My dear reader! This is the last installment of my personal conversion story. Even now, I feel my patron saint, St. Joan, is pricking my mind and pushing me to write. Such is her persistent attitude.
This will be a long one. Full of ups and downs. Even now, I am humbled to have Saint Joan be my patron. It is such a blessing that words can’t even describe, and even now, I write these words with a lump in my throat. Words cannot express how much I owe this saint for very much saving me.
My heart can’t even begin to describe the feeling of what I owe the Lord and His Blessed Mother, more so. If words can’t tell what I owe Joan, then what feelings are lacking for me even begin approaching the Lord. He truly knows what and whom I need when the time comes. He has blessed me with a relationship with His Mother, a true unspeakable blessing, but now, my patron.
The COVID Pandemic
It started with Covid. Even before then, my zeal and my passion were beginning to wane and smolder. I went from fire to mere coals in a dying light.
I had been a job in the health insurance industry, and I was genuinely thankful for that opportunity. It provided me with financial stability during the pandemic that substitute teaching just couldn’t do.
However, day by day, I felt like a bit of me was dying. I knew my heart wasn’t in the job. I’m a teacher, not a data entry clerk. Sure, I might be introverted and shy, but I love being around people. I love teaching and helping others to succeed.
I wanted to help people with my skills and knowledge. But, unfortunately, in this job, I did neither of those. I went through training for about a month in a position where I felt my skills weren’t being used. Yet, I was stuck.
What was going to do? Leave a job that was allowing me to work at home. Leave a job that had health insurance? I was lucky. I completely recognize that, and I thank and praise the Lord.
Though, what I didn’t realize was that I was slowly losing myself. Day by day, doing the same thing over and over again, I felt like a machine and not a person. I don’t blame the company. It’s just the nature of data entry work.
On top of that, I was struggling with a friendship. It’s hard; you don’t recognize the meaning of friendship until it’s gone. I hold no ill will towards the person, but we all drift away. Friendships aren’t always permanent, and I had to learn that through the pandemic.
I prayed to God. God save this relationship. Save this friendship. I need it. I’m already losing everything else.
Let’s be honest. It’s kind of a foolish prayer. I can definitely see that now, haha. It was greedy of me to even to think like that. Yet, I felt like I was drowning. I didn’t need another “failure” in my life.
But sometimes, it’s better to rip off a bandaid in one go than drag it out. On top of that, I was stuck in a job that sucked the soul out of me. I was growing depressed and saddened. I knew deep down; this isn’t where I was meant to be.
I remember one day, COVID was hitting hard. This was before the Churches shut down, but we were starting to social distance. My church held Mass in the basement (it was more spacious and allowed access to a lower parking lot.
In our basement, we have a large crucifix on the wall, and I sat there. Usually, I would be moved by such a sight.
This time, it was different.
I looked up, and I felt nothing. I think that was when I knew I was falling away. It almost felt like I didn’t have a choice. In my heart, I wasn’t angry with God or even upset with Him. I just felt… defeated.
Like no matter what I’m going to do, I’m just going to be stuck here, and there is no way for me to get out. Even maybe, I was being punished for my past faults. But, I know, it’s outlandish to think it now.
But if you’re in that dark, hopeless place, some of thoughts seem pretty plausible.
I think I gave up at that point. As we slowly transition from in-person mass to recorded Mass, I just stopped going. I watched the live streams, but even then, I slowly stopped.
I was so defeated at this point. To be honest, I just gave up on myself. I gave up on life. In a way, I kinda felt God had given up on me. I sank in a deep dark depression. Worse than college in some ways. I just felt like everything was falling a part, and despite my prayers, despite my best efforts, I could do nothing.
I hit a low moment. A very low moment. I was filled with such doubt and so much anguish.
It was one night. I went to bed, sobbing in tears to God, “Please, Lord…. I need your help! Please, do something! Anything!” That was the last thing I remember before I cried myself to sleep. No, I am not ashamed to admit.
Well He heard my tears, and he sent one of his little shepherdesses to come get his lost sheep in such an unmistakable manner.
Now I’m an analytical person. I question things. That’s a part of being a historian. You question things; you examine the vast web of relationships to explain patterns and movements in history.
Moreso, I like to question things I don’t understand. Everything has a reason behind it, and I want to get to the bottom of a topic.
So when I went to bed that night, I know what I must have dreamt. Now, I can’t tell you specifically, “I saw Saint Joan of Arc! I know what she looks like!” etc.
No, but I do know that she was in my dream without a shadow of a doubt. It is frustrating. Even maddening to know you dreamt of something, but you can’t remember it. You have some very faint glimpses; maybe even a few images pop up here and there. So when this happened, I was upset and shaken.
But how could it be St. Joan, you might be asking?
When I woke up, there was a single thought that popped up in my mind. “Saint Joan of Arc.” The idea kept popping up in my mind, and that startled me. With the hints and feelings of that dream, I knew she was in it.
It was like having the glimpses of something out the corner of your eye. I could make it out here and there, armor, blue, the fleur di lies, a young woman. Though there were glimpses and I catch an after image, the biggest thing I recall was the relative warmth I felt.
