Rorate Caeli

Trial of St. Joan of Arc: History brings clarity with what's happening at the Synod

The following is a sermon delivered today, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, by a traditional mission priest. We provide you with the text of the sermon below, and you may click here to listen to the audio.

"... this second synod broke nearly every law known at the time, both canonical and civil, on how trials are conducted. Methods used against Joan included among other things, packing the court, confusion tactics and false contradicting statements, as well as a sort of shadow synod."

“There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, simple and upright and fearing God; whom Satan besought that he might tempt: and power was given him from the Lord over his possessions and his flesh; and he destroyed all his substance and his children, and wounded his flesh also with a grievous ulcer”— Offertory Antiphon
There was a man named Job. St. Zeno of Verona (d. 380) and other fathers say Job is a type of Christ. St. Gregory the Great goes one step further in stating: “Holy Job is a type of the Church.” In other words, Job acts as a prefigurement of the future Passion of the Christ as well as His Mystical Body, the Church. We are now in one of the Job-moments of our Holy Mother, the Church.

Recall that a TYPE is a historical person, thing or event that really happened, but, at the same time, mysteriously prefigures a future reality that is bigger than itself. Our God is the Lord and Master of all History. Only He can work things out at one moment in time… such that it foreshadows another later moment. This is especially seen in the link between the Old and New Testaments. Listen to the Church Father St. Melito of Sardis: “It is [Christ] who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed Him. In Abel He was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover Lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets.” And so on with the entire Old Testament. (By the way, there are no such types to be found in any other writings. They are not in the Koran… nor in the book of Mormon. What does this mean? We are in the right place!)

John Henry Newman with keen insight observed the deeper nature of types for all time, teaching: “In truth every event in the world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging… For every age presents its own picture of those future events which alone are the real fulfillment of the prophecy which stands at the head of them all” (The Antichrist, Miceli, p. 106). What prophecy is that? The end! This amazing insight explains why the saints could see the connectivity of all time! Starting with the Apostles themselves, the saints considered their own day to be those of the end time. Why so? They could see, taste and smell the “mystery of iniquity” that will come to its culmination in the last days … they could see it already at work before their very eyes by way of types. E.g., St. Thomas More considered Martin Luther to be the antichrist or least his prophet. This means all the “revolutionary men” … heretics, apostates, tyrants, traitors, godless men of all time act as types of the antichrist… some more so than others. So, history is connected by way of types from beginning to the very end.

This is important because the faithful living at the latter moments will find comfort in how the former saints passed through their trials. If they could do it, so can we. If God was there for them, He will be here for us too!! Also, no matter how strange or new something may seem in the present, we have somehow been here before somewhere along the line in a type.

Using this most valuable insight of how God arranges the train of history,  let us go back in time to find comfort, hope, and even reasons for rejoicing at this trying moment. One place we find a clear type of our time is in the life and death of St. Joan of Arc. 

This young virginal woman typified the virginal Bride of Christ, Who is without spot or wrinkle. Like Her Lord and His Church, Joan rose up out of the backwaters of her kingdom, from a border area whence no one expected anything good. Joan the leader of armies, the deliverer of France, trained by St. Michael Himself, shows forth the Church Militant. Still a teen, she wondrously raised up a king. The girl from Domremy, the town named after the bishop St. Remigius, who baptized Clovis, the first Catholic King of France, along with 3,000 of his men (making France the Church’s eldest daughter), … this little girl lifted the despairing siege of Orleans in the length of a novena, blazed a trail to Rheims to crown the dauphin Charles VII in a matter of months. His father had fallen into madness, his Bavarian queen mother disowned him and sold him for a worldly political alliance. Through a woman France was betrayed. This all too familiar type of Adam and Eve would not be allowed to remain. And so, through a virgin, God would save His eldest daughter. With Joan the tides of the Hundred Years War suddenly reversed. 

As everyone knows, after St. Joan performed her duties, those loyal to the English cause, namely the Burgundians, most especially the bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, cried out, “We will not have this man rule over us!” Before long, Joan was betrayed at Compiegne and sold for a king’s ransom, being more valued by her enemies than her friends.

