St. Joan of Arc
Virgin Martyr (1412-1431)
The "Maid of Orleans" and liberator of France, Jean d'Arc was a native of Domremy in Lorraine. The youngest of five children of a poor peasant farmer named Jacques, she was born on 6 January 1412 and from her 13th year, was conscious of supernatural "voices" directing her. Three years later these voices (Sts Michael, Margaret and Catherine) insistently urged her to lead the French King's armies to victory over the English, just when their complete defeat seemed imminent - "It is God who commands it!"
Charles VII, to test her when she came to court, disguised himself and mingled with the courtiers, but Joan singled him out quickly and won his confidence by revealing to him a personal secret. There followed a most searching examination of her "voices" and her character by learned Bishops and doctors. Later, a standard was made for her with a representation of kneeling Angels presenting a fleurde-lis to God the Father and bearing the words "Jesus, Maria". The city of Orleans was on the point of falling into English hands, when Joan's arrival reanimated the defenders so that by successful sorties they were able to raise the siege. Other towns were similarly freed, and in 1429 Charles VII was solemnly crowned in the cathedral of Rheims, with Joan standing near him. He later conferred nobility on Joan.
In the ensuing winter, however, many military advantages were lost through procrastination and political jealousies, and when Joan was captured at Compiegne by the Burgandians, the urgrateful Charles abandoned her to her fate - she was sold by her captors to the English, who, in order to rid themselves of one who inspired their troops with superstitious terror, had her condemned for witchery by subservient prelates and judges. On 30 May 1431, just 19, she was burned alive at the stake at Rouen. A generation later, a re-trial of her case, at the request of her family, established Joan's complete innocence.
Joan of Arc was canonized by Pope Benedict XV on 16 May 1920. She is the Patron of France
Reflection :"Accept everything with willing heart. Do not mind your martyrdom; at the end you shall come to the Kingdom of Paradise" (Voices to St Joan of Arc).