A Holy Rebel

Joan of Arc confuses me a bit. I watched the movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (see trailer here). Though I can’t rightfully say whether the movie did a good job or not in portraying her, I confess I’m a little confused as to the “message” of Joan of Arc. I understand she is a symbol of patriotism. In fact, I discovered that prior to her canonization in 1920 she was considered “as a symbol of patriotism in the US”:

“When the United States entered the war, Americans swiftly disregarded Joan’s national origins and began to claim her as a universal patriot. A song called “Joan of Arc — They Are Calling You” was penned by Alfred Bryan and Willie Weston. Set to music by Jack Wells, it became extremely popular with the American public and was often sung by U.S. doughboys.

Books about Joan flooded the market, including a sentimental tale titled The Broken Soldier and the Maid of France, in which a brave young Joan appears to a French deserter and inspires him to return to his unit. Children’s books such as Joan of Arc: The Warrior Maid brought Joan’s story to the juvenile set. Mark Twain’s book about Joan was reissued with lavish illustrations by artist Howard Pyle.

A film called “Joan the Woman” was released on Christmas Day, 1916. Starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan, this 180-minute Cecil B. DeMille epic received glowing reviews and achieved box office success.

A New York monument to Joan was commissioned in 1915. It was designed by sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt, who consulted with experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to ensure that Joan’s armor and sword were depicted in a historically accurate manner.


After the Great War finally ended, U.S. relations with France soured over disputes concerning war loans. Joan was quickly and quietly dropped as a symbol of American patriotism. After she was elevated to sainthood, Joan “belonged to” the Roman Catholics and was no longer extremely popular with the nation as a whole.”

(From here)

But in addition to patriotism it would seem to me that she could inspire a bit of rebellion as well. Or, maybe that’s just how some could view her.  For instance, there are the voices she heard which she said were from God but the church at the time didn’t believe; she rode into battle dressed as a man; she cut her hair.  It seems that just as she can be praised for being a patriot she can also be exalted as being a holy rebel, a patron saint for pretty much anything and anyone the Church disagrees with. Like I said, I don’t know how accurate the movie was and I’m sure there were a number of discrepancies but for a good part of  the film she seemed to be a little nuts. It was the Church who was against her. Then, some twenty years later they pardoned her only to wait another 500 years before canonizing her. One wonders if this can in any way inspire those whom are shunned today to think in time the Church will finally see where it went wrong.

On the other hand, tomorrow we celebrate in our Church another warrior saint. Tomorrow is Vidovdan, the feast day of St. Lazar the Great Martyr of Kosovo, when we remember in our prayers all the heroes of Kosovo field. Yet this day we celebrate a different kind of patriotism, dying not for the earthly kingdom “which lasts only for a brief time. But the Heavenly Kingdom which is always and forever.”  I suppose connections can be made between Joan of Arc and St. Lazar, but I’m afraid they aren’t very strong.

But if nothing else they are both known for their victories. After the victory over the English and their siege of Orleans Joan became known as the Maid of Orleans. St. Lazar, on the other hand, after his victory on Kosovo field, which cost him his head, became known as St. Lazar of Kosovo. For it was there that he found his victory and, as the poet says, “all was holy and honorable and acceptable to gracious God.”


2 thoughts on “A Holy Rebel

  1. The Joan depicted in the movie The Messenger bares little resemblance to the real Saint Joan of history. The 1999 movie is much better in portraying Joan although the movie does have some major deviations from history. The real Saint Joan ultimately lead her people back to God and the ultimate freedom found only in Jesus Christ. A perfect movie about her has yet to be done but you can find some reviews of the ones out there at:

  2. On the way to my church, I go around a traffic circle which has in its center a large golden statue of Joan of Arc on horseback. You’d never know it was her. It looks like a knight on horseback. The statue used to be a pleasant light green from the patinated brass it is cast from, but a few years ago, the Catholic parish that borders the circle had the statue “restored” and it is now a gleaming gold color, probably lacquered over to keep it that way.

    I have never been comfortable with young girls hearing voices. I have never felt it was right the way women mystics tend to throw the Western Church over the edge into the abyss of “new revelations”, either ahead of, or trailing, the popes’ pontifications.

    Although I know many Orthodox who believe that the Roman Catholic “apparitions” of Mary are valid, I know of none that I can accept. To me all are frauds—Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, Guadalupe, you name it. To be honest, I am always suspicious of “apparitions”, no matter who has them. And of voices, well, I’ve known too many people afflicted with mental illness to trust “voices.”

    Patriotism of the earthly sort can be worth dying for, as in the case of political freedom. That is not what was going on in the days of Joan of Arc; political freedom had not yet been invented. Patriotism of the heavenly sort, yes, if we must die to maintain the truth of Christ, then so be it, and I don’t want to be left behind.

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