St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc is one of the most well-known martyrs in the Catholic faith, and is an image of bravery and confidence.

Historians, military buffs, and Francophiles are as fascinated by her as hagiographers and those who seek to follow her example as a woman of faith, against enemy combatants as much as the political trial held against her. 


Lifetime: 1412-1431
Region: Normandy, France
Patronages: France; Martyr; Soldiers
Iconograpy: Armor; Sword; Flag
Feast Day: May 30

Young Joan was famously pious even as a child, but it was when she was thirteen that her faith reached a new level. At that age, she began to receive visions from St. Michael, St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and others. Joan didn't tell many about these visions, but it slowly became clear to her that through them God was calling her to defend her country. She took a vow dedicating her whole life to God, and at 17 managed to convince her prince to grant her an army and send her to battle.

While leading the troops in war against the English, Joan wore men's clothing to protect her modesty. At that time, women wore only dresses, and only men could wear pants, but dresses were poorly suited to the conditions of battle camps, horse riding, and wearing armor. She also used men's clothing to disguise herself while moving in enemy territory.

In her military career, Joan proved to be a stunning tactician, and it was easy for many of her followers to believe that her quest truly was ordained by God, especially after her victory at the siege of Orleans, which many described as "miraculous".

In one battle, Joan continued to lead in battle even after being shot in the leg by a crossbow bolt. But her efforts were not for naught -- her prince was crowned King of France due in part to Joan's tactics, advice, and skill.

However, her enemies viewed her successes differently. The English who opposed her began to accuse Joan of being a witch, drawing her prowess not from God but from evil forces.

Soon after the coronation, Joan was captured in an ambush by allies of her English enemies. She was accused of witchcraft and cross-dressing and tried in a court rigged with her political enemies. Even still, they could not successfully stick the charges of witchcraft, as in her humility and honesty, the claims were suspect. Joan also impressed many witnessness by avoiding legal traps in the hearings, despite being unable to read and inexperienced in courts.

However, because Joan had been witnessed wearing men's clothing several times, she was ultimately found guilty of the cross-dressing charge and condemned to execution, though even here transcripts were modified to ensure the verdict the court wanted.

Joan's execution showed further the length to which her enemies would go to mar her name. She was burned at the stake, and after her death, her executioners burned her body an additional two times, then scattered the ashes into the nearby river to ensure that nobody could take any relics from her body.

One of her executioners was so moved by her courage and faith while she was being burned, that he later told others he was afraid he would be damned for his part in killing a holy woman.

PRAYER TO ST. JOAN OF ARC

O Saint Joan of Arc, courageous woman soldier, called by God to fight and save your country from the enemy; grant that I, like you, may hear God’s call in my life and have the courage to follow it faithfully, as priest, religious, married or single.

May your motto: ‘My God must be first served,’ be mine also; so that through me, He may build His kingdom here on earth.

Intercede to the Master of the harvest, that He may send laborers into His harvest.

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us. Amen 

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