An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to My Spiritual Life

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Editor’s Notes: Originally published September 22nd, 2017


Over the past few weeks, life has been throwing stress-filled curveballs at me. Reeling from anxiety, anger, and frustration, I recently went to the spiritual medicine box—Confession—to gain sacramental graces to help me grow in patience and perspective. I experienced a true transformation in my life this week in the days following my reconciliation with God, the Church, and my fellow man. September 21st, 2017 became a new launching point for my spiritual journey. Excited for this re-start on my path toward Christian holiness, I will provide a few reasons why this date holds a special place in my heart.

The hobbit book

Anniversary of the Publication of The Hobbit

Eighty years ago, on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit—an essential item on any fantasy fan’s bookshelf—was published. Eight decades later the tale of J.R.R. Tolkien still instills wonder in its readers.

Regrettably, I did not explore Middle Earth until my mid-20s. Over the past five years, I have read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings trilogy once.

A true literary treasure is measured through its ability to stand the test of time. Nearly a century later, I would say that Tolkien’s work passes with flying colors. Characters within the story seem to speak directly to me. For instance, the dwarf Thorin tells Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” How easy is it for us to lose memory of the importance things in life? I forget fairly quickly. Tolkien reminds me to look for the hidden joys in my life. Perhaps, an unexpected journey is in store for me starting September 21st, 2017.

St. Matthew

Happy Holiness Day

Along with the anniversary of The Hobbit, September 21st is the feast day of my patron saint—St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Before his “coming to God moment”, Matthew worked for the Roman equivalent of the IRS. Hatred of paying government taxes is an innate principle built into humanity. Palestine 30 A.D. was no different. What courage and faith it must have taken Matthew to leave his luxurious, high paying government job?

Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people. They basically did the Roman government’s dirty work of extolling individuals for money. I always imaged how Matthew would fit in with Jesus’ motley crew of Apostles. Was he accepted right away? Did trust issues exist?

While such questions are purely speculative, but I find pondering the transition of Matthew from a hated tax collector to an evangelist helpful in my relationship with my patron saint. I too struggle to fit in at times, yet I am gifted with the ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ just like St. Matthew! September 21st is the beginning of my re-commitment to evangelize through my writing, family life, and volunteering at my parish. I hope to exhibit the same steadfast faith as Matthew did when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27).

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September of Sacraments

Together with my patron saint and favorite fantasy jubilees occurring on the same day, the month of September started as a transitional month for my family and I. My wife began a new job, our children started to get in the school routine, and changes galore occurred at work. Through the grace of God and ability in our hectic scheduling, and mostly due to my serious need for divine assistance I went to confession twice this month.

During my first confession, the priests gave me this amazing penance—pray the Prayer of Humility. Humility is the virtue that stands in opposition to the vice of pride. Pride is what made the Devil fall from his celestial pedestal as God’s favored angel. Pride leads me to be an inferior version of myself. Let us briefly ask God for the gift of true and beautiful humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

spiritual path

Be on the Lookout for Your Unexpected Journey

Unexpected journeys are difficult, but the joy attained through its travel is immeasurable. Jesus tells his disciples [and us], “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). God asks us each day: will you follow me?

Starting on September 21st, 2017, I said yes! I renewed my commitment to follow His lead. Will I continue on this path? I certainly hope so, only time will truly tell. I will close with the following exchange between the hobbit and wizard before the great journey:

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back

Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same

Related Links:

3 Similarities I Share with my Namesake— Saint Matthew

Could J.R.R. Tolkien ever be canonized a saint?

An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

How Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Introduced Me to Catholicism

hobbit going on an adventure.gif

Thank you for sharing!

How Saint Teresa of Avila Cut Through My Exterior with Her Interior Castle

I struggle with the sin of pride. I often hate to admit I made a mistake. Even if it is a minor one. I tend to blow the error out of proportion in my mind. This leads to me spiraling into a descent of despair. Reason goes out the window and I lash out at my loved ones.

One of the most effective saints at keeping my pride in check is Saint Teresa of Avila. I refer to her as one of the patron saints of my family. We asked for her intercession in May 2018 to protect our unborn daughter (my wife has a history of miscarriages). Since then my wife and I have sought Teresa’s help daily in our bedtime prayers.

This fall I’m am trying to get back into a regular habit of reading spiritual work. I discovered a free course on Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle featured on the Smart Catholic website. I study her work for about 20-30 minutes a day during the week.

Saint Teresa of Avila

Over the past several years I have allowed stresses at work, home, and the angst from the global pandemic and financial crises to accumulate. Like a cavity which forms over time due to improper care my spiritual life has suffered a similar hollowing out. I have developed a harder, more cynical exterior. In college, I was given the nickname “Cheese” because of my smile and excitement. I have long lost that attitude and title.

My wife called me on her way back between school buildings and I mentioned to her an ordering mistake I made at work. I tried to justify my error and planned ways on how I would tell my boss. My tone got angrier the more I talked about it and tried to rationalize how I was still blameless. The call ended abruptly because my phone’s battery died. I went back to the course on Saint Teresa and I came across a couple questions that cut through my anger.

Can any evil be greater than the evil which we find in our own house?

Wow! This question immediately pierced my hardened heart. It reminded me of Jesus’ comparison of judging others while being blinded by the log in your own eyes. In the end, there really isn’t any evil greater than the evil which we find in our own house. I’m not the Judge and I can only control my own actions and influences those people in my household.

As I pondered Teresa’s question I recalled Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus urged his followers to build a solid foundation on God and not be foolish with having a based built on sand. Judging others without any regard for my own failings is like creating a house on a shifty, weak foundation.

What hope can we have of being able to rest in other people’s homes if we cannot rest in our own?

This second question took me in the direction of thinking about the Catholic family as a domestic church. We are called to rest in the house of the Lord every Sunday but that’s a bare minimum. Our faith life is only as effective as we allow God’s grace to work in us. The simplest way to let God in is through the family life.

Can one truly rest in another’s house (and even in the house of the Lord on Sundays) unless we are able to rest in our own?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2685,

The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the “domestic church” where God’s children learn to pray “as the Church” and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.

Teresa’s second question convicted me. Was I doing my best as a father and husband? Do I lead my family in faith consistently as of late? These are questions I haven’t taken the time to think about. The good news is God is merciful and grants me the opportunity the grace of a new grace and a continual “second” chance to improve in my spiritual life.

No matter my past failures I am hope in God’s mercy and grace to help me renew my commitment to my family. I’m thankful for Saint Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle for cutting through my anger and tough exterior today!

Related Links

Windex, Storage Containers, and Teresa of Avila

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Smart Catholics: Interior Castle

Thank you for sharing!

Rocks, Monkey Socks, and Toy Cars—Joy Found on a Summer Morning!

Simple Joys

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post originally published on June 7, 2019.


“I love the simple things in life. They tend to get overlooked.” This anonymous quote captured the entire theme of a morning at my home last week. Waking up early, my children itched for an opportunity to play outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun before the humidity set in.  Almost immediately, they rushed to the edges of my backyard to collect and play with rocks.

My son and daughter definitely received their geological glee from me—for a period I seriously considered majoring in geology! Noticing the different colors, sizes, textures, and hardness of the stones captivate their attention. If left to their own devices my oldest children would remain outside for hours and bring inside cartons of rocks.

Joy of a child

Joy of a Child

Along with my children’s joyful “jewel” collecting, their imagination was in full force as well. Albert Einstein once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I most certainly need to pay more attention to my kids’ imaginative play as my thirst for knowledge has been stymieing my joy lately. The creative juices flowed greatly in the mind of my daughter. “Look dad!” she exclaimed, “Look at this. Taken aback at what I saw I asked, “What are you doing?” Proudly she exclaimed, “I am a monkey! Look at my monkey-socks!” She covered her feet with a pair of garden gloves I bought for her at the local home improvement store. Immediately, a grin spread across my face. Next, I just laughed—not a forced chuckle, but a natural, healthy and joyful guffaw!

Treasuring Toy Cars

Toys Cars

 

 

 

 

 

The final thing that brought joy to me that summer morn was my youngest son’s continual love and obsession over his toy cars. Being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in late 2017, we discovered that his obsession and impulsive playing with toy cars is part of what makes him unique. Carrying a plastic vehicle at all the time provides him relief amidst daily stresses of toddler life and living with rambunctious siblings. No less than a couple hundred times do we hear our two-year old say, “A car, a toy car! Look a car!” His enthusiasm and unbridled joy at the simplicity of a toy car reminds me of a spectacular point G.K. Chesterton made in his masterpiece Orthodoxy. He stated,

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The Joy of Daily Work

Meaningful Work

 

 

 

 

 

Repetition, work, and habits don’t infringe on our ability to grow. On the contrary, finding joy in the simple matters of life and completing “monotonous” tasks regularly with joy instill true life in us. Days where I focus on my vocation as a husband and father with love are the days where my vocation does not turn into drudgery. The same is true when it comes to my daily work.

My dad displays this simplicity and adherence to his vocation as husband and father in an exceptional way. Rarely, did I hear him complain about his family duties. Weariness of parenting did not see to wear on his face—at least from what I remember! In terms of spiritually living, my father is “younger” than myself. This is because his obedience and joy in his vocation is anchored in the Pre-Existent God more deeply than my spiritual life is at currently!

I will leave you today with a few simple and profound quotes that I hope with awaken or sustain your spiritual life. I hope you discover the simple joy that children seem to naturally possess.


“What I know of the divine sciences and the Holy Scriptures, I have learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.” —Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

“Laugh and grow strong.” —Saint Ignatius of Loyola


Related Links

Finding Joy–My Accidental Discovery of St. Philip Neri

Cardboard Boxes, Zoo Animals, and Creative Joy!

How to Develop a Thankful and Joyful Mentality— Be Grateful for Everything!

 

Thank you for sharing!

How the Sweetness of Our Lady of Mount Caramel Increases Your Spiritual Life

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Incredible saints have come from the Carmelite religious order: Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux represent this Catholic spirituality. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Spiritual Mother of the Carmelites.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. During the late 14th century, St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary who advised him to wear a scapular as a sign of her protection.

Before I go further, I have to clarify something to avoid getting a ticket from the grammar police. I am aware I misspelled Carmel in the title (who hasn’t said caramel in place of carmel 😊 at least once?). I did not know much about the Brown Scapular (or any for that matter—there is blue, green, and white too!) until a few years ago. This Catholic devotion provides a sweet win over sin. However, God planted many hints of this devotion in my childhood.

Before my son’s First Communion earlier this summer, we showed him some sacramentals I received for my First Communion and on the top right of the felt-laden box was a brown scapular. My mother also made it a point to frequent the local Carmelite monastery when Mass was open to the public.

Sacramental, Not Magic

The Brown Scapular is not a talisman—it does not bestow magical protection for the wearer. According to the Catholic of the Catholic Church paragraph 1677, “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men (and women) to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.”

Brown Scapular

While Mary promised protection (and salvation) to all wearing the Brown Scapular upon death, the sacramental is a sign pointing at sacramental living. I had a priest bless my Brown Scapular. It is suggested you make a consecration to Mary as well.

Initially, Marian consecration seemed excessive (I already pray the Rosary). But the more I petition Our Spiritual Mother for guidance the closer I am to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek—Jesus, her Son.”

We Give Titles to People We Honor

I have learned that the more a person learns about a subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple monikers for my children as well.

Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. She has over 2,000 titles! Her title Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us that closeness to Mary is closeness to Jesus. Mary’s promised Simon Stock, “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” Again, the Brown Scapular is not a lucky charm or talisman. Instead, it is an outward sign of an interior lifestyle. The principles of Carmelite spirituality include:

  • Frequent participation in the Mass and reception of the Eucharist
  • Frequent reading of and reflections on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture
  • The regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice
  • The practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (accordion to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.

 Mount Carmel—A Place of Sweet Victory

Another interesting fact about the Carmelites is Mount Carmel is the same mountain where the Old Testament prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Ba’al. Elijah lived during a time when Israel succumbed to idol worship. His complete trust in God allowed him to be an instrument for God’s power and majesty (1 Kings 18: 20-39).

Our Lady of Mount Carmel testifies to the power of God in an even better way than Elijah. Mary’s total obedience to God the Father’s will led the birth of Jesus Christ—our savior. The Blessed Mother of God leads us to the Son. You will battle sin all your life. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel protects us and leads us to victory (through trusting in Jesus) over sin.

Related Links

History of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Priceless Treasure of Carmelite Spirituality

Information about the Brown Scapular

Thank you for sharing!

3 Lessons from St. Therese of Liseux—Changing Lives One Day at a Time


Editor’s Note: This post originally published on July 20, 2018.


Saint Therese of Liseux once stated, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Part of the universal appeal of the Little Flower was her simplicity and humility when approaching the greatness of God.

As a classic over thinker and a perfectionist, I tend to overanalyze sanctity. Making checklists or reminders on my phone, I try to cram a bunch of spiritual activities into a week all the while juggling a healthy work, life, and exercise routine! I am exhausted simply thinking about scheduling confession in on a Saturday around my three children’s naptime and giving my wife time to go to the medicine box as well.

At work the stress continued. The constant barrage of complaints, concerns, and questions wear down a person. I try to give myself a few seconds rest between the hustle and bustle. St. Therese taught me three important lessons this week.

 

Saint Therese of Liseux

Start Small

The French saint wisely stated, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” I have previously written about the importance of small incremental steps to gain progress; however, it is always good to remind ourselves that great things start with doing the little things well.

Children learning to ride a bicycle do not normally go from training wheels to mountain/trail cycling overnight. Bumps, bruises, tears, and frustrations abound over the course of time when learning to ride a bike. The same is true in our pilgrim journey towards holiness. Missed opportunities of smiling at an annoying co-worker or your trouble neighbor does not help our advancement in our sojourn of sanctity. St. Mother Teresa matter-of-factly said, “You have to be holy where you are – wherever God has put you.”  Following in the footsteps of both Therese/Teresa’s I hope to remember daily to start little—with baby steps—as a I grow in holiness.

Fueled by the Fire of Love

According to Genesis 3, the curse place upon Adam [and later all mankind] was work being toilsome and difficult. In fact, the day of the Fall may have well been history’s first Monday! All joking aside, we normally dread work because it takes away of play—an activity of something which we enjoy and love doing. St. Josemaria Escriva declared, “Either we learn to find the Lord in the ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find him.”

fire of love

Very much in keeping with his spirituality, and likely a major influence for the Founder of Opus Dei, St. Therese reminds us that work need not be toilsome—as long as daily work is fueled by love. Watered by love—of God and neighbor—work blossoms into a sweet activity that paradoxically involves suffering but bring joy as well! “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places,” the sainted French nun declared.

Part of a Whole

The final piece wisdom the Little Flower of Lisieux imparted to me this week was the importance of seeing myself as a part of a larger whole. Now this is not to reduce myself to a small wheel in the cog of Catholicism—such as view is entirely utilitarian and reduces our relationship to other human beings as purely functional/technical.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 952, when speaking about the communion of saints, “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. . . and of their neighbors in want.”487 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.” As a husband and father, I learned my will must be subordinated for the good of the other members of my family.

Love your neighbor

Easily declared from my theological armchair, I struggle mightily in the midst of family life and the bustle of raising children. Here is where the example and spiritual maturity of St. Therese again teaches me. On the subject of being a saint, Therese stated, “I realized that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself.”

Depend on God

The youngest of nine siblings Therese learned quickly in life that she could not always be the center of attention—although she did admit in her Diary of a Soul that her selfishness pervaded her very earliest of years. The Little Flower’s constant message in her writings about her [and our] need to have a complete dependency on God our Heavenly Father helped shift my selfish mindset toward others and the Ultimate Other.

Start small, easy your daily struggle with the fuel of love, and remember you are part of a larger whole—members of the human race. These three lessons the young, but wise French saint taught me this week.

Related Links

5 Reasons Why October is the Holiest Time of the Year

St. Therese of Lisieux is a Spiritual Powerhouse

Live Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Thank you for sharing!

Reflections on the Most Holy Trinity

Our world needs God. This year has definitely reminds us sin exists. We don’t require a dictatorial Supreme Being who imposes rules and restrictions. The backlash caused by the lockdowns across the United States reminds me of the Israelite people in the book of Exodus.

