As her executioners led her to the funeral pyre, Joan burst into tears and collapsed. She asked those around her to pray for her and voiced forgiveness for her accusers. After authorities bound her to the stake and flames began to consume her body, a sympathetic priest held a crucifix high enough for Joan to see. The once jeering crowd grew silent and wept, and with “her last breath, Joan of Arc sang out the name of her Lord Jesus.”
Less than 25 years later, the trial itself was condemned and Joan was exonerated. In 1920, she was declared a saint. Based on historic records, she never thought of herself as exceptional: “Joan had a specific vocation, and she would be true to it. She listened, she believed, she obeyed.” After Joan’s execution, France stood strong; the nation repelled England’s hostile takeover and maintained her sovereignty.
While Joan’s life ended sadly, her legacy lives on, and her story is a testament to the grace of God that prepares and calls even the lowest among us. As women who are called by God, it’s easy to feel troubled by the final chapter of Joan’s life. If God invited this young maid to lead such an audacious mission, why didn’t he spare her from such humiliation and death? How do we find encouragement in Joan’s epic story?
Like Joan, we must trust our calling—regardless of where it may lead us. When we sense God asking us to do the seemingly impossible, will we obey and learn to trust in his provision? We must cling to the promise embedded in Joan’s story: in God’s kingdom, none of us are too insignificant, ill-equipped, or unremarkable to be used by him.
(*All quotes from Donald Spoto’s Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint.)
Dorothy Littell Greco is an author and writer living outside Boston. She is a regular contributor with Gifted for Leadership. Her first book, Making Marriage Beautiful, will be released in January 2017.