- The youngest of five children born to peasant farmers.
- At 15 (14?), she had her first vision of angels and saints (remember Saint Catherine of Alexandria) who were telling her that she needed to save France by leading them against the English forces.
- At first, she tried to ignore the voices and visions, but they persisted. She didn’t believe the inspirations because she thought that she was too poor; she also knew that she didn’t even know how to ride a horse, let alone lead and army into battle. When she began to share her experiences with her family, they did not believe her, but after much persistence, her uncle finally acquiesced to take her to the commander of the French forces. To protect her femininity while traveling, she wore men’s clothing, something she did from that time on.
- The commander didn’t believe her until one of her prophecies about a defeat occurred. He took her quickly thereafter to the king. The king was in disguise because he wanted to test her abilities. She found him in the court hall anyway. Even then, she was questioned for three weeks by his council about the visions and voices. Finally, after another one of her prophecies came to fruition, they decided to follow her advice.
- With her white armor, she led the army into one of the major battles of her time, which they won overwhelmingly, working towards an end to the 100 years war.
- Unfortunately, she was shot in the leg with an arrow, and soon thereafter taken prisoner by the English forces, who were also Catholic. The King of France did nothing to win her back; he had won the victory he had needed. He sold her out. Since she was now in the hands of those she had defeated, she came under horrifying scrutiny. They charged her with sorcery and heresy based on the fact that she could hear voices. At one point, she was scared enough by their interrogations, which she knew were leading to her death, to retract her knowledge of the voices, but once she was able to go back into her cell and pray, she said for sure that the messages were from heaven.
- Shortly thereafter, when she was 19, she was burned at the stake for being a heretic and a witch. Her ashes were haphazardly thrown into the river. Her reputation did not recover until 25 years after her death when the Pope, urged by her family, commissioned a council to look into her life.
- One of her greatest victories—showing us that poor young women could hear, work for, and be strengthened for the battles of our day by the King of heaven too!
- See “Authentic Femininity, Lived” for references