I felt like someone was looking at me in such a loving manner. Her eyes were filled with such care and affection that all my doubt and fear washed away. I didn’t see her wave. I felt her wave to me. I felt her embrace and how she told me, “I won’t leave you. I’ll be by your side.”
Yet when I woke up there was no clear recollection of the events that occurred. No exact transcript of the words exchanged, I just know what I felt, and the consistent thought that popped in my mind. “Saint Joan of Arc.”
The thought startled me deeply. It kept itching at the back of my mind as I tried to distract myself from it. Yet, there was no relief. Like a gnat, the thought loomed in the back of my mind like a shadow. Constantly pestering me, never leaving my mind.
I tried to analyze why this would be. Was it maybe due to a movie or show I watched? No. A book, nope. A video game, nah. Had I heard her name somewhere recently?
The more I strived to look for an explainable answer, the more I realized I couldn’t find anything, and it scared me horribly. Why was this thought constantly repeating itself in the back of my mind? Why was it itching me to no end?
I gave in. I started to look into Saint Joan. I started my own research. I kid you not; it was unraveling a beautiful tapestry. I began with historical research. I looked into primary sources, which was admittedly hard because Joan couldn’t read and write. But thankfully, we have her court transcripts and her rehabilitation transcripts.
Reading her words… I don’t know. It was hard to describe. I felt like God was speaking into my heart through her. It was like I could hear her talking to me. I felt this companionable presence with me. That feeling of having a dear friend by your side. A friend where you don’t even need to say anything.
That was when I knew that God gave me a new friend, the friend I really did need, He wanted me to meet her, and this was His way of introducing us to one another. Through my research, I learned that St. Therese had a deep devotion to St. Joan and was instrumental in her beatification and eventual canonization. Thank you, St. Therese. My dear heavenly sister.
More so, I learned that St. Joan had a profound devotion to Mary and St. Michael. We even had a stained glass window of Saint Margaret in our church, the same Saint that spoke to Saint Joan as a child.
I couldn’t help but be in awe of how everything was unraveling before my mind. Finally, all the pieces were starting to make sense. I do firmly believe that St. Therese and Mary had a hand with my friendship with St. Joan, and I have no regrets.
As I continued my research, I felt in awe of this young woman and how she could speak to me and break through the mental wall that I broke up. She was with me, pushing me harder and harder to pick myself back up.
She gave me the encouragement to seek God in all things. To get up after a failing, I can feel her hand gently on my shoulder as she whispers, “Get back up, you can do this. We got this.”
That’s what I did. Without her prayer, I do firmly believe that I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. She stoked the coals into a fire that started to roar back to life, and I was indebted to her and moreso towards God for sending me one of his trusted Saints.
This young warrior of God, nursed a wretched lamb back to health, carrying me back to Jesus. Even now, I feel her by my side as if she were a second guardian angel, but I guess… guardian Saint.
From that moment, I resolved to build a relationship with St. Joan and St. Therese. I wanted to thank them for everything they did for me. I wanted to show the world how these two young women changed my entire outlook on life.
Building a relationship with St. Joan
I pondered this question sincerely. How do you build a relationship with a Saint? Why should I build a relationship with a Saint? What could a French peasant girl turned war hero and martyr want with some American separated by 600 years of history?
These questions I can’t answer. Whether it was the Lord directly sending her, or she came across the lamb in her own heavenly travels, I don’t know. Maybe it was Saint Therese calling in back up for her French sister, or Mary lovingly pointed at my direction. To be honest, I frankly don’t know nor do I care.
She took interest in me out of nowhere, and I can’t fathom why, but I will do everything to thank my heavenly sister.
See, I think a lot of Catholics are missing out on something genuinely beautiful. I see and hear many Catholics pray to Saints for one issue and another, and there is nothing wrong with that! I encourage that.
However, I believe we are missing an opportunity to get to know that Saint, honestly. So many Catholics have deep devotions Mary or St. Joseph, but few develop a relationship with their Patron Saint.
Sure, they might know who their patrons are and might even pray to them in desperation, but isn’t a relationship based on good and bad times? Don’t we rejoice during successes and cry during hardships? Well, why not with the Saints?
I prayed to the Lord,
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I owe you indeed everything. And thank you for sending St. Joan to me.
Would you mind helping me to build a relationship with my patron that is pleasing to you? I don’t know how to honor her and to honor you through it. Please, Jesus, guide me.”
Next, I prayed, “Joan, how can I thank you for everything?”
Oh, man…. Several ideas smashed their way into my mind. I kid you not it felt like dump truck smashing into a house and pouring out all these ideas. I’ve kinda accept that is what you get with Saint Joan. She doesn’t waste time and she’s pretty direct.
Really… really direct, and I love that about her.
First, I needed to celebrate her Feast Day with a novena and fasting, which I joyfully accepted!
As I was searching for how to build a relationship with a saint, I came across pilgrimage. So I’m thinking to myself…. if there is a specific pilgrimage dedicated to you, I will attend it.
Well… I did find one, which I prayed to Saint Joan, “Joan if you want me to go, I’ll go.”
