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St. Joan of Valois, February 4

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Joan of Valois (1464-1505) was the second daughter of Louis XI, King of France. She was betrothed to Louis, Duke of Orleans, and the marriage took place in 1476. On her husband’s succession to the throne, he obtained a declaration that the marriage was invalid. She later founded the Order of the Annunciation.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

Joan of Valois

Joan of Valois was a lady extraordinarily ugly and deformed. Because of her ugliness her husband despised her at a time when the spirit of frivolity had already begun to grow, giving origin to the cult of beauty of our days. Her husband, who became King of France, refused to live with her. Her father, the King Louis XI, was also ashamed to be with her, and only visited her a few times a year.

Placed in this situation of general scorn, she demonstrated a very commendable virtue, that is, she remained secure and confident. She maintained a great dignity and composure that came from an indomitable state of spirit. In effect she responded like this to her situation:

“The reason why people despise me is not a valid one. For the value of a person comes not from the beauty of the body, but from the beauty of the soul. I have value as a princess, a daughter of a king, a wife of a king and a Catholic, and there is no ugliness that can annul these values. This is part of the moral order. Men can think whatever they want, judge whatever they desire, I will behave without arrogance but in full accordance with my dignity.”

She never displayed shame over her situation or showed herself insecure in the face of her ugliness. She never allowed herself self-pity or permitted anyone to look down on her. Even after her marriage was annulled, she carried her cross peacefully and calmly with her head raised high. Repudiated as spouse of the King Louis XII, she received the title of Duchess of Berry and governed over a vast amount of properties. She also founded a religious order, the Order of the Annunciation. She gave, therefore, a great meaning to her life, which was an external expression of her profound moral value. She acquired a virtue that was heroic, and in acknowledgement of this the Church raised her to the honor of the altars.

What is the lesson for us?

It means that even when people want to despise us, persecute us, or annul things that we have a right to, we should remain secure and certain of our position. For if one knows that he is acting according to Catholic doctrine, he should have a peaceful conscience. The man who acts in accordance with Catholic doctrine has nothing to fear or be ashamed of. Rather, he should be proud of it and self-assured.

Even if the Revolution arrogantly offends or scorns us, our position should be that of St. Joan of Valois. In the face of lies and calumnies, we should carry ourselves the way she did. We should remind ourselves:

“The facts prove that I am acting according to Catholic doctrine. My conscience tells me that there is nothing to reproach in my action. Therefore, before the eyes of God and his Angels, I can be serene and peaceful, certain that I will never be despised by them. It does not matter if men despise me. I have the Catholic Faith and I know that I am following the truth taught by the true Church. Let others think what they will, judge what they want, I will not cede one inch of my position to please them.”

This is the teaching, the lesson of true human dignity given to us by St. Joan of Valois.

Tradition in Action

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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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