Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis today deals with Saint Joan of Arc, one of the outstanding women of the later Middle Ages. Raised in a religious family, Joan enjoyed mystical experiences from an early age. At a time of crisis in the Church and of war in her native France, she felt God’s call to a life of prayer and virginity, and to personal engagement in the liberation of her compatriots. At the age of seventeen, Joan began her mission among the French military forces; she sought to negotiate a just Christian peace between the English and French, took an active part in the siege of Orleans and witnessed the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims.
Captured by her enemies the next year, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and burnt at the stake as a heretic; she died invoking the name of Jesus. Her unjust condemnation was overturned twenty-five years later. At the heart of Saint Joan’s spirituality was an unfailing love for Christ and, in Christ, for the Church and for her neighbour. May the prayers and example of Saint Joan of Arc inspire many lay men and women to devote themselves to public life in the service of God’s Kingdom, and encourage all of us to live to the fullest our lofty calling in Christ.
I am pleased to greet the student groups from Hong Kong and the United States of America, as well as the group of Army Chaplains from Great Britain. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.