Who was Saint Joan of Arc?

The Life and Miracles of Joan of Arc, Patron Saint of France

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Saint Joan of Arc said Archangel Michael helped her defend her nation from invaders in battle. Colin Anderson, Getty Images

Joan of Arc, who lived from 1412 to 1431 in France, is one of the most beloved saints of all time. This inspiring woman became known for her extraordinary courage, her leadership, and her close and controversial relationship with Archangel Michael. Here's a biography of St. Joan of Arc and a look at the miracles that believers say God performed through her life:

Feast Day

May 30th

Patron Saint Of

Prisoners, rape victims, martyrs, people who serve in the military, people who work in communications fields (such as with radio, television, or the Internet), people who are ridiculed for the piety, women who work in emergency services jobs, and the nation of France.

Famous Miracles

The most famous miracle of Joan’s is her work as a soldier: leading troops into successful battles for France during the Hundred Years War, despite having no military training and fighting as the only woman among many men. Joan credited God with empowering her to fight successfully and said that God had called her to defend France from English invaders, delivering that message through Michael – the highest-ranked archangel – who specializes in fighting for good to overcome evil.

Joan said of her calling, “It pleased God thus to act through a simple maid in order to turn back the king’s enemies.” She also encouraged other people to place their hope in God to empower them to fight whatever battles they face in their own lives. “Hope in God,” she said. “If you have good hope and faith in him, you shall be delivered from your enemies.”

Besides her miraculous battle adventures, Joan was involved in another miracle during her lifetime, in which she reportedly prayed for a baby who had died, and it came back to life long enough to be baptized before passing away again.

Some miraculous healings were attributed to Joan after her death, when sick people prayed for her help in heaven to ask God to perform a miracle for them.

Three that involved different French nuns were investigated by the Catholic church to determine whether or not the healings could have happened through any natural, medical means, and concluded that all three were supernatural healings due to Joan’s intercession with God.

Sister Therese of Saint Augustine was cured of leg ulcers, Sister Julie Gauthier was cured of breast cancer, and Sister Marie Sagnier was cured of stomach cancer. After these healings, Joan was beatified – the first step in the process of becoming one the Catholic church's official saints.

Church officials investigated and documented two additional miraculous healings before canonizing Joan as a saint. One of those miracles involved Therese Belin, a woman suffering from both tuberculosis and a lesion on her heart’s mitral valve, who had come to a worship service at the Lourdes shrine in France. During the “Blessing of the Sick” part of the service, a priest prayed for Belin, invoking Joan’s help to pray in heaven for Belin’s healing. Belin recovered before the service was over, and her healing was later medically verified. The other miraculous healing that contributed to Joan’s sainthood involved another French woman, Mademoiselle Mirandelle, who was cured of a hole that went straight through the sole of her foot after praying for Joan to intercede with God for her recovery.

Pope Benedict XV canonized Joan a saint in 1920.

Biography

Joan of Arc (known in her native country, France, as Jeanne d’Arc) had a brief but dramatic life.

Ever since she claimed to hear the voices (and sometimes see visions) of Archangel Michael and two saints speaking to her – starting when she was 13 years old – she was involved in many controversial adventures that led to her burning death at age 19 on charges of heresy and witchcraft and, later, to her becoming a popular saint.

In 1412, Joan was born; she was the youngest of five children of tenant farmers in the village of Domremy, France. She spent time regularly praying in church while growing up.

One summer day in her garden, at age 13, Joan heard a voice through extrasensory perception. The voice was speaking to her and she reported that she heard it as clearly as if there had been another person standing there. But all that was visible was a bright light that accompanied the voice. The voice told Joan that it was Archangel Michael, sent to her on a mission from God.

Archangel Michael told Joan to live a faithful and holy life. He told her that it was important to be open to serving God however God would lead her, and that she could trust that God would help her every step of the way in her service.

Archangel Michael spoke to, and sometimes appeared to, Joan many times over the next few years, she said -- and so did two female saints (Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Margaret) whom Michael said God had appointed to help Joan as spiritual mentors until she was ready to fulfill the mission God had given her to defend her country in battle.

When Joan protested to the archangel and saints that she couldn't do what they said God had called her to do, they replied, "It is God who commands it" and assured her that God would empower her and give her the confidence she needed if she kept trusting him every day.

Archangel Michael told Joan in February 1429 that the time had come for her to leave her home to start liberating the French people from English invaders. He encouraged her to not be afraid. Joan set out on her mission and met three times with the military captain Robert de Baudricourt before he took her request for equipment and a small entourage of soldiers seriously. As the only woman going into combat with men, Joan decided it would be wise for protection to dress in men's clothing for her journey going forward.

Joan then went to meet French dauphin Charles VII, who was skeptical of her and her mission at first but came to believe that Joan truly was sent by God.

Charles gave Joan army troops to command, and she did so in several battles where she and her soldiers were victorious over the English (such as raising the siege at Orleans in May 1429).

Although Joan had no military training, she still enjoyed tremendous success in battle, and credited it to Archangel Michael guiding her battle strategies.She said that Michael also gave her information about specific events that were going to happen in the future, and the angel's prophecies came true, convincing others people to support Joan's mission along the way.

Thanks to Joan's help, Charles VII was able to become the next French king. He was crowned on July 17, 1429, with Joan standing nearby at the coronation ceremony.

While fighting at Compiegne in May 1430, Joan was wounded and captured by the English. She was eventually tried by a court of church officials in February 1431 on charges that included heresy, witchcraft, and cross-dressing. Investigators who didn't believe Joan's declarations that the voices who had guided her were indeed those of an archangel and two saints said that Joan was listening to guidance from demons instead. They sentenced her to be executed by burning in May 1431, and at her sentencing, Joan commented: "I die for speaking the language of the angels."

She signed a partial recantation statement to avoid burning and spend life in prison instead, but then, saying she had regained her courage, she voided the statement, saying she had signed it only "in fear of the fire." Joan reasserted that the voices who had guided her were from God.

Joan was burned at a stake on May 30, 1431 after making a speech in which she expressed forgiveness for the people who had accused her. She drew her last breaths while looking at a crucifix (an object featuring Jesus Christ on the cross on which he died), which she had requested that people present hold up in front of her eyes as she died.

After the war ended, in 1450, Pope Calixtus III annulled Joan's sentence and proclaimed her a faithful Christian and a martyr.

In 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized Joan as a saint.