St. Joan of Arc was born into a peasant family in Lorraine, France, in the 15th century. When she was young, she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret speaking to her. In 1428, when she was 13, she received a vision, which told her to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom, under siege from England and Burgundy.
Joan overcame opposition and convinced members of the court and the Church to give her a small army. She led them into battle, bearing a banner emblazoned with the names “Jesus” and “Mary,” and an image of the Holy Spirit.
At the siege of Orleans in 1429, Joan’s faith in God and leadership skills proved successful. She went on to win a number of battles, helping the king enter Rheims. He was crowned with Joan at his side.
In May of 1430, Joan was captured by the Burgundy army. When her king and army made no efforts to save her, she was sold to the English. Joan spent time in prison before her trial, at which Bishop Peter Cauchon of Beauvais presided. He hoped that in dealing with Joan harshly, he would receive help from the English in becoming an archbishop.
At trial, Joan was condemned to death for heresy, witchcraft, and adultery. On May 30, 1431, at the age of 19, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, France.
Thirty years after her death, St. Joan’s case was retried, and she was exonerated. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized her. St. Joan is the patroness of France, captives, soldiers, and those ridiculed for piety.
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