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

Donald Spoto, Author . Harper San Francisco $24.95 (222p) ISBN 978-0-06-081517-2

According to biographer and theologian Spoto, Joan of Arc is a girl for the 21st century. She asserted and fought for the ideal that nations shouldn't invade and occupy others for the sake of empire building, a message to contemplate in today's political landscape. But it's unfair to read our contemporary concerns back into her 15th-century story, says Spoto. In this engaging and at times gripping biography, he examines Joan's life and particularly her faith in the face of a church threatened by her visions. Spoto details what is known or surmised about Joan's early life and military career, but the book's most fascinating aspect is the suspenseful day-by-day account of her year-long trial and conviction for heresy. Here we see the Maid's (as she called herself) sense of God's instructions for her life, and her efforts to obey God above all else, including earthly church authority. Spoto helps us understand her threat to political and ecclesiastical figures. The only person to have been condemned for heresy and later sainted, Joan of Arc continues to capture the popular imagination and is, Spoto argues, "the sign that God is free to act as He wills to act, not as we presume He ought to act." (Feb. 20)

Reviewed on: 10/09/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
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