Well, a day after her novena, I found out that the Saint Joan pilgrimage was being held again for the summer of 2022. While I was doing my research on it, I found it was more contemplative by nature. It was with a small pilgrimage group that believed pilgrimages should be slow and spiritual in nature. They spent all of their nights at monastic communities and visited the places where Joan had lived and fought.
Moreso, it also visited her hometown of Domremy for several nights.
It was pretty clear she was like what she wanted me to do, and I joyfully accepted and thanked her for a speedy response. Then I kind of realized she doesn’t like waiting around. She’s pretty direct.
Now, we come back to St. Joan’s Feast day. I pondered, “St. Joan, how could I honor you with a feast day? Help me kindle that fiery love you had for Jesus.”
Oh, she did not beat around the bush. She’s pretty direct and blunt with her responses.
Suddenly several more thoughts popped into my mind. Go to one of her churches. I thought about it and realized, yeah, that seems pretty reasonable and proper.
Oh boy, did I not regret going to her church, but we’ll get back to that.
Another idea came into my head- Thank Saint Therese. That also seemed pretty valid. You two are pretty inseparable. To me, they seem almost like the Heavenly version of peanut butter and jelly. Both are good separate, but together…… woooooooh. So I resolved to honor St. Therese by going to one of her churches as well. (Which thankfully, we have both a St. Therese and St. Joan church in our diocese…. hmmmmmmmm……)
The last idea startled me because it slipped my mind. It was to renew my Marian consecration. I thought about it, then wondered when and where.
‘Why not on St. Joan’s feast day?’
Is that proper? I thought about it. Another idea popped into my head,
‘St. Joan was devoted to Mary. You haven’t renewed it in three years. Renewing it then would be perfect.’
I took out my calendar, thinking and believing now way. I couldn’t make the 40-day consecration. My heart sank as I thought to myself, well… I have to make up some days of prayers… which didn’t feel proper.
My heart told me to count the days… So I looked at my calendar and realized that if I started it the next day, it would be a perfect 40 days. So I immediately thanked and praised God and Mary, as well St. Joan.
It was a perfect storm, which I don’t regret. It seemed like St. Joan had answered all my prayers.
When I consecrated myself to Mary on the feast day of St. Joan, I knew it was meant to be, as cheesy as that it is. The shrine dedicated to Saint Joan was of a child Joan looking up at Mary.
As I said those prayers and reconsecrated myself to Mary and consecrated myself Joan, I knew I had made an eternal friend. I knew it was St. Joan’s prayers that helped me receive the fire that the Lord gave me.
I knew it was her hand gently pushing me back to God, with a fiery zeal for God.
As I sat in church during St. Joan’s feast day, there were several times where I had to choke down my tears. Yet, there was something truly extraordinary to celebrate Mass with my patron saint in her Church.
I know this might sound silly or cheesy. But I did feel her near me. It’s an odd feeling, to know someone is with you even if they aren’t physically.
After that day, I told Saint Joan the day of my consecration,
“My dear St. Joan, I owe everything to you. Without you, I’d be lost, just as I would be lost without St. Therese, Mary, and Jesus. So from here on out, and with your permission, I would like to be your friend. If there is anything you wish me to do, push me in the right direction, and I will do my best.”
I struggled to say the words… I wanted to drop to my knees in front of my friend and our Mother. My emotions were a storm and I had no sense of what I was saying. I think… the only thing I can say, looking at her statue, was just a sense of gratitude. I had no idea how to express in word, yet I desperately tried like a child. I must have been a fool!
Yet, I knew she smiled down upon me, understanding the feelings I was trying to grapple with. I had to leave the church, somewhat dejected, unable to express myself… It was when I went to my church afterwards to formally… and calmly… say my consecration prayers did I feel she was like “It’s alright. Be at peace, my beloved friend.”
Since then, I felt it has been almost like a mini calling to bring more people to Saint Joan and Saint Therese, and through them, to Jesus. Hence even this blog.
St. Joan and St. Therese truly inspire this blog. While I realize that not everyone is Catholic, and I respect that, I do want to share with the whole world how a young nineteen-year-old girl, who died at the stake nearly six hundred years, has been my friend and brought me back to Christ, and very saved me when I desperately needed help.
She taught me that no matter how hopeless things may be, in the end, it won’t matter if we persevere through our trials, and even when it might seem we have lost, we will achieve victory through our faith.
Every day, after praying to God and after praying my rosary, I make sure to pray to Saint Joan. Sometimes it’s a formal prayer. Other times, it’s me just telling her what’s on my mind, and other days, it’s just a simple thank you. But I make sure to do it at least once a day.
I often end with something along the lines,
“St. Joan, God-willing, I look forward to meeting you in Heaven. I imagine we will have a great many things to talk about.”
Remember that there is a patron saint in heaven looking and watching over you. All you need to do is ask God to reveal them to you. You won’t regret it. They aren’t just some person you ask for prayers.
They are our extended family in Heaven who know the struggles we are going through, and they are most eager to help all of us.
May St. Joan pray and watch over you, my dear reader!