Saint Valentine 269 a.d.

st.v2Feast Day: February 14

Patron of: beekeepers, engaged couples, greeting card manufacturers, happy marriages, love, lovers, young people Invoked against: epilepsy, fainting, plague

Symbols: birds, martyr’s palms, rose, sun, sword

His feast day is embedded in Western civilization. His name has become synonymous with a certain type of romantic card, yet few realize that Valentine actually existed. As a saint, his first great work was to unite young couples in marriage.

In the year a.d. 269, when the Roman Empire was under constant attack from barbarian tribes, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Claudius issued an edict outlawing marriage for young men. He speculated that more soldiers would join the legions to defend it if they were unfettered by wives and children. Valentine was a respected healer and priest in the outlawed Christian faith. He had great sympathy for those young couples whose plans for a life together were shattered by the state and he encouraged anyone who wished to wed to come to him to be married in secret. He was arrested and imprisoned in Rome for defying the emperor. But his reputation as a learned man remained untarnished and many of his followers would visit him in prison for counseling; others came for health cures. Personally afflicted with epilepsy, Valentine was particularly drawn to treating those also suffering from the disease.

The jailer, having witnessed many successful healings at Valentine’s cell door, asked the saint to treat his daughter, who had been blind since birth. During her subsequent visits to the prison, Valentine read to the girl, taught her mathematics, and beautifully described the natural world. Valentine’s wisdom and kindness so impressed the jailer and his family that they converted to Christianity despite the fact that the young girl remained blind. This conversion established Valentine’s status as a true threat to the state, a charge punishable by death. His execution came on February 14, the eve of the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Valentine was beaten with clubs and then beheaded. Before his sentence was carried out however, he sent a yellow crocus to the jailer’s daughter enclosed with a note that read, “With love, from your Valentine.” The bright color of this flower was the first thing she ever saw, her eyesight having been miraculously restored. She is said to have planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave, and to this day the almond tree is
considered a symbol of friendship and devotion.

Valentine was buried on the Flaminian Way in a catacomb that still bears his name. A church was dedicated to him there in a.d. 496. The wall of the city, the original Flaminian Gate, was a pilgrim’s first stop upon entering Rome and was known as Porta S. Valentino until the seventeenth century, when it was renamed Porta del Popolo. In the ninth century, relics of the early martyrs were removed from the catacombs and transferred to local Roman churches. Valentine, too, was reinterred in the church. His body was moved to the church of Saint Praxedes, very near his original burial place. Many cities besides Rome claim his relics, among them Terni, Italy; Madrid, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Rocamador, France.

It is no coincidence that the liturgical feast day of the patron saint of love falls on the eve of Lupercalia, an erotic Roman fertility festival. It was common practice for church holidays to coopt pagan celebrations. The Romans considered this the official beginning of Spring, a time of reawakening fertility and warming weather. One of the activities held in honor of the goddess Februata Juno consisted of the city’s bachelors drawing the names of unmarried women out of an urn. They would then become a couple for the rest of the year, with many of these matches resulting in marriage. In twelfth century southern France, this practice was reawakened as part of the Langue d’Oc poetry movement. This was a time when art and literature took on a heightened importance to the ruling classes. Noble youths known as gallants wrote missives of love they called galantines.

The local pronunciation confused this with the word valentine and Valentines clubs sprang up. On February 14, after a Mass in honor of Love, a silver casket containing the names of unmarried local men was presented to the single women in town. The men whose names each woman drew was required to be the guardian of that lady, providing her with flowers, poems, and gifts throughout the year. He was to guard her honor chivalrously. Marriage between these Valentines was strictly forbidden. Because of the wide dispersal of his remains, the cult of Saint Valentine became extremely popular in Northern Italy, southern France, and England. His head, which was reputed to be in England, was said to bestow incredible miracles and healings on those who kissed it. Since the middle of February was considered the time of year when birds began to pair, the English, like the Romans a thousand years before them, looked upon this as the beginning of mating season. Celebrating the Feast of Saint Valentine by citing the fidelity of doves seems to be an English tradition.

