Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) is the patron of France and of soldiers. Born to peasant parents in the village of Domremy, Joan (or Jehanne, as she signed her name in French) began to hear the voices (and sometimes see some kind of vision) of St Michael, St Catherine and St Margaret when she was thirteen. At first, they simply urged her to develop her piety but eventually began to direct her to become involved in the struggle to bring Charles, son of King Charles VI, to the contested French throne.

Obediently, 17-year old Joan traveled to the French court, took on male attire, and persisted in making her way through the layers of bureaucracy by predicting the outcome of certain military operations and then by recognizing the king in his disguise. She convinced him to allow her to command an army, and using a sword that had been buried behind the altar of St Catherine de Fierbois, she led her army to a spectacular victory over the English at Orleans. Charles’ supporters were reinvigorated by the inspiration of this armored Maid of Orleans, and after a string of victories, Charles was crowned at the Cathedral in Rheims with Joan in attendance.

She laid down her arms on the altar of St Denis after being shot through the thigh with a crossbow but went back to the field one more time. At Compegnie, Joan was trapped outside the castle, dragged from her horse, and promptly sold to the English with no intervention by Charles. Held in a secular prison guarded by English soldiers, she continued to wear male clothing for protection. The Inquisition was called in.

After nearly five months of testimony, beginning with charges of witchcraft and ending with a conviction of engaging in cross-dressing, Joan was condemned a heretic at nineteen, and she was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431.  A new trial by the Church in 1450 overturned her conviction and declared Joan to be a martyr. She was canonized (declared a saint) in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, who called her a “most brilliant shining light” of God. Her story has been the subject of hundreds of books, plays, musical compositions, and art.

Prayer for 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 along beside 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.

–Penny Nash (from article http://www.lentmadness.org/2012/02/joan-of-arc-vs-lancelot-andrewes/ )