Saint Joan of Arc

This week’s Saint of the Week, Saint Joan of Arc, is one of my favorite Saints.  A true life tale of inspiration, triumph, betrayal and redemption.   Joan of Arc was a simple peasant girl from the obscure village of Domremy, in the north eastern french countryside about 80 years into a dispute between England and France for the throne of a divided France.  Joan, prompted by voices she claimed to be Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, challenged the rightful French King’s heir, Charles VII, to fight for his throne. The King, dubious of this young girl claiming to be on a mission from God, switched clothes with another member of his entourage during their first meeting. When St. Joan was admitted for her audience with the King, she walked directly to him, instructing him that “her voices” identified him to her.  Saint Joan then boldly told the King, “I bring you news from God, that our Lord will give you back your kingdom, bringing you to be crowned at Reims, and driving out your enemies. In this I am God's messenger."

After subjecting St. Joan to the scrutiny of his experts, the King gave St. Joan leadership over a contingent of men to lead into battle.  Despite being only 17 years old, and with no prior military experience or training, Joan proved to be a competent battle field commander.  A skill she credited to “her voices”.  Not seeking conflict, Joan sent a warning to the English on the eve of the battle stating, “You Englishmen, who have no right in this Kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends you word and warning, by me Jehanne the Maid, to abandon your forts and depart into your own country, or I will raise such a war-cry against you as shall be remembered forever. And this I write to you for the third and last time, nor shall I write further”.

Joan led the men on to a hard fought victory in the battle of Orleans, earning her the title of “The Maid of Orleans”.  Riding a horse, dressed in armor provided by the King, a sword bearing five crosses discovered in the Church of St. Catherine, and carrying a standard banner whose design was dictated to her by “her voices”.  Joan was wounded in the shoulder by a crossbow in the heat of the battle, which emboldened the English side and shook the confidence of the men in her charge.  St. Joan returned to the battlefield, inspiring and rallying her troops on to victory, which led to the coronation of Charles VII as the rightful King of France.  St. Joan stood at his side during the coronation holding her banner and crying tears of joy.

Saint Joan of Arc was famous for her piety and for compelling the soldiers in her charge to partake of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion before battle to prepare their soul’s for heaven.

Following the victory at Orleans, Joan led the army on to more victories in Troyes, Chalons, and Reims, before being wounded once again by a crossbow, this time in the thigh. Cut off from retreat and captured in the town of Compiegne, St. Joan was held prisoner by the Duke of Luxembourg, an ally of the English.  The French King, in an act of cowardly betrayal refused to ransom or rescue the woman responsible for his crown.  The Maid attempted to escape from prison by jumping out of a window which only resulted in her injuring her hip and recapture. The Duke finally ransomed Saint Joan into the hands of the humiliated and vengeance seeking English.

Joan was charged with heresy in a shameful, political trial intended to undermine her claim that God sent her to rescue France from the English. The trial transcripts still exist and show how the simple peasant girl, who could neither read nor write, had no problem holding up under the scrutiny of her corrupt inquisitors.  At one point they tried to trick St. Joan into claiming she knew the will of God by asking her if she was in a state of Grace. St. Joan deftly responded, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.” Her inquisitors, who failed to indict her on theological grounds, spent the majority of the trail preoccupied on Joan’s insistence upon wearing men’s clothing while in prison, a tactic she used in order to guard her purity from her captors.  

The mock trial resulted in the guilty verdict intended.  Saint Joan was found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake in Old Market Square in Rouen, on May 30, 1431.  On the way to her execution, St. Joan passed by a group of priests and stated, "All you priests who are here, I beg you to say a Mass for me, every one of you."  She also forgave and prayed for her executioners.

Joan’s legend and stature continued to grow after her death. In 1456, eighty years after her death, Pope Callixtus III, commissioned  an inquisitorial court to re-examine the trial.  The charges against her were determined to be without merit, the verdict was overturned and Saint Joan was declared a martyr.  Saint Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized a Saint in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

Patron Saint of: Martyrs, Captives, Prisoners, Rape victims, France.   

Feast Day:  May 30th

Prayer to Saint Joan of Arc

In the face of your enemies, in the face of harassment, ridicule, and doubt, you held firm in your faith. Even in your abandonment, alone and without friends, you held firm in your faith. Even as you faced your own mortality, you held firm in your faith. I pray that I may be as bold in my beliefs as you, St. Joan. I ask that you ride alongside me in my own battles. Help me be mindful that what is worthwhile can be won when I persist. Help me hold firm in my faith. Help me believe in my ability to act well and wisely. Amen.

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

You Might Also Like


  1. I love this idea! Keep posting! I will always come back week after week!