Saturday, August 28, 2010

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 9)

As we finish this novena, I'd like to thank readers who prayed along with me. What changes did you experience in yourself as you followed this spiritual discipline? Please share in the comment section below.
This novena has given structure to my days and given me St. Joan of Arc's presence as a spiritual companion. My special intention during this novena was to ask God to find me a job so I may help support my family. I've been searching for work for two years. During that time, I returned to school for retraining so I might become a teacher.

In the middle of my novena days, God answered my prayer. I was offered not one, but two, full-time jobs as a high school English teacher. This was more of a blessing than I could have imagined. I have accepted one of the jobs and begin work soon at a large suburban high school, where I will be a Special Education teacher in the English Department.

We should not consider novenas quid pro quo arrangements, or engage in, as one priest so aptly calls it, dispensing-machine Catholicism. But the more we develop a relationship with Our Lord through prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the better our communication becomes. Like any relationship we care about, we need to spend time together. God does answer prayer.

He did so with Saint Joan of Arc. While she died a tortuous death at the stake, undoubtedly her soul flew peacefully to heaven. The Church eventually restored her reputation and confirmed her as a saint. Her mother, Isabelle Romée (depicted in sculplture in the photo above), began that process after her daughter's death. An illiterate woman like St. Joan, Isabelle, taught her children the beauty of the faith. After her daughter's death, she petitioned the Church for a retrial. A comprehensive trial involving clergy from across Europe concluded in 1456 - 25 years after St. Joan's death -  that the young peasant girl was a martyr.

The nullification trial opened with St. Joan's mother speaking. Now a widow, who had lost two other children in addition to Joan, she traveled to Paris in the winter to attend the trial. Imagine how she felt as she uttered this testimony on November 7, 1455.

 "I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. 

Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire. For the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous and irreparable loss to me, Isabelle, and mine. I demand that her name be restored."

When Isabelle was 78, the court found the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, guilty of heresy. The man had manipulated St. Joan's trial and sent her death into motion to suit his own political agenda. The Church canonized St. Joan of Arc in 1920, 500 years after her martyrdom.

Dear Saint Joan, Thank you for accompanying me throughout the day, and in the work that I did. Thank you also for your guidance and your counsel. Please help me to listen to God and to you, dear Saint, that I may do what I am called to do. Please intercede on my behalf and beg God to take all my faults and turn them into virtues. I thank you for all you have done for me, and all the things you have interceded for on my behalf. Please continue to pray for me and for all the souls who need it.

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for us. Amen.