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Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of a Graceful, Courageous Warrior: St. Joan of Arc

Written By Marissa Romero

This passage of Sacred Scripture first came to mind for Father David Ducote, Pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in LaPlace, Louisiana, when asked about St. Joan of Arc.

“That is God’s MO [modus operandi], isn’t it?” he said.

Anticipating the 75th anniversary of his parish, to be celebrated in September 2022, Fr. Ducote envisioned a pilgrimage to France to learn more about St. Joan of Arc, their great patroness.

In September 2023, the wished-for pilgrimage became a reality.

Celebrating Mass in the historic churches the pilgrims had the opportunity to visit became Fr. Ducote’s personal pilgrimage highlight.

But his chief gift was “celebrating Mass in the little parish Church where Joan herself went to Mass daily,” he said.

“It was in that Church and in that very baptismal font that a young Joan was chosen by God for His service.”

Photos shared by Fr. Ducote

St. Joan of Arc, a humble teenage peasant born in 1412 in Domrémy, France, courageously following God’s command, became a graceful warrior in defense of her nation almost overnight.

At only seventeen years of age, she led the French army to victory at Orléans, ruining the English plan to conquer France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Joan of Arc Enters Orléans [painting]. Scherrer, J. (1887). Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans, France. (Public domain.)

“With the English continually besting the French, the ultimate outcome of English dominance was of little doubt,” said Liz Cline, a 206 Tours pilgrim following St. Joan’s steps in France along with her husband, Jon Cline. They are technical school owners, retired in Phoenix, Arizona.

“That 17-year-old child turned the tides of the war,” added Liz Cline.

Moreover, the thought of having an illiterate teenage peasant girl—in command of the French male military, including its well-established hierarchy—seems unreal.

“From a time in history when women were effectively chattel and whose opinions were not considered, much less sought, Joan came onto the scene and shattered the barriers and limitations society placed on her to become Commander in Chief of the French forces,” said Jon Cline.

“She gained the confidence of seasoned military leaders—some of whom tried to work counter to her orders at first—and successfully led them in battle.”

Joan, later captured and sold to England, courageously faced her imprisonment, trial, threats, tortures, and ultimately, her unfair sentence—contemplating a Crucifix, she died burned at the stake.

The Martyrdom of the Maid of Orléans [image]. Twain, M. (1896). Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. (Public domain.)

May 30, St. Joan of Arc’s feast day, marks the anniversary of her death in 1431—she was 19 years old.

Courage, faith, and trust in God are the traits that Fr. Ducote most admires in this teenage saint.

“[St. Joan of Arc] never doubted herself and the mission that God entrusted to her,” he said, and recalled one of Joan’s most famous quotes: “I am not afraid; I was born for this.”

Playing the “what if game,” Jon Cline said, “Without Joan—there would be no France. Without the French [coming] to the aid of the Colonies in the 18th century—there would be no United States of America.”

“How much of an impact can possibly be attributed to this girl in terms of her potential impact on the world?” he reflected.

For future pilgrims and for those who, for whatever reason, cannot travel, Callie Connor, a retired accountant in Carthage, Illinois, and 206 Tour pilgrim, recommends reading Mark Twain’s book “Joan of Arc” (Volume 1Volume 2).

“I just shake my head and am in awe of [St. Joan of Arc],” she said as this book inspired her to join the pilgrimage to France.

Fr. Ducote suggests praying the Chaplet of St. Joan of Arc to also follow in the footsteps of the teenage saint as a “pilgrimage at home.”

Reminiscing about the treasured journey to France, Liz Cline shared that Fr. Ducote, the 206 Tour Guide, and the bus driver became family to the pilgrims following in the footsteps of Joan of Arc.

“[They] worked together throughout our whole trip to make it unforgettable.”

Photos shared by Fr. Ducote

Trailing across France, the inspired pilgrims submerged themselves into the teenage saint’s mission, prayer life, decisive actions, and heroic work.

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