Courageous Women Who Became Saints

There are so many saints that we admire, and often the ones we hear of most are great men such as St. Valentine, St. Peter, and St. Joseph. Some people are unaware of the great stories that lie behind female saints. Beyond the Holy Mother, there are women who have done incredible things for those around them, all without a thought of what it might mean for them. While there are many, many more, here are three female saints that are largely revered by those both Christian and not:

St. Joan of Arc, Patron Saint of Soldiers and France

Joan was very young, only twelve years old, when she began hearing voices, telling her of God’s plans for her. The voices, she explained, belonged to Saint Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine. She was to lead an army to reclaim France from England and in full support of Charles the VII, who was then uncrