Rorate Caeli

Charity and humility: Our Lord and the Church are one
Update: full translation

The message of the Holy Father for this Wednesday's General Audience was on Saint Joan of Arc. The following passages were quite striking (full translation by Zenit):
Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake. It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants. They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission. This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" ("Lumen Gentium," 8). It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake. As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God. Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint. ...
Joan saw Jesus as the "King of Heaven and Earth." Thus, on her standard, Joan had the image painted of "Our Lord who sustains the world" (Ibid., p. 172), icon of her political mission. The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations. Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the "triumphant Church" of Heaven, and the "militant Church" of earth. According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one "whole" (Ibid., p. 166). This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her. In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction. ...
Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church.
Charity, humility, and an understanding that Christ and the Church are strictly united are notions that many Catholics do not seem to remember in their daily lives and especially in their daily words. (Image: Cardinal Beaufort questions Saint Joan of Arc.)


  1. The Pope's comment remind me of astounded Lutheran minister who had to concede that St. Francis de Sales' rigorous opposition to Protestantism was always and totally permeated by love ... in these times of confusion may this spirit of St. Francis be ever more adhered to.

  2. I strongly recommend The Passion of Joan of Arc, the silent film first released in 1928 and restored and released on DVD by Criterion with a specially composed oratorio. It is amazing.

  3. videomaker7:47 AM

    In addition to Timothy's excellent recommendation, I'd also suggest trying Bresson's The Trial of Joan of Arc. It's a very different take to Dreyer's, but extremely powerful in its own way.

  4. Yes, the Church on earth at times needs to be purified but let us remember that it was the members of the Church itself rather than the Mystical Body that needed to be purified. Sometimes I believe that distinction is not made clear.

  5. Tom the Milkman12:43 AM

    I second Paul Haley's moving comments here. It is an important distinction to remember that the Church is Christ's mystical body, perfect with our Saviour's perfection, but worked out, as it were, here on earth by and through us sinners. It's a distinction that can become for us, if truly lived, a source of hope. That divine, almost inexplicable connection verily courses through the Holy Father's words on St Joan of Arc. How easy to find ourselves discouraged by the state of the Church in the world, the deceits and waywardness and sorrow of men who have lost their way from the perfect light of Christ's mystical body. It's a tragedy that pursues each and every one of us in this mortal coil. To remember the perfection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to know it is ours through His Sacrifice not only sustains, but quickens us. For myself, it's the reason I remain attached only to the ancient Mass, to the ancient rite of that blessed Sacrifice here on earth. For me, the saving Action so perfectly embodied in the ancient Mass liturgy is the greatest source of holy hope on earth. Recognizing my own sinfulness makes the perfection of Our Lord Jesus Christ an only greater treasure, and consolation beyond measure. God help us! God be praised! God alone!

  6. xavier rynne2:29 AM

    Let's not forget Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, a novel he called his greatest work. It's a mystery to me how I got through 16 years of Catholic education without ever having heard of it.


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