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May 30 Saints of the Day – Macrina the Elder and Joan of Arc

On this date in 1631, La Gazette, the first French newspaper, debuted. Like all seventeenth-century newspapers, it lacked a sports section, and for that reason gained readership slowly.

Macrina the ElderMacrina the Elder (d. ca. 340) was a student of Gregory the Wonderworker, early formulator of the teaching of the Trinity that would find its fullest expression in the Nicene Creed some years later. She has been lauded for her intelligence, and was apparently both a good student and a good teacher, passing Gregory’s teachings on to her grandchildren, the saints Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Peter of Sebaste, and Macrina the Younger. She and her husband fled persecution in their hometown and lived on the Black Sea until his death. In an interesting reversal, he is nameless while she is remembered by name. Basil the Great spoke glowingly of her love for Christ, and of her forming and molding him “in doctrines of piety.” Sadly his account of her does not mention cookies at all.

Joan of ArcJoan of Arc (1412 – 1431) was born a shepherdess in Lorraine and kept at it for a good while, even when she started having visions of saints and an angel. They suggested she seek out the king of France (Charles VII), so she got a kinsman to take her to the nearest army outpost, where she was dismissed dismissively. She tried again a year later, and when her prediction about a military reversal turned out to be accurate, she was taken to the king (or, well, Dauphin — it’s complicated). Fearful for her safety, she went dressed as a man to deter molestation and/or rape.

Hearing the army was marching to raise the siege of Orléans, she convinced the Dauphin to send her along as a knight. His advisors ran a background check, and found her to be humble, honest, simple, irreproachable, and Christian — in short, what is so very lacking in our world today.

The besieged French were discouraged and disinclined to try anything risky, when Joan rode in and led a series of successful sorties. Then, overruling the cautious generals, she led a frontal assault on the main English encampment, which to everyone’s surprise (except maybe Joan’s) succeeded. The siege was lifted. Many more successes followed, and it wasn’t long before she had the support of the major movers and shakers in the French army. They proceeded to Reims, recapturing all the cities along the way, and there Charles was finally crowned.

Next followed a series of political blunders, and an attack on English-held Paris was called off after a day’s fighting. A truce with England later that year left Joan cooling her heels, and she spent the time drafting a threatening letter to the Hussites. When the truce ended, she retook the field, but was soon taken prisoner by the Burgundians. Charles made no attempt to free her, which everybody holds against him, including me. She tried to escape several times (at one point jumping 70 feet from a tower into a dry moat), but was eventually sold to the English for 10,000 francs (and that was back when a franc was actually worth something).

She was tried by a certain bishop Cauchon (perhaps as a quid pro quo for an archbishopric he hoped the English would grant him) for sorcery, based on the voices she heard, and her wearing of men’s clothing. Amazingly they did not have a metal bull to toss her into, so after a brief respite (in which she wore men’s clothing in her jail cell, although perhaps because her woman’s weeds were stolen), she was burned at the stake, and her ashes were thrown into the Seine. She was 19 years old.

Not 25 years later her family asked the Pope (Callistus III) to revisit the trial, and its findings were overturned, and the aforementioned bishop was found to have acted out of a “secular vendetta,” and to have lacked jurisdiction anyway.

Called “la pucelle d’Orléans” (“the maiden of Orléans”), Joan was finally canonized in 1920. She is the patron saint of rape victims/survivors.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Jeanne d’ArcBibliography
May 30
Macrina the Elder (Wikipedia) – Main source
Macrina the Elder and the Younger (Women Philosophers)
St. Macrina the Elder (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Joan of Arc (Wikipedia) – Main source
Saint Joan of Arc (SQPN)
Joan (Jeanne) of Arc (St. Patrick DC)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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