The oldest valentine note in existence today was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the tower of London. By the middle, nineteenth century sending and receiving anonymous Valentine’s cards and poems declaring one’s love became common in both America and England. By then, the story of the saint who had inspired this industry might have faded away, but his name and feast day is celebrated universally.

Prayer to Saint Valentine

O glorious advocate and protector, Saint Valentine, look with pity upon our wants, hear our requests, attend to our prayers, relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labor, and obtain for us the divine blessing, that we may be found worthy to join you in praising the Almighty for all eternity; through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saint Jude Thaddeus, First Century

“When all else fails, when we are in the most difficult of situations, we turn to Saint Jude, “Helper of the Helpless” and Saint of the Impossible.”

Patron of: Impossible Causes

One of the original 12 apostles, Jude is depicted with the flame of knowledge received from the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost burning above his head. Brother of James the Lesser and cousin of Jesus, Jude was one of Christ’s earliest followers. He earned his title of Patron Saint of Impossible Causes because of a letter he wrote in 60AD to persecuted Christian converts in the East, exhorting them to stay strong in the face of all difficulties.

The name Jude means giver of joy and the name Thaddeus means great hearted one and this saint was said to live up to his name, attracting immense crowds by preaching in an entertaining way, outwitting magicians and local priests. Abgar, the King of Edessa was quite impressed with Jude and appealed to Jesus cure his leprosy. He sent an artist to draw Christ’s image. The artist was so shaken by the glow in Christ’s eyes, he could not draw. Christ wiped his face with a cloth and the image of his face was transferred to it. Jude brought the cloth back to Abgar and the king rubbed the cloth over his body, curing himself of leprosy. Many depictions and statues of Saint Jude include this cloth with Christ’s image on it. Jude was martyred along with Saint Simon in the city of Samir by being beaten with a club. This club, as well as the palms of martyrdom are also part of his iconography.

The cult of Saint Jude all but died out after the Middle Ages because people confused him with Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Christ. Despite being cited as a great influence by the mystics Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Bridget of Sweden, Jude was rarely invoked by the faithful for anything. It is said that because of this, he became the saint to call on in the most impossible of situations. So anxious was he to be of help, he would turn heaven and earth to rectify a desperate situation. By the nineteenth century, it became customary to thank the saint for help with answered prayers by taking an ad in the newspaper. This helped to resurrect his popularity and these small “Thank you Saint Jude” ads can be found in many weekly and daily periodicals in present day.

Prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus

Glorious apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, I salute you through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his heart I praise and thank God for all the graces he has bestowed upon you. I implore you, through his love, to look upon me with compassion. Do not despise my poor prayer. Do not let my trust be confounded! God has granted to you the privilege of aiding mankind in the most desperate cases. Oh, come to my aid that I may praise the mercies of God! All my life I will be your grateful client until I can thank you in heaven.
(Mention your request here).
Saint Jude, pray for us, and for all who invoke your aid.

 St. Francis of Assisi 1182 – 1226

St.Francis“Lord make me an instrument of they peace, where there is hatred let me sow love.
Patron of: animals, ecology, grace, green technology, light, love, merchants, nature, peace, pets, tapestry workers, harmony, dying alone
Type: Mystic

Love for God and everything in creation so consumed St. Francis of Assisi, that he was able to commune with the natural world on a divine level. Taming wolves, quieting flocks of birds and infusing peace and contentment to the humanity he interacted with, we call on Francis of Assisi to bring us into the harmonious rhythms of the universe, where all of nature and mankind are at one with the divine force of creation.

An unlikely mystic, Francis was born Giovanni Bernadone in the town of Assisi. His father, a proud member of the upper classes was a wealthy cloth merchant married to a woman from Provence. Because he frequently conversed in French with his mother, Giovanni was soon known as “Francesco” or “the Frenchman” by his friends and neighbors. Confident that his son would follow in his footsteps, the elder Bernadone indulged and catered to Francesco’s every whim and the youth enjoyed a pleasure filled existence in the company of others in his social caste. On a lark he set off with friends to take part in a war with Perugia. Much to his shock, he was taken prisoner and it took his family a year to ransom him back. Upon his return, he was bedridden and seriously ill. But in recovering his health, Francesco seems to have lost his identity. He suffered a great spiritual crisis as all interest in his old life and his father’s business waned and disappeared. While wandering the countryside he stopped into the deserted church of San Damiano and heard the crucifix say to him, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.” Happy to have some direction in his life, he took the request literally and began rebuilding the structure with his bare hands. Ultimately, his father disowned him and when Francis, renouncing his inheritance threw his clothing in the street, he donned the simple brown garment given him by the Bishop of Assisi.

