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Common myths and common questions
about Saint Joan of Arc, and saints in general

 

FAQ#1: What's up with this Catholic 'devotion' to the saints? Isn't it the same as worship?

This is perhaps one of the most common objections I have heard to praying to the saints. I have heard this objection from some protestants, mostly fundamentalists. I chose to include this question because of the page of prayers and devotions included at this site.

Have you ever asked someone alive today, like your friends, your fellow church-goers, your family members, to pray for you? Have you ever thanked someone for caring for you? Have you ever complimented someone? That is the exact same thing done when we Catholics pray to the saints. We are not worshipping them. Yes, we may praise them for the virtues they had when they lived, but that is because those virtues in themselves praise our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we may thank them for their love for us. One argument I have heard is that the saints are too busy praising God in Heaven to care about any of us. Rubbish! As Saint Joan herself said during her condemnation trial, the saints love that which God loves, and hate that which God hates. They love and care about us, just as much as God does! If they love us so much, why not thank them for it? When we ask them to pray for us, it is the same thing as asking our own friends to pray for us, since the saints can be friends just as well as any living person!

Some might say, why give glory to any other than Christ? Why try to have a personal relationship with any heavenly being than Him?  It is because, by giving the saints glory, we are already giving glory to Christ, who saved them. Because God is glorified in His Angels and in His Saints(I borrowed this line from a Catholic prayer known as 'the Divine Praises'.). The saints, by their very nature, give glory to the Most High God because they are testaments of his saving power and grace. Some enthusiasts probably forget that Joan had her own personal relationship with her patron saints, and through that she had a personal relationship with Jesus.



Myth #1: St. Joan of Arc was the first Protestant martyr.

I personally have argued this point with a protestant, and nothing could be further from the truth! All evidence points to the fact that Joan was brought up in the ways of the Catholic Church. All of the witnesses at her nullification trial attested to her Catholicism. Joan lived before any of the major schisms, except for the Great Schism of the eleventh century, from which the Eastern Church  split away from the West, forming the Greek Orthodox Church. All evidence also points to the fact that Joan most likely did not like any of the protestants. In fact, there's even evidence that Joan planned to lead a crusade against one of the proto-protestant sects, the Hussites, when the Hundred Years' War would have been over.  This belief that she was a protestant martyr most likely was thought up by protestants wishing to claim her as their own. As is with any major group, Joan is the so-called "blank slate" upon which groups can place their beliefs and ideals. As is the case, these people need solid evidence to back their claims. The protestants have no such evidence in this case.



Myth #2: St. Joan was a wiccan - afterall, she decorated a "fairie tree" with her friends as a kid.

During her condemnation trial, Joan tells of a "Faerie Tree," around which there were supposed to have lived fairies. As attested to in her condemnation trial and nullification trial, no one, even Joan herself, ever really saw any fairies.




Myth #3: St. Joan was raped in prison.

This is probably one of the most controversial issues  about Joan. This is even a subject of debate to this day. There is a whole amount of substantial evidence to refute this point. I will point out the 3 best arguments in favor of Joan *not* being raped::

1. St. Joan, when she was informed of her impending death, cried out loud, "Alas, they treat me horribly and cruelly, so that my body, CLEAN AND WHOLE, WHICH WAS NEVER CORRUPTED, must this day be consumed and reduced to ashes!" This is the most powerful argument in favor of a no-rape argument. Joan is praised today for her truthfulness, yet many historians today, almost 600 years later,  think they know better!

2. If her guards would have raped her, it would have been a subject of bragging. Yet, it was not. The Duke of Bedford would have cited it as proof Joan was not sent by God, since He did not protect her from such an event. He(the Duke)  never spoke of anything like this.

3. On occasion, she complained to Bishop Cauchon that she dreaded being raped by her guards, and that on occasion the guards wished to violate her. If she was unashamed of it enough to tell the bishop of her fear of it, why would she not tell the bishop if it happened? She would have told it like it was. Again, historians think they know better, and they do not know better.


FAQ #2: What really happened after she was burned? Was her heart spared from the flames and a dove flew out of the flames and on to Paris when she died? It's kinda hard to believe something like that could happen. -Tazman_623

All eyewitness reports answer this question with a resounding YES! It all depends on whether or not you believe in miracles. After Joan's death, many more people believed in miracles! For, as Mark 9:22 says, "And Jesus said to him: if you can believe, all things are possible to him  that believes". A chapter later, Jesus says, "With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God."

