Today is the feast of St. Joan of Arc, the patroness of France. Joan was born to a peasant family near Lorraine, France in the 15th century.
From a young age she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret speaking to her. Then, in 1428, when she was 13 years old, she received a vision telling her to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom from the invading forces of England and Burgundy.
Overcoming opposition and convincing members of the court and of the Church, she was given a small army. She charged into battle bearing a banner which bore the names “Jesus” and “Mary” as well as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Due to her leadership and trust in God, she was able to raise the siege of Orleans in 1429. Joan and her army went on to win a series of battles. Because of her efforts, the king was able to enter Rheims. He was crowned with Joan at his side.
Eventually, Joan was captured by the forces of Burgundy in May of 1430. When her own king and army did nothing to save her, she was sold to the English. She was imprisoned for a time and then put on trial. Bishop Peter Cauchon of Beauvais presided over her trial. His hope was that in being harsh with Joan, the English would help him become archbishop.
Joan was condemned to death on counts of heresy, witchcraft, and adultery. On May 30, 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. She was 19 years old.
Thirty years after her death, her case was retried and she was exonerated. In 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. She is the patroness of France, captives, soldiers, and those ridiculed for their piety.