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O God, you have chosen Saint Joan of Arc to defend her country against the invading enemy. Through her intercession, grant that we may work for justice and live in peace.

Saint Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and made the patron saint of France and soldiers. She’s known to be from the peasant class but of a devoted family near to the province of Lorraine. Her own life of sanctity began with the awareness, it is said, of recognizing the voices of Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret. The heavenly messengers told the young Joan to help the king reconquer his kingdom. 

For some it was a precocious act, but Joan commanded her own army at the age of 17 winning several military battles. She faced bigoted political and churchmen and were all-too-willing to let Joan hang out to dry when she was captured by the Burgundians and who they sold her to the English enemies of France.

Joan was not well-trained in theology. In fact, she is a good example of how little knowledge could be damaging if you don’t know the complexities of what you think you know. Awareness of the supernatural is always puzzling for many people, even the most attuned to the spiritual life. Our more sophisticated times are not all that willing to allow for dealing with people who have a vibrant life in the Spirit. But, what does one do with a young person (older for that matter) who is conscious of saintly and angelic manifestations who give serious counsel to advise a king to go to battle?

Plus, a naivety was the condition of making incriminating statements about what’s perceived as odd in a “standard” spiritual life. Joan was cautious about her experience, we are told, and she stood firm in her belief that was she experienced was authentic. Her inquisitors found her incredulous about her claim that the saints communicated her marching orders. The bishop-judge ultimately condemned Joan to death labeling her as a heretic, sorceress, and adulteress. On this date in 1431 Joan was burned at the stake at 19 years old.

History tells us that it took 30 years to exonerate Joan from the charges that led to her death. Moreover, it was the bishop of Orleans in 1869 who began the process of evaluating the young woman’s sanctity.

Daniel Rabourdin, writer, director and producer of Joan of Arc: Maid for God, said, “The life of Joan is such a lesson in the social teachings of the Church. As the patron saint of militants and people ridiculed for their faith, she is a saint for these times of Catholics being active politically. It’s not unchristian to be firm and to stand up – until martyrdom.”

Other titles on today’s saint,  Joan of Arc, The Retrial of Joan of Arc, and for younger readers, Saint Joan the Girl Soldier.