Begging for supplies, Francis continued his work on San Damiano. Eventually he was joined by other disenchanted young men looking for a higher meaning in life. By simply following the exact tenets of Christ, this little band of friars, never owning anything, bartering labor for food and shelter began a movement of religious seekers that revolutionized the Church by the simple and loving way they spread the gospel. Instead of writing in church Latin he used colloquial Italian and in an effort to explain the story of Christ’s birth, he created a living tableau of animals and people – the first Christmas crèche.

A great poet and mystic, Francis was the first saint to receive the stigmata while in a meditative rapture. Filled with humility and though he founded one of the world’s greatest religious orders, Francis of Assisi was never ordained a priest. Upon his death he requested to be buried in the cemetery for criminals, but the people of Assisi so loved him that they took his body and interred it under the altar of their great cathedral. Just as popular with nonCatholics as Catholics, Francis has inspired great artists, composers and writers. Assisi, Italy remains a great pilgrimage site for those wishing to pay him tribute.

Prayer

O Beloved Saint Francis, gentle and poor, your obedience to God, and your simple, deep love for all God’s creatures led you to the heights of heavenly perfection and turned many hearts to follow God’s will. Now in our day, in our ministry to the many who come here searching for peace and intercede for us we come before the Lord with our special requests…

(Mention your special intentions here.)

O Blessed Saint of God, from your throne among the hosts of heaven, present our petitions before our faithful Lord. May your prayers on our behalf be heard and may God grant us the grace to lead good and faithful lives. Amen

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

SAINT RAYMOND NONNATUS: PATRON OF NEWBORNS

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1204-1240

Feast Day: August 31

Patron of: Newborns

Keywords: midwives, obstetricians, expectant mothers, women in labor, falsely accused, secrets, fever

Quote: “For many hours you did not die in the womb of your dead mother and you were successfully delivered from her side to be the joy of the world.”

Symbols: monstrance, palms with three crowns, cardinal’s hat, padlock

‘Non natus’ is Latin for “never born” and Saint Raymond was given his surname because his mother had died in labor two days before he was delivered by cesarean section. The fact that he did not die in his mother’s womb was considered an extraordinary event in the early thirteenth century, when a good number of mothers and infants were lost during childbirth.  Because of the extraordinary circumstances of his birth, he always felt an affinity for the precarious state of women in labor and their infants. For this reason, midwives, obstetricians and expectant mothers call on him for help in the safe delivery of healthy newborns.

Hailing from Catalonia in Spain, Raymond’s family were from a noble class.  His father attempted to train him to take over the family farms but because of his great devotion to the Virgin Mary, he chose instead to join the Mercedarians, a religious order dedicated to ransoming Christian slaves from the Moors, who occupied much of Spain. The Mercedarians also spiritually administered to Christian slaves in Moorish regions. As the Spanish territory was recaptured, and the Moors driven into North Africa, Raymond Nonnatus followed Christian slaves into Algeria. It was said he spent his entire inheritance ransoming slaves and when he ran out of money he substituted himself for another man’s freedom. He was soon imprisoned for his religious proselytizing and when he succeeded in converting several of his jailers, the Moors bored holes in his lips and sealed his mouth shut with an iron padlock to keep him from preaching. Though he was sentenced to death, the Mercedarians managed to ransom him home to Spain. As he was enroute to Rome to receive the hat of a cardinal, he was struck down by a fever and died in Cardona, 60 miles from Barcelonia. It was said that angels fed and administered communion to Raymond on his deathbed and he is frequently depicted in the company of angels.

