle. His advisers were not so quickly convinced, and suggested she be sent to the Siege of Orléans as a test of her credibility. Although historians disagree on the exact timeline of events after Joan’s arrival at Orléans, it is known that the French mobilized for its first offensive in over five months and that the English forces waved a white flag just nine days later.
Joan is similar to Deborah in so many ways: both women, they should have been ignored and cast aside by the male-centered cultures of their worlds. Yet something compels the powerful men to listen to these women — none of them are completely sure why — and God supports the women, granting them wisdom, courage, and right judgement in the face of adversity.
Joan is a perfect example of bravery and tenacity, and strength and commitment. We can so easily strive to be more like Joan and Deborah, and we can start by simply remembering that God places every person in our lives for a specific purpose. Charles took a chance on the illiterate farm girl from backwoods France. When we pray to St. Joan of Arc, let us ask her for the strength, patience, and empathy to treat each person we interact with as an agent from God, and to take a chance on each one of them.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner