You can read the book for details, but below you’ll find five key lessons we can glean from Twain’s story and the life lived by one of history’s greatest saints, Joan of Arc:Share
1. Lay people can (and should) live lives of heroic virtue.
Although arguably more responsibility is placed upon the shoulders of the ordained, we laymen and laywomen have a call no different than that of our brothers and sisters in the religious life. A ticket to heaven is not part of the “swag” given to a priest at his ordination. Priests and bishops – even the Pope himself – only keep their faith and achieve sanctity by upholding their pursuit of the Truth through prayer and faithfulness to Christ.
Joan of Arc showed that radical holiness and faithfulness is a call of every person by virtue of the sacrament of baptism, not the sacrament of Holy Orders. Her witness is also a prime example that the path to holiness contains elements we may not suspect. Just as daily prayer and loving one’s enemies are essential to a healthy spiritual life, so too are things like love of country and a zeal for justice.
2. The Church will always survive the damage done by bad churchmen.
The story’s chief villain, Pierre Cauchon, was presiding bishop of the Diocese of Beauvais (France) and a sympathizer of the English cause. Cauchon was the chief persecutor of Joan during her imprisonment and trial, stooping to abominable lows — at one point eavesdropping on Joan in a Confession he manipulatively set up — in his multiple attempts to entrap her. Those who have read the book can attest that he was, in a word, a monster.
Cauchon was, however, still a legitimately appointed bishop and successor to the Apostles, despite his corrupt actions. How do we reconcile this if we say at the same time that the Catholic Church is protected by God?
Well, when Jesus instituted Peter as head of the Church in Matthew 16:18, he promised that evil would never prevail over the Church. He didn’t say anything about evil never giving the Church a run for its money. Every man who follows a calling to the priesthood is able to choose the kind of man he will be.
After all, it was Jesus who called Judas to be an Apostle, but Judas who chose to betray Christ.
3. This world isn’t the end.
Joan’s earthly life ended with her being burned at the stake, deemed a heretic (however unjustly), and denounced as a fraud. It seemed to be a resounding and permanent defeat, a success for her persecutors, and a death blow for the French.
But even Joan, despite having withstood weeks of unrelenting punishment at the hands of her captors, never despaired. Her hope for heaven never wavered, even in her darkest moments, because she knew the life she was living on earth was a means to an ultimate end: heaven and eternal happiness with God. (Read more.)