Because of the padlock put on his lips, Raymond Nonnatus is invoked against gossip and the temptation to gossip. He is also invoked for help in keeping secrets as well as by priests for protection of keeping the sacred silence of the confessional. On the feast of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, it is customary for those who are victims of slander and gossip to put locks on the saint’s altar to silence their persecutors. In many images Saint Raymond Nonnatus carries the palm of martyrs signifying life defeating death, his palm has three crowns, for chastity, eloquence, and martyrdom.

Invoked for: safe childbirth, a healthy newborn, to silence gossip, against fever

Prayer to St. Raymond Nonnatus

(Prayer to obtain some special favor through the intercession of St. Raymond. Novena from August 23-31.)

Glorious St. Raymond, filled with compassion for those who invoke thee and with love for those who suffer heavily leaden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at thy feet and humbly beg of thee to take the present affair which I recommend to thee under thy special protection. ( your request here) Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lay it before the Throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to Face, and with thee and Mary and the saints praising and blessing to all eternity. Amen.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Good St. Raymond, pray for us and obtain our request.

Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.

 

excerpted from the novena app

 

 

SAINT MONICA: PATRON OF WAYWARD CHILDREN

Image result for saint monica la cathedral

331 – 387
Feast Day: August 28

Patron of: Wayward Children

Quote: “Nothing is far from God.”

Keywords: abuse victims, adultery victims, alcoholics, housewives, married women, mothers, patience, wayward children

Symbols: tears, girdle

Though she was greatly hurt and disappointed by her firstborn son, St. Monica never gave up the idea that he would change his way of living. After 17 years of what seemed like fruitless prayers, her son turned his life around, converted to her faith and became one of the world’s greatest philosophers and Catholic saints, St. Augustine of Hippo. We invoke St. Monica to help us when our own children disappoint us. She serves as a reminder that there are no lost causes in this world and that absolutely anyone can reform and change their life.

Born into a Berber tribe in North Africa, Monica was brought up a Christian. Her parents arranged her in marriage with a prominent pagan Roman citizen of Carthage by the name of Patricius. Monica had a hard time in her early married years as she had to put up with a cantankerous mother-in-law as well as a dissolute husband. There are some accounts which say that she turned to alcohol and was herself an alcoholic who recovered her sobriety through faith and prayer. She had three children who she raised as Christians. The eldest, Augustine, was the most brilliant and his parents had high hopes for his career. Both Patricius and Monica worked hard to get the best education for their son and it was the greatest sorrow of Monica’s life when Augustine turned out to live a lazy, pleasure-filled life. It hurt her even more when he threw out his Christian beliefs to embrace the Manichean heresy – a popular cult believing in the natural good and evil of every soul. In order to keep his blasphemous beliefs from misleading her younger children, Monica forbade Augustine to come back to their home. Inconsolable in her grief, Monica had a vision of a radiant being pointing to Augustine in a beam of light next to her, saying, “Your son is with you.” When she related this vision to Augustine he laughingly said it would all be true if she would only give up her religious piety. “He did not say that I was with you,” she answered him. “He said you were with me.”

When Augustine openly took a mistress and further humiliated his mother by having an illegitimate son, Monica turned to her Bishop for help. He advised her to pray and be patient saying, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” After the death of his father, Augustine decided to move to Rome to increase his worldly success, Monica vowed to follow him. In his own great treatise “Confessions”, Augustine relates how as his mother spent the night in prayer before their voyage, he tricked her and slipped away on an earlier ship. Devastated, she traveled to Rome anyway. By the time she arrived Augustine, had already left that city for Milan. By the time Monica tracked him down, she was overjoyed to find that Augustine was no longer a Manichean. He had met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and was studying with him. Eventually, after several more years, Monica lived to see Augustine baptized a Christian. While waiting for a ship at Ostia to take mother and son back to Africa, Monica told her son that she had accomplished everything that she had set out to do in this life and did not need to live any longer. She died in Ostia, never returning to her native land.

It is interesting to note that there are many great saints from Africa, especially the earliest ones and they are rarely depicted as anything but European in visage.

Explanation:
Light from sky: Grace. Through prayer, Monica channeled grace to convert her son.
Outstretched arms: pointing to Africa, her homeland.
Palm tree: the shore of Ostia Antica, where Monica’s earthly life ended.

