St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
At the time of Joan’s birth in 1412 English troops had been fighting on French soil for some 75 years occupying much of the country and preventing the coronation of a French king. In response to a number of promptings by voices she heard in prayer, Joan abandoned her peasant homelife to rally the armies of France and lead them to several significant victories. She achieved her goal of seeing the Dauphin crowned at Rheims as Charles VII, but when hostile forces at Compiegne captured her afterwards, King Charles left her to her fate. French clergy friendly to the English cause condemned Joan as a heretic -- in part because she wore men’s clothing, but mostly because she refused to deny the reality of what she heard in prayer. She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine. Another Catholic tribunal exonerated her 25 years later, and she was canonized as a saint in 1920.
White butterflies followed Joan wherever she rode with her unfurled banner. An English soldier made a crude cross of sticks and handed it to her shortly before she was burned. This nineteen-year-old martyr died rather than compromise the clear path shown by her conscience. In this she has been an inspiration for many in our own day.
Her feast day is May 30.
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