Beatification of Joan of Arc
Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Joan of Arc’s Beatification!
The official Beatification of Joan of Arc took place in April of 1909 when the Roman Catholic Church declared her to be Blessed. This was the second step on her path to being declared a Saint by the Church having been declared Venerable in 1904. The official pronouncement by Pope Pius X was issued on April 11, 1909, and a ceremony was held in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on April 18, 1909. Below is a translation by Dylan Schrader of the pronouncement from the official Vatican record, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, for 1909.
For everlasting memory. The name of a young maiden of Orleans, noble for all time, that has already been given over to immortality and that will be inscribed officially among the blessed in Heaven, is a witness to divine power, which “has chosen what is weak in the world to confound what is strong” (1 Cor 1:27). For when in the year of our salvation 1428, civil upheavals and internal conflicts, not briefer nor less serious than a war with the English, pointed to the widespread and swift destruction of France, and no refuge or hope of rescue for the defeated seemed possible, God, who with a unique love constantly attended to this most noble of nations, called forth a woman “to free her people and gain for herself an everlasting name” (1 Macc 4:44). The whole life of the magnanimous and most patriotic Joan of Arc, called the maid of Orleans, seems to have been a fortuitous sign. Born in the town of Domremy, within the boundaries of the diocese of Toul, Joan would tend the sheep of her father near a shady grove that was once a sanctuary for the superstition of Druidism, but in that place, this uneducated and poor farm girl who had not yet completed her fifteenth year, beholding the wide view of the valley below, used to lift up her mind to him who furnished the mountains and the forests, the fields and the thickets, with such splendid adornment that they by far surpass any luxurious pomp and any lavishness of the royal purple. The only care of this girl, ignorant of the world, was to decorate the plain altar of the Virgin with flowers that she had picked, and the uproar of so terrible a war had barely reached her ears. But, when the siege of Orleans at its overthrow sapped both the town itself and the fortune of King Charles VII – for the nobles of the province of France had already yielded to the English invasion – it was, in these dire straits, to Joan attending to her usual duties in the family orchard, that the voice of Michael, the prince of the heavenly host, was heard, even as it once sounded to Judas Machabbeus, “Take up the holy sword, which is a task given by God, with which you will slay the adversaries of my people Israel” (2 Macc 15:16). This daughter of peace was roused to the things of war. At first, the maiden was astounded and afraid, but after the voices from Heaven continued, as if the divine spirit had been breathed into her, she did not at all doubt that she ought exchange the spinning wheel for the sword, and the shepherds’ pipes for the sounding of trumpets.
Neither the concern of her parents nor the danger of the long journey kept her from working for God. Wherefore with simple but sublime speech, she stood in the sight of potentates and asked to be led to the king, and despite the opposing customs, rejections, and doubts, revealed to king Charles the mandate which she regarded as divinely given to her, and, relying on heavenly signs, she promised that she would free Orleans from the siege. Then God, “who gives strength to the weak, and multiplies fortitude and power for those who are not,” (Is 40:29) graced this poor farm girl, who did not even know her letters, with such wisdom, teaching, military expertise, and even knowledge of the hidden things of God, that no one could deny that in her lay the salvation of the people. A following of people of various sorts from every place broke out. Soldiers well-versed in wars, rulers, and leaders, overjoyed at their newfound hope, followed the girl with praise and rejoicing. She, bearing her maiden’s body upon a horse, laden with the arms of men, girded with a sword and waving in her hand a white banner interwoven with golden lilies, charged at the English, who took pride at their repeated victories. In that noble battle, not without the present assistance of God, the enemy forces were driven back and overthrown by fear, and this victorious maiden, on May 7, 1429, recovered for the people of Orleans the walls that had previously been taken. But, before she launched an assault against the invading English, Joan urged the soldiers to hope in God, to love their country, and to keep the precepts of the holy Church. Gentle, just as she had been in the care of the flock, and heroically brave, she was fearful to the enemy, but she could scarcely hold back her tears when she saw men dying. She went into battle as a leader but slew no one with the sword, remaining pure and unstained by blood, even amid the slaughter and the licentiousness of camp. Thus, it became quite clear what faith can do! The people soon took heart anew from an unexpected source, and love for their country and restored piety toward God gave added strength in the face of egregious crimes. The girl, unconquered in such great endeavors, challenged the English in many battles and finally scattered and drove back their army near the town of Patay in that most celebrated battle. She then led her king, Charles VII, in splendid triumph to Rheims to be anointed in his solemn consecration as king in that temple where Clovis I king of the Franks was washed in the purifying waters by the holy Remigius and laid the foundation of the nation of France. Thus were the enemies of the name of France fought against by Heaven. Thus, having saved her country by divine aid, the maiden of Arc fulfilled her mission. She, who was humble of heart, wanted only to return to her sheepfold and her poor dwelling, but, already fit for Heaven, she could not possess her own will. Only a short time later, while fighting, she was captured by some enemies, who could not bear that they had been defeated by a girl, and, bound in chains, she was led after various trials to be harshly imprisoned within the enemy camp, until at last in Rouen after six months, like an expiatory victim for the redemption of France, she was condemned to fire. Yet splendidly brave and merciful even in her last trial, she beseeched God to forgive those who put her to death and to keep her country and her king safe. Put on a stake and enveloped in the consuming flames, she kept her gaze fixed on Heaven, and the venerable and sweet names of Jesus and Mary were the dying girl’s last words. And so, the renowned maiden achieved immortal glory, but the tale of her sanctity and the memory of her deeds has lived on in the mouths of men, especially in the city of Orleans, even up to the secular honors that have recently been given to her, and it will live on for future generations always fresh with new praise. Indeed, the praise first given to Judith seems to fall appropriately to her also, “In every nation that hears your name, the God of Israel will be magnified on your account” (Judith 13:31).