Novena Prayer to Saint Monica

Dear Saint Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Your intention here.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God’s perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you. Amen

excerpted from the Novena App

 

SAINTS ANN AND JOACHIM, PATRON SAINTS OF GRANDPARENTS

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First Century B.C.
Feast Day: July 26

Patron of : Grandparents

Keywords: child rearing, childless people, fathers, family crisis, infertility, mothers, pregnancy

Quote: “O blessed couple, all the world is indebted to you, for it is by your means that it can offer to its Creator the most excellent gift possible, her who is worthy to be Mother of His only Son.” – St. John Damascene

Symbols: two white doves, meeting at the golden gate, teaching the Virgin Mary

Grandparents are the foundation of a family and we invoke Saints Joachim and Ann for strength in every sort of family crisis. As parents of the Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus Christ, they offer a vast array of earthly experiences relatable to every human being. Infertility, late parenthood, an unmarried pregnant daughter, a grandson who was imprisoned and executed, are all parts of their life together which they accepted with grace and dignity.

Joachim and Ann are important as moral examples rather than truthful historical figures. According to legend, Joachim and Ann were married twenty years and still had not conceived a child. Living in Nazareth they were upstanding citizens, always tithing one third of their income to the temple. After many years, their barrenness was considered a form of divine judgment and eventually their contribution to the temple was refused and they were ostracized by their community. In shame, Joachim went off to live with his shepherds. There he was visited by an angel who told him, that Ann was pregnant with a child named Mary who was to be dedicated to the Lord. He was to return home and find his wife, who would be waiting at the golden gate, the entrance to the city. Doing as he was told, his joyful reunion with Ann at the golden gate has become a famous image in art history.

Mary was raised according to the instructions of the angel, she was consecrated to the Lord at infancy and sent off to live in the temple, away from the world, at the age of three. Accepting this great sacrifice of giving up what is most cherished to God, Joachim and Ann acted out an almost impossible act of faith. Though Saint Ann was younger and lived much longer than her husband, she and Joachim are inseparable in sharing the important patronage of grandparents.

Explanation:
A rare image of Joachim as an older father, and his wife, Ann, instructing the Virgin Mary. They are divinely inspired by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

 

Novena to Saints Joachim and Ann

Saints Joachim and Ann, grandparents of Jesus and parents of Mary, we seek your intercession. We beg you to direct all our actions to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. Strengthen us when we are tempted, console us during our trials, help us when we are in need, be with us in life and in death.

O divine savior, we thank you for having chosen saint Joachim and Ann to be the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary and so to be your beloved grandparents. We place ourselves under their patronage this day. We recommend to them our families, our children, and our grandchildren. Keep them from all spiritual and physical harm. Grant that they may ever grow in greater love of God and others.

Saints Joachim and Ann, we have many great needs. We beg you to interce

de for us before the throne of your divine grandson. All of us here have our special intentions, our own special needs, and we pray that through your intercession our prayers may be granted. Amen.

(Mention your request here)

Excerpted from the Novena App

More on Joachim and Ann in The Novena Book

More on Saint Ann in “Saints: Ancient and Modern”

Saint Joan of Arc

joan

Feast Day: May 30

Patron of: France, Orleans, Rouen, captives, opposition of Church authorities, radio workers, rape victims, shepherds, wireless telegraph workers, women in the military

Invoked for: strength in the face of opposition

Invoked against: fires in woodpiles

Symbols: armor, standard, sword

Saint Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc ) is both a secular heroine and a Roman Catholic saint. Known as La Pucelle, or “The Maid” to her countrymen, she is credited with being the galvanizing force that returned French rule to France.

Joan of Arc was from a comfortable peasant family of five children. Already known in the village as a pious child, the adolescent Joan was at work in a garden when she heard a disembodied voice in a blaze of light. The voice gave her a simple task: Pray often and attend church. After a time this voice revealed itself to be Michael the Archangel. The angel told her that she would soon be visited by Saint Margaret of Antioch and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, two ancient martyrs whose statues were ensconced in her village church. In her later testimony, Joan said the martyr’s voices began visiting her frequently, and she was eventually allowed to gaze upon them as well. Fearing disapproval from her father, Joan never told anyone about these visits. She also vowed to retain her virginity for as long as God wanted it.

