Joan of Arc
St. Joan of Arc Church, 315 Casino Centre Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Joan of Arc was the teenage peasant who claimed to have been sent by God to save the Kingdom of France. At the time, the country was being torn apart by a bitter civil war. On one side, the Armagnacs. Joan’s side. They believed Charles VII was the rightful King of France. On the other side, the Burgundians. They believed that Henry VI, King of England, was the rightful King of France. In February 1429, Joan turned up at Charles VII’s court. She said God had sent her. And that it was her destiny to lead Charles VII to victory. Charles had nothing to lose. So he allowed the 17-year-old girl to put on a suit of armour and lead part of his army into battle. But during that battle, the English captured her. And the English didn’t believe she’d been sent by God at all. In fact, they believed she’d been sent by the Devil and that she was a witch. So they burned her at the stake. A 17-year-old. Executed for thinking she’d had a message from God, and for being on the wrong side of a brutal war. Since her death on 30 May 1431, Joan has been the subject of some 20,000 books, 50 films, and even a handful of video games. She is a hero to the French, perhaps most notably inspiring Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France from 1940 until 1944. And she’s a hero to the rest of the world, too. Her valour has given strength to people across the globe fighting for the freedom of their countries. Florence Nightingale saw her as a role model. As did American sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, and the writer Mark Twain. She was made a saint in 1920, becoming the patron saint of soldiers and prisoners. She is also the patron saint of anyone who is ridiculed for what they believe in. But it’s Joan’s heroism that inspired the Catholic community of Las Vegas decide to name their parish and its church after her in 1910. A reminder, perhaps, to be a hero in your own life. Not by putting on a suit of armour and riding into battle against the Burgundians or any other adversary. But by standing up for what you believe in, and for what others believe in. And doing what you can to make this world a better and a more tolerant place.