Many reportedly miraculous things occured the day of Joan's execution. As Joan was being led to the stake, she cried out for a cross.  An English soldier, moved with pity, took some wood from the stake and fashioned a cross for her, which she put under her cloak.  When Joan was at the stake, her personal priest, Friar Jean Pasquerel, held up a crucifix in front of her at her request, so she could look upon her Lord to the last. Then, for the brief remainder of her life, she continually cried out loud the Holy Name of Jesus, until she died.

There's no doubt that Joan died well before any considerable amount of her body was consumed. This probably occured because of blood loss (drying and burning of blood can no doubt be considered as such, since it would no longer be functional), and/or accelerated heart rate. Asphyxiation was probably not a cause of death, since at most stake executions, damp wood would be used, since it burned more cleanly, without smoke to asphyxiate the person before he or she underwent a considerable amount of pain. Joan most likely had no hair(or she at least had stubble) on her head, since at stake executions, the hair was shaved off to keep the stench down.  If the person executed was a female, what happened normally is that when the sackcloth was considerably burned away, it was pulled away from the person so the naked body could be seen. All of this probably happened with Joan.

Just before Joan "gave up the ghost", so to speak, some people reported that a dove departed from her chest and flew to France.

After Joan's body was totally consumed, it was found to not actually have been totally consumed. The executioner noted that her heart and entrails were not consumed by the fire.  No amount of fuel or burning powder of any kind, or anything the executioner applied to them could make them burn. As Regine Pernoud says, he was astonished by it as if it were a confirmed miracle.

Seeing that Joan's body was not totally consumed, probably because of some "spell" she probably cast before she died, the Duke of Bedford had the remains gathered and dumped into the Seine river, so there would be nothing left of Joan to be venerated.  This was part of his plan to blot out Joan's name from all of history. This idea obviously failed - Joan's name was already too immortalized with the French people.



FAQ #3: Hey, I heard from a website that Joan gave in to the questions. That she submitted to what they said. Is this true, or did she stick with the truth - until the end? - anonymous

Well, yes and no.  After several months of intense questioning, Joan still refused to retract, until on May 23, she was taken to the cemetery of Ste-Ouen, where there was erected a stake, and she was warned about the consequences of her actions.  She also blasted the interrogators for their insults about Charles VII. On that same day, she finally gave in and confessed. It was after this retraction that Joan was falsely believed to have been raped. Two factors would cause her to 'relapse' again. Cauchon schemed with the guards to take her new womens'  clothing away from her and replace them with men's clothing. This would either force her to forego modesty if she were to stay out of them and stay naked, or to again commit the crime of wearing men's clothing. Either way, she would be a relapsed heretic.  Joan's voices also told her that she had damned herself for saving her own life by retracting. So, on May 28, she 'relapsed' again - she told her guards and then Cauchon that she had damned herself by retracting.  So, on May 29, the judges determined her to be a relapsed heretic. So yes, in the end, she stuck with the truth. And that's what counts.

She was burned to death in the Old Market Square in Rouen the next day. A memorial cross marks the spot today where she died.

FAQ #4: I've always heard that death by burning is a misnomer. It's actually suffocation - the fire takes up the oxygen around the person, making it impossible to breathe.

I'm a science student, so expect an explanation of this here...

Well, it depends on who is being executed. And also on the preferences of the executioner. Either dry or green wood could be used. Dry wood burns very, very cleanly, producing little or no smoke at all. This would be very good for a stake execution where the executioner wants the person to feel the fire burning them alive. Green wood could be used when the executioner wants to spare the victim the pain of burning alive, and just suffocate him or her before the person burns. No oxygen in either kind of fire, you say? Perhaps you have heard of the term "backdraft". In giant fires, smoke or no smoke, there are giant drafts which replace the oxygen that is being used up in a burning area. If there were no such thing, the fire would suffocate itself out. Firefighters know this for a fact, and they also know that backdrafts in housefires or building fires can be extremely dangerous. However, in a bonfire of the size that they used to execute Joan, there would most likely have been gentle updrafts  replacing the oxygen around Joan. Where there is air being used up, there is air rushing in to replace it. If one asphyxiates, in a fire like this, it's because of smoke inhalation. Joan, however, was likely not executed in this way - the exceutioner used dry wood that burned cleanly. Therefore, she most likely felt the sensation of burning alive. That is, of course, unless she did not focus on the pain, but only on Jesus. :)





If you know of more common myths or frequently asked questions about Joan, or you just have your own questions about Joan to ask me, please send them to
me! I will address them on this page.