After two years the three saints revealed Joan’s true task: She was to save her country by first taking Charles, the exiled heir to the throne, into Rheims to be crowned king, and then by driving the English out of France completely. She had no idea how an ignorant peasant girl was to accomplish this. But by the time she was sixteen, the voices grew more insistent and ordered Joan to travel to the next town to see the commander of Charles’s forces, Robert de Baudricourt, and tell him that she was appointed to lead the future king to his coronation.

Chaperoned by an uncle, she did as the voices instructed. The commander laughed and said, “Your father should give you a good whipping.” He also ignored Joan’s prediction that Orleans, the last remaining city in French hands on the Loire, would fall to the English if he did not listen to her. She returned home in defeat, the voices hounding her to complete her mission. She told them, “I am a mere girl who knows not even how to ride a horse.” They answered, “It is God who commands it.” She secretly returned to Baudricourt, who was unnerved by the fulfillment of her prediction. Orleans was ready to fall. Desperate for any help at all, and troubled by the girl’s otherworldly confidence, he recommended that the future king, known as the Dauphin, grant her an audience. Because the eleven-day journey to Chinon was through enemy territory, Joan was disguised in man’s clothing.

Tales of Joan’s seemingly supernatural abilities preceded her. As a test, Charles dressed a member of his entourage in royal robes while he stood among the throng of his courtiers. All were stunned when the girl walked in and immediately advanced toward the real Charles, saying, “Most illustrious Lord Dauphin, I have come and am sent in the name of God to bring aid to yourself and to the kingdom.” Privately, she related to him a secret prayer he had made the previous All Saints’ Day asking God to restore his kingdom if he was the true heir to the throne, and if not, to punish only him for his impudence and let his supporters live in peace. Unnerved, but not ready to accept this proof of her calling, Charles arranged for Joan to be interviewed by a group of theologians in Poitiers. They questioned her for three weeks before they granted their enthusiastic approval, amazed at how such an uneducated person could hold her own against learned scholars. They recommended that Charles recognize the girl’s divine gift and grant her
titular command of the army.

A small suit of armor was made for Joan, and she designed a banner for herself with the words Jesus Maria. Her voices told her to carry an ancient sword that would be found buried in the altar of the church of Saint Catherine-de-Fierbois. When it was easily found, Joan’s reputation as a messenger from God began to spread in the general population. Allegedly this sword was used by Charles Martel in the seventh century in his defense of France against the invading Saracens. Men enlisted who would normally not be inclined to join the army. Joan insisted that all soldiers go to confession and receive communion. She banished the prostitutes who routinely followed troops. There are many written accounts of men who served with Joan of Arc who declared that despite her physical beauty, they never “had the will to sin while in her company.”      

After unsuccessfully calling on the English to leave French soil, the military campaign to lift the siege of Orleans began on April 30. Charles’s commanders considered Joan a mere mascot and thus refused to take her strategic advice. After four days of witnessing their floundering efforts, Joan charged into
battle waving her banner. The vision of this fearless young girl on a mission from God turned the tide of the battle for the French army. By May 8 the English were forced to retreat and the siege of Orleans was lifted. Just as her voices had predicted, Joan endured a wound during the fighting. They also warned that she had very little time and had much to accomplish within the next year.

At her insistence, all English positions were cleared on the way to Reims. During these battles through one town and another, Joan took the lead, inspiring many common citizens to follow the troops. The English were routed completely, suffering a loss of 2,200 men, while the French army lost only three. With Joan organizing troop and artillery placement, the French army easily accomplished a feat that had seemed impossible to them–they drove the English out of Reims so that Charles VII could be crowned there, as all French kings had been before him. Joan held her banner as she stood next to Charles during his coronation on July 16, 1429.  Part of her mission was complete.

