St. Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domremy in Lorraine. From her parents, who were good and honest peasants, she inherited not material riches, but a tender devotion and sincere faith, to which were united a lively trust in the patronage of Mary. She passed her early years in a life of simple retirement, occupying her time in tending the sheep and in prayer. She found all her delights at the altar of Our Lady.
At the same time this powerful Queen of Heaven was preparing this second Judith to fight under her protection the battles of her Lord. By many visions God commanded her to go to the aid of the King of France, who was reduced to the last extremity, in order to raise up from the depth of its ruin the Kingdom of France, which was known as the Kingdom of Mary.
Joan generously obeyed the divine command, although the hardships of leaving home and leading a military life were very great indeed. Before setting out, she prostrated herself before the statue of Our Lady at Vaucouleurs. When the King set her at the head of the army, she caused three banners to be made: the first, which was carried before the troops, bore the words “Jesus, Mary”; on the second was depicted the Crucifixion with Mary at the foot of the cross; the third, which she bore in her hand, represented the Annunciation of Our Lady.
Admirable was the courage she displayed in the heart of the conflict, reassuring the soldiers that success would be theirs in the end. Before every engagement she would order them to gather together under the banner of Mary, to sing her praises and invoke her help.
After having saved France and restored the King to his throne, Joan was abandoned by the very people for whom she had done so much and given over into the hands of her enemies who, out of extreme hatred, condemned her to be burnt at the stake as a heretic and apostate. But the saintly heroine gave abundant testimony of her faith, protesting that she had only been obedient to the command of God. When she arrived at the place of execution she wished that a cross should be held before her eyes, to strengthen her at the hour of death. When the flames were gathering round her, she pronounced the most holy name of Jesus and then bowing her head, she finished her usual ejaculation, by reciting in heaven that other name so dear to her, the name of Mary.
Illustration from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922). Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).