Canonization – St. Joan of Arc
The immortality of the saints does not consist only in everlasting life: it endures forever on earth. And not in the heavenly fame of sanctity, nor in the unceasing inspiration of their exalted lives, but in their presence, and their living influence for good—"they shall judge nations, and rule over people" (Wis. iii, 8). Perhaps to Joan, too, is given that realm of France, which she fought so gloriously to save, as "the Father hath disposed" it, according to her, to Him whom she served so nobly (St. Luke, xxii. 29). Even now they are proclaiming her "the Saint of France"—no longer simply the Maid. Stranger still, her ancient foes of Albion, whom she never hated; the Scots, who fought with her—a mighty host, join with enthusiastic France, with drum and cannon, which she loved—join in measureless procession, to enwreathe her statues, and proclaim her praise, as if, victory even now were due to her. All this is happening as the bells of peace are ringing after five years of world-war. Joan, has been much invoked during the anguish blood, and tears of these dark and fateful days.
Explain it how we, may, the tide of invasion rolled no farther than that battle line traced by Joan on the Meuse, Marne, and Oise.
Joan's immortality has grown with time, until now, when, after. 500 years, the Church, which was to her indeed the kingdom of God, and its head, to whom she appealed from the unjust and immolating fire of Rouen, have set upon her the imperishable crown of sainthood. For the treason of the captains and the unworthy clerics, for rejection like that of the Master, for the vile insult and brutal captivity, for calumny and death-dealing condemnation, for ignominy and the remorseless flame, comes the crown of life and light at last. To-morrow France will light her festal fires, and wreathe her fading garlands, and sound all her joyous bells and warlike bugles amidst the thunder of her cannons, for Joan; while Domremy, Orleans, and Rouen will thrill with joy: and perhaps some angel will give back again to the ancient abbey of St. Denis her sword and banner, and white, untarnished armor. Rome has spoken the last word---Joan is the "Saint of France," although the solemn proclamation is reserved a few days more, till stricken France can recollect herself in joy.
The process of Joan's canonization was accomplished much more quickly than was anticipated. Her French advocates evidently hastened the great affair on account of the horrible war and its foreseen conclusion. For it was easy to see how much the faith of
France would benefit by the canonization of the Warrior Maid.
At Rome, on the 27th of March, 1919, there was a general assembly of the Congregation of Rites at the Vatican in presence of the Pope, to examine the miracles presented for the canonization. There were present thirteen Cardinals and twenty Consultors, in a session, which lasted three hours. On the following Wednesday, His Holiness announced his decision: he accepted the miracles, and communicated the decisive fact to Cardinal Amette. On April 6th, the Decree of acceptance was solemnly read in the Hall of Consistory. It was filled with invited guests, especially from France. Amongst these were the representatives of 200,000 widows of the great war, who had come to pledge to the Holy See the loyalty of the bereaved mothers and their children. It was Passion Sunday, and well it befitted the tragedy of the Maid and of France.
The Holy Father made a beautiful address, to which the eloquent Bishop of Orleans, Mgr. Touchet, responded. One of the miracles, the cure of Teresa Belin, had occurred at Lourdes, but at the intercession of Joan, thus linking, in French hearts, the Immaculate Mother with the Virgin Warrior.
The Acta S. Sedis of May 1st published the Decree, in which the Holy Father recalled the injustice which men so often commit in the name of patriotism.
Abusing the word, they condemn, as hostile to their country, the Catholic Church, which makes patriotism a virtue. The heroic Joan of Arc was the type of Christian patriotism. Yet her marvelous deeds had been foolishly attributed to natural causes, whereas her whole career lucidly proved the contrary.
On Sunday, May 18, 1919, Paris hastened to honor the "Saint of the Fatherland." Two hundred thousand were in procession, yet the vast multitude was in perfect order. There were delegations from Alsace-Lorraine and from Poland; from the Union of Fathers and Mothers (of the Slain); from the Veterans of sea, and shore; from the National Federation of old soldiers, the 'Naval League, the Patriotic League of Frenchwomen, from the School Association; there were deputies and municipal councilors at the head of the League of Patriots, with officers, soldiers, and boy scouts.
Through vast applauding multitudes the long line advanced. The statues of Joan on the route were covered with rich garlands, while the working people offered their lowlier bouquets. The whole way was brilliant with the flags of France and her allies.
The national celebration was on June 1st, Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, which is the day of Joan's festival since her beatification. The capital again hung out its flags; the churches and many private houses displayed the banner of Joan. At Orleans the British troops, headed by a Scottish band, took part in the procession
and placed wreaths on Joan's monument, while an English Commander made an address.
Commenting on the national festival, an English Protestant newspaper said: "As an historical and mystical figure, Joan of Are occupies a unique position in the annals of France. Her name is the inspiration of her country; her life and deeds, one of the great romances of history.... The summit of her achievement was her purity of character and simple patriotism: these have become the great inspiration of France."