Though she was in a great hurry to accomplish the rest, Charles VII became cautious and followed his adviser’s recommendation to marginalize the seer. Against Joan’s wishes, he signed a truce with the Burgundians, which gave the British time to regroup. He refused to support his army in an assault on Paris, a fight in which Joan was wounded and forcibly removed from the battlefield. By the spring of 1430, Joan’s voices told her that she would be captured before the Feast of John the Baptist. This occurred in Burgundy on May 24. At that time, it was common practice to ransom off important captives. Charles VII could have offered to pay her ransom but instead ignored her plight. The inner circle of his court was discomfited by Joan’s strangeness. They convinced Charles that she had fallen out of favor with God. She was sold to the English, who imprisoned her in Rouen.

Since there were no rational explanations for her overwhelming successes, the English vowed revenge on Joan, considering her a witch with satanic powers. In order to destroy her reputation as a religious visionary sent by God, they wanted Joan tried in an Ecclesiastical court for witchcraft and heresy. Once this was proven, they could then charge that Charles VII was made king by diabolical means and reassert their claims on the French throne. Pierre Cauchon, the bishop of Beauvais, willingly adopted this plot in order to realize his own political ambitions.

Joan was illegally held in a secular prison guarded by men who repeatedly threatened her with rape. Since it was believed that a true witch was the lover of the devil, when her virginity was proven, she could not be charged with witchcraft. She was interrogated from February 21 to March 17, 1431, by a relentless panel of forty-seven judges, a majority of whom came from the pro-English University of Paris. After an attempted escape, Joan was imprisoned in a cage, chained by the neck, hands, and feet, and she was forbidden to partake of any of the sacraments. Despite their avid attempts to browbeat her and put words in her mouth, she calmly deflected the panel. These trial transcripts exist today, and are a remarkable testament to the brilliance of her simple answers. Many times, she instructed the judges to look up testimony she had previously given–exact to the day and hour. On March 1 she further infuriated the court by stating that “Within seven years’ space the English would have to forfeit a bigger prize than Orleans.” (Within six years and eight months the English would abandon French soil entirely.)

By May, the judges had written up their verdict: Forty-two of them agreeing that if Joan did not retract her statements, she would be handed over to the civil powers to be burned at the stake. Filled with fear, Joan signed a two-line retraction. A document detailing her acts as works of the devil was substituted in the official record. Because she had done as the judges ordered, they could not execute her and the British were furious. It is not known if Joan was so afraid of the threat of rape by her guards or if the dress she had been wearing during her trial was taken away and her male costume the only thing left to her, but when she appeared before the court on May 29 dressed as a man, she was declared a relapsed heretic. Her masculine attire served as proof of her crime, and she was burned at the stake in the town square the next day. On the morning of her execution she was visited by the judges. She solemnly warned Cauchon that he would be charged by God for the responsibility of her death. She insisted her voices came from God and had not deceived her. Her last word, as she was consumed by flames was “Jesus.” In order to discourage the collection of relics, her ashes were thrown into the Seine.

A reversal of her sentence was granted by the pope in 1456, twenty-five years after her death, citing of the unfairness of her judges and the fact that the court illegally denied her right to appeal to the Holy See. Joan of Arc remains one of the most illustrious historical figures in the world. Poets, painters, writers, and filmmakers have ensured her role in popular culture. While the image of her as a beautiful girl warrior is a romantic one, in fact she is the only person in written history, male or female, to command a nation’s army at the age of seventeen. Mocked as a pious lunatic by many intellectuals during the Enlightenment, her reputation as a French patriot was resuscitated when she became powerful propaganda figure during both world wars. She was finally declared a saint in 1920.

In art, Joan of Arc wears her suit of armor and carries her “Jesus Mary” banner. Because of her voices, she is the patron of radio and telegraph workers. She is patron of women in the military and shepherds because these were her occupations. She dressed in men’s clothing to avoid the threat of rape so she is the patron of rape victims. Most important, she is the patron of the nation she saved, France.

Novena to Saint Joan of Arc

Glorious Saint Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who
invoke you, with love for those who suffer,
heavily laden with the weight of my troubles,
I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need
under your special protection [state intention here].
Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and lay it before the throne of Jesus.
Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted.
Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face
and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him
through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul,
but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven,
forever and ever.

Amen.

excerpted from the book, “Saints:Ancient and Modern”