It is important to recall that before Joan could carry out her saving work, she was examined by a council or synod of bishops and priests and found to be pure, spotless, and holy. They sent her back to the King as one whose help should not be despised. After her capture, as everyone knows, she was again put on trial by a second synod of bishops and priests who had already concluded ahead of time that she and her king were schismatic, heretical and of the devil. A fait accompli, this second synod dismissed the findings of the first, pressured its participants to go along or else,  and exiled others. Synod against synod, council against council, Cardinals against Cardinals, bishops against bishops. Hmmm.

What is more, this second synod broke nearly every law known at the time, both canonical and civil, on how trials are conducted. Methods used against Joan included among other things, packing the court, confusion tactics and false contradicting statements, as well as a sort of shadow synod. In the end, unable to make anything of substance really stick, they finally just ordered her to be killed. Joan died without an official judgment being declared or read aloud. 

As she was consumed by fire, she spoke the Holy Name of Jesus with such fervor that nearly everyone, both friend and foe alike wept, walking away beating their breasts. When the executioner came to dispose of the ashes he found her heart unburned and still bleeding. Because of the work of St. Joan, most especially this her Passion, some 20 years later the Hundred Years War came to an end in 1453… the very year the Muslim Turks captured Constantinople. Not long afterward, the English fell into schism and heresy over the Sacrament of Marriage, unwilling to allow Christ the King to rule over them.

We are now drawing nigh to the end of another 'hundred years war' between heaven and hell requested by the devil within the hearing of Pope Leo XIII. Satan has been unleashed and permitted to do to the Church what He did to Job and to Joan. It is not just the Sacrament of Marriage that is on trial at this second synod going on in Rome. Rather this is just one of the more recent battles for the Church as a whole. Like Joan, no final judgment will be easily reached… but they will order Her to be done away with regardless. This moment is not only a Job moment, it is also a Joan moment. 

What should also be of interest to us today is this: the armies sent against Joan were supposed to go on Crusade against the Muslim Turks and heretical Hussites. Instead they fought fellow Christians in France, thereby allowing the Muslims to overthrow Constantinople. There is more than one reason why the Muslims are beginning to rise up in force once again. 

But we must take heart. Just as the passion of Joan ultimately saved France, so the Passion of the Church will deliver the world. Come what may, like Job and Joan, the Mystical Body cannot be totally destroyed… Her heart will remain, bleeding out blood and water… such that She will rise up again… victorious when the chalice has been filled. 

Let us end today with this very important point of hope for our present crisis. In the official statement referring to Joan’s rehabilitation, after considering all the collected data in toto, we find these edifying words in regards to the trial, judgments and final demise of St. Joan which surely typify a future truly Catholic council that will rule definitively on what is taking place at this moment. 

“We declare, that on certain points the truth of [Joan’s] confessions has been passed over in silence; that on other points her confessions have been falsely translated—a double unfaithfulness… 

“We declare, that even the form of certain words has been altered, in such manner as to change the substance [of their meaning]. [mercy, love, marriage, spouse, natural law…]

“For the which, these same Articles, as falsely, calumniously, and deceitfully extracted, and as contrary even to the Confessions of the Accused, we break, annihilate, and annul; and, … we ordain, by this present judgment, that they be torn up.

“We say, pronounce, decree, and declare, the said Processes and Sentences full of cozenage (trickery and deceit), iniquity, inconsequences, and manifest errors, in fact as well as in law; We say that they have been, are, and shall be… null, non-existent, without value or effect.

“we break them, annihilate them, annul them, and declare them void of effect; and we declare that the said Jeanne and her relatives… have not, on account of the said Trial, contracted nor incurred any mark or stigma of infamy; we declare them quit and purged of all the consequences of these same Processes…” (cf. Jeanne D’Arc: Maid of Orleans, Deliverer of France, ed. By T. Douglas Murray, pp 303-307).