Saint Joan of Arc is one of my favorite Saints, and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote her biography as an act of real love and devotion as well as a work of great scholarship. He actually intensely studied both the French and English histories about her for more than a decade before beginning a concentrated 2 years of writing her biography. His biography of Joan has stood the test of time to the extent that the very intellectual and academic Catholic Jesuit Order Publishers, Ignatious Press, purchased the rights to this book and reprinted it in an inexpensive large paperback format to make it widely available as the best English Language biography of Saint Joan ever written. (It is available on Kindle now too.)
This is even more amazing because Clemens did NOT write it as a ‘Hagiography’ or sanctification of a SAINT. He wrote it as the biography of Joan as his muse and heroine, describing how the French Catholics venerated her as a living Saint, but he did not, himself, ever describe her in religious terms as a saint. Instead he constantly emphasized the conflict between the devout Catholic Joan and her simple Catholic peasant friends and admirers, and the politicized clergy that she often confronted during her young life, and who (among the British who captured her during the War) finally tried and martyred her by burning her at the stake for witchcraft.
It is important to understand the mundane politics of this series of events, ending in her martyrdom, because it was NOT the French Catholics who were obedient to the Pope and the French King, who tried, condemned and burned Saint Joan at the stake. France and England were at war and the Pope and the French King had approved Joan’s inconceivable PLEA to lead the French Army. She was an uneducated poor little village girl of 16 years old when she claimed that God wanted her to save France by leading its Army to victory over the English! The question was then raised as to whether she was mad or possessed. In spite of her astonishing request to lead the French Army, she was found faultless by those mundane experts and the French Catholic prelates who investigated her for sorcery, and thus she had the approval of the Pope and the King of France to lead the French Army against England.
Then, after she personally led a series of stunning victories over the English Army, she was captured by the English. Recognizing that she, a little girl, was the cause of their defeat, it was imperative for them to convince their own people that she was demonically possessed! Thus the English held a great fiasco of an open trial to publicly defame her and sentence her to death for ‘witchcraft’. Of course the Catholics of France and the French Clergy who loved and venerated her never accepted the English Court’s politically motivated religious condemnation of Joan, and continued to try to clear her name, finally succeeding when the Magisterium of the Catholic Church formally declared her a Saint, worthy of worship (VENERATION) by the entire universal (catholic) Church.
Of course there are those English and fundamentalist Anti-Catholic Protestants who still cite her childhood play with fairies, and her extraordinary virtues and ‘supernatural powers’ as proof that she was consorting with demons.
As for myself, I venerate Saint Joan as one of my Muses and Protectors and pray to her daily for her strategic guidance, and courage to face my enemies and to bear my wounds courageously.
+ Oh Little Shepardess of my soul, Saint Joan of heroic chastity and goodness, courage and kindness, wisdom and joyfulness, innocence and genius, beauty and renunciation, please give me final perseverance, even in the face of martyrdom, but protect my Family and Friends and Allies, for the sake of the Kingdom of God on Earth! In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen+