Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint Review

Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint by Donald Spoto tells the story of Joan of Arc in great details. If you are looking for one book on this subject and have no use for further research, as is the case for many readers, then this book should fit right in. Obviously you wouldn’t know whether you’ll be investing more time on Joan of Arc if you haven’t read anything yet but suffice it to say, this is a great starter book. Picking the right book, especially where Joan of Arc is concerned, is important because a lot of the details surrounding her life are derived from written testimonies from people of her time. You’ll want an author that can weed out the mundane yet include pieces of information that is relevant to the overall story. This is actually my second book on Joan. The first was by Regine Pernoud called Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses. I couldn’t get even halfway through that book because it was just too dry a read. Great if you want every single little detail for further studying but not so much as your first book on this historical figure.

“Of course I tried to escape–that is to be expected of any prisoner!”

Joan of Arc

On the story of Joan herself, when someone says be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions, this is exactly what they meant. In no particular order, I’ve been hit with shock, disbelief, disappointment, wonder and awe, sadness, anger and frustration, happiness, determination and mysteriousness. What could possibly make a healthy yet ordinary young girl in the 1400’s give up her comfortable life to actually putting herself in danger towards a grand mission of saving France from the English? In what world would that even make sense? Enter the life of Joan. Here we have a girl whose faith in God is so unwavering that it sometimes makes it hard to continue reading her story only because we know of how tragic an ending was in stored for her at only the age of nineteen. All the more infuriating was how we all can see that she was betrayed by the very king she actually helped put on the throne yet was still steadfast in her protection of him even while being mistreated and tortured as a prisoner. Although more than 600 years have past, humans of the distant past are really no different than humans of today. Cauchon could be cast as a super villain in a movie today and he’ll make others look like amateurs.

It’s not enough to just read through a Joan of Arc story page after page. I believe her story invokes so much feeling and thoughts that one must stop once in a while to really take it all in and ask ourselves what does it all really mean? However, how can one dissect the mind and thoughts of one such as Joan whose faith and her belief in her voices and vision were so real that she literally believed her actions were guided by God himself and that she was an extension of his will? Is there any difference from the faithful followers of Jesus today? Here the author does an amazing job of narrating Joan’s story while offering his own comments from time to time with the idea that he is doing so with a mindset of how things were in the 1400’s and not from a modern viewpoint. However, it’s very obvious of the clear bias he shows in favor of Joan, although I would have to say that doing otherwise can be quite difficult given the evidence presented.

“If I am not in the state of grace, may God put me there–and if I am, may He keep me there.”

Joan of Arc

Although not much of a religious person myself, I find Joan’s story to be just full of wonder. An ordinary and mundane girl who literally saved an entire nation that was on the brink of defeat. More importantly, it is in Joan’s strong belief that no nation or country should be conquered by foreign adversaries and at the expense of the citizens is what makes her so refreshing a topic to study in today’s world. She may have paved the way for generations after her. You could even say she begun a grassroots movement with her ideology and actions. Her way of thinking was unheard of during her time and being a woman at that, life must have been much more difficult than what documents have shown. The courage she has shown throughout her court sessions, knowing that she was utterly alone with no one to guide her but God himself, whether you believe in her story or not, made her that much more impressive. I’ve only started my journey learning about historical figures with the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and the other Roman emperors but so far, I’d have to say that Joan’s story is the most impactful thus far.

“ experience of God’s nearness does not mean an avoidance of pain; it does, however, provide a path through which suffering may be endured.”

Donald Spoto

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