God is Love

Freedom from slavery didn’t free them from selfish tendencies. Moses asked God, “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own (Exodus 34:9).

The easy thing to do during a crisis is to play the blame game. Bad police. Inept politicians. Rage-filled rioters. But the way to true change is not in resentment or scapegoating. Authentic change for a better world is a narrow gate.

Saint John tells us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Trinity Sunday is about unity. The devil divides. In fact, the Greek word for devil, diabolos, means “to divide”. Satan aims to please the self and divide us from the multiplying force of God’s love.

Jesus came to save us from the Great Divider. Last week the Church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the Arrival of the Unifying Holy Spirit. While Jesus ascended back to the Father he did promise the Apostles (and us) to send a Helper. Two thousand years later, the Holy Spirit has continued to guide the Church.

Holy Trinity Icon

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the truth that God is love. Three Persons. One God. It is the simplest, yet most mysterious Christian truth.

Know Thy Enemy

Our common enemy hates Love and works to sow division. Satan’s common tactics include:

  • Destroy the family–> the family is an image of the Holy Trinity. Satan despises this reminder of God to the world. Divided families lead to divided societies.
  • Attack when holiness is increasing–> Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Satan always tempts the pure (holy)—the others are already his.” I find that temptations find me quickly after I receive the Sacrament of Confession. The Devil wants to wound healed souls.
  • Transform suffering into hopelessness–> Satan “hopes” pain leads people toward despairs. He wants suffering to remain at the chaotic (meaningless) level.

Love Transforms Suffering

C.S. Lewis wrote in A Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (p.91). I used to think suffering meant I did something wrong. My understanding of suffering was immature— obey God’s laws and receive rewards but disobey and get punished.  The Israelites didn’t listen to God even when He freed them from Pharaoh’s tyranny. Read about the Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32. Moses was PISSED OFF. And rightfully so.

Moses breaking stones tablets

Who else remembers watching “The 10 Commandments” every Palm Sunday? What a classic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was the Israelite’s punishment for worshipping a false god? Longer time spent wandering (aimlessly) in the desert. God could have compelled their obedience, yet Love doesn’t operate as a dictator. Freedom necessarily involves the potential of suffering (based on our choices).

Our world is always going to be in turmoil (2020 is not the exception on suffering, but the rule). No amount of sin can separate you from God as long as you sincerely seek repentance **stops typing and jumps for joy**. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit— undivided Unity. Reflect on the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity this week. Ask God to give you the strength to endure your daily struggles and joy to notice the wonders in your life.

Related Links

Why Trinity Sunday Comes After Pentecost

12 Things to Know and Share About the Holy Trinity

A clever way to explain the Holy Trinity to children

Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!


P.S. Congratulations for reaching the end of this article (or maybe you skimmed). I would play a fanfare on my silver trumpet but I think my mom sold it **jots down ‘new trumpet’ on post-it note**.

Anyways, if you enjoyed learning about the awesomeness of the Holy Trinity become an email subscriber. Enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving  cool Catholic content in your inbox.

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6 Cool Facts about Saint Joan of Arc

Over the course of the past 500 years, Saint Joan of Arc has experienced arguably more variance of opinion than any other figure in the Catholic Church. Born in 1412 the French saint grew up during the Hundred Years War—the most turbulent time in the history of England and France. She led a siege on the English which proving instrumental, and as a turning point toward France’s ultimate victory. Vilified by a pro-English bishop, Joan was burned at the stake in 1431 as a heretic.

Although cleared of charges by Pope Callixtus III in in 1456, Joan was not officially canonized a saint until 1920—by Pope Benedict XV. Patron saint of soldiers and France, Joan also serves as a solid role model for women and for those facing corruption. Along with her being an epic national heroine for France, here are six other amazing facts you should know about St. Joan of Arc.

Saint Joan of Arc

She was a tenacious teenager

Parents of children currently in middle and high school are quite aware of the fieriness of teenagers. Joan was no example. Dying at the mere age of 19, she accomplished more than the average adolescent. Aided by the Holy Spirit, Joan withstood the intense scrutiny of the ecclesial court trial. Listen to this portion of her 8th Privation Examination to get a sense of the hard-lined questioning she faced:

Examiner: “Do you know if Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret hate the English?”