Only in more recent times has her cause begun to be pursued under the supervision of the Sacred Congregation of Rites to declare that the honors of the blessed in Heaven belong also to the Maiden of Arc, and this indeed has come to pass by divine confirmation. For in the present time, in which the Catholic world sees and is saddened by so many great evils and in which so many who hate the name of Christian feign love for their homeland because of the ruin both of state and religion, it pleases Us to celebrate the glorious example of that most courageous Maiden, so that these might remember that “to do and to undergo powerful things is characteristically Christian.” We therefore have the sure hope that this venerable servant of God, now counted among the blessed in Heaven, will pray for her homeland, for which she has excellently merited the strengthening of the ancient faith, and that she will pray for the Catholic Church, for which she was most zealous, to be comforted by the return of so many of her sons who go astray. For this reason, in the year after the decree issued 6 January, 1904, after careful examination correctly undertaken according to the law, we declared by a solemn decree that the virtues of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc, called the Maid of Orleans, reached the heights of heroism. Investigation then began regarding the miracles, which were accomplished through her intercession and at God’s command, and when everything had been carried out according to the law, We, by a decree given in the vernacular on 13 December, 1908, declared the authenticity of the three miracles with supreme apostolic authority. Once a judgment had been made regarding her virtues and the three miracles, it remained to be determined whether the venerable servant of God should rightly be counted among the blessed in Heaven. Our beloved Son Ferrata, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, the secretary for her cause, presented this in a general meeting held before Us at the Vatican on 13 January last year, and all those cardinals who oversee the regulation of the sacred Rites and all those who were present as fathers consultors responded with unanimous agreement in the affirmative. But, in a matter of such serious importance, We refrained from making known Our mind, and We deferred the final judgment to another day, so that we could first pray most fervently for heavenly light. Once we had done this without hesitation, at last on 24 January of this year, on the most joyful day of the celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, after solemnly offering the eucharistic sacrifice, with Cardinal Seraphino Cretoni, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Our beloved Son Ferrata, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, the secretary for her cause, and also our venerable Brother Diomede Panici, titular Archbishop of Laodicia and secretary of the same Congregation of Rites, and the Most Reverend Father Alexandro Verde, Promoter of the holy faith, in attendance We solemnly pronounced that We could rightly proceed to the solemn beatification of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc.
Such as things are, and moved by the opinions and votes of the Sacred Bishops of all of France and of other regions, with Our apostolic authority, by force of this letter, We grant the faculty that the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc, called the Maiden of Orleans, shall henceforth be called blessed, and that images of her should be decorated with halos. Therefore by Our same authority we grant that in her honor the Office may be recited and the Mass celebrated every year from the common of Virgins with proper prayers approved by Us. We also grant that the celebration of the Mass and the recitation of the Office may take this form in the diocese of Orleans by all the faithful, whether secular or regular, who are bound to recite the canonical hours, and, as far as the Mass is concerned, by all priests coming to churches in which the same feast occurs, in accordance with the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (3862, Urbis et Orbis), given on 9 December, 1895. And finally, we grant the faculty to celebrate the rites for the beatification of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc in the diocese and the aforementioned churches according to the norm of the decree and instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 16 December, 1902, concerning solemn celebrations on three days within a year of the beatification, which We establish may be done on days to be designated by the Ordinary within the year, once the same rites have been celebrated in the patriarchal Vatican basilica.
Notwithstanding the constitutions and apostolic ordinances and decrees given on non-veneration, and whatever else is to the contrary.
We will that altogether the same faith should be given to the printed copies of the present letter in judicial determinations as is given to this letter as a manifestation of Our will, as long as they are undersigned by the hand of the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and stamped with the seal of the Prefect.
Given in Rome at St Peter beneath the ring of the Fisherman, on 11 April 1909. The sixth year of Our pontificate. Pope Pius X
1The Latin modo albo is a reference to the Roman practice of issuing official decrees, lists of names, etc. on white tablets.
2The Latin tertium aetatis suae lustrum = the third set of five years.
3The Latin domestico pomasio should be domestico pomario.
4The Latin is de non cultu.