Joan: “They love what God loves: they hate what God hates.”

Examiner: “Does God hate the English?”

Joan: “Of the love or hate God may have for the English, or of what He will do for their souls, I know nothing; but I know quite well that they will be put out of France, except those who shall die there, and that God will send victory to the French against the English.”

Examiner: “Was God for the English when they were prospering in France?”

Joan: “I do not know if God hated the French; but I believe that He wished them to be defeated for their sins, if they were in sin.”

Sounding like a typically obstinate teen, at least to prideful clergy, Joan quipped back without being baited into judging the English. She was simply carrying out the will of God!

She experienced victory through her visions

A second amazing fact about the life of Joan of Arc is that she received visions and guidance from God, angels, and saints. The most common “Voices” as she initially called them included a star-studded crew: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Margaret of Antioch. The French saint achieved hope and strength in the face of adversity because of her devotion to the saints. In the Second Private Examination, Joan was questioned about the role of her visions. Here is a sample of that exchange:

Examiner: “Has not the Angel, then, failed you with regard to the good things of this life, in that you have been taken prisoner?”

Joan: “I think, as it has pleased Our Lord, that it is for my well-being that I was taken prisoner.”

Examiner: “Has your Angel never failed you in the good things of grace ?”

Joan: “How can he fail me, when he comforts me every day? My comfort comes from Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret.”

Examiner: “Do you call them, or do they come without being called?”

Joan: “They often come without being called; and other times, if they do not come soon, I pray Our Lord to send them.”

She had complete trust in her convictions

Saint Joan of Arc quote

Another interesting thing about Joan was her complete and utter trust. Her convictions were so strong that she even ran away from home to join the army. This left her parents distraught! Certainly, if my children suddenly disappeared without my knowledge I would be full of worry. God does work in mysterious ways. Seriously though, he guided a young girl to join the ranks of the military! Not sure if I would possess that much trust.

As crazy and reckless Joan’s decision was she trusted in a greater Divine Plan. If you ever get told to trust in God’s will plan for the unexpected
— Joan definitely did!

She wore antagonistic apparel

While Joan’s expeditious enrollment into the French army seems odd enough, her refusal to don women’s clothing throughout her trial is even more interesting. As I read over a hundred pages of trial documents including both public and private cross examinations, a common theme persisted: her insistence to wear her military uniform. Maybe it was to gain influence in a male-dominated society. Perhaps Joan genuinely hated dresses. Regardless, she definitely would be considered a “tomboy” by today’s standards.

Her fashion idiosyncrasies together with her persistent temper certainly surprised the prosecution. So much that Joan was given at least 5 times to switch her garb. The next time a Catholic student complains about the uniform advise them at least it is not a life or death matter!

She was also intellectually brilliant

A fifth fact about St. Joan that I found truly amazing was her theological acumen. Along with being a courageous solider, she has great insight to offer the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church directly references Joan four times: CCC 223, 435, 795, and 2005. When Joan’s judges attempted to create a false dichotomy and trap her into siding with God or the Church, she quipped, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” The wisdom and simplicity of her response reminds me of Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate.

She was likely a Southpaw

The sixth fact about St. Joan of Arc that I found fascinating relates to penmanship. According to modern handwriting experts, the French saint may have actually been left-handed. They determined this by looking at the stroke angles of the surviving manuscripts with her signature (https://www.jeanne-darc.info/biography/letters/ ) As a fellow southpaw, this is a cool connection I have with Joan. If you have a left-handed family member or friend please share this neat fact with them!

Joan of Arc exhibited high moral character in spite of a hostile secular and religious climate. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke exceptionally of her in his January 26th, 2011 General Audience:

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous witness St Joan of Arc invites us to a high standard of Christian living: to make prayer the guiding motive of our days; to have full trust in doing God’s will, whatever it may be; to live charity without favouritism, without limits and drawing, like her, from the Love of Jesus a profound love for the Church. 

Let us also trust in God with the same fervor and consistently as St. Joan of Arc. Lead us in the battle of sin and into communion with our Savior Jesus Christ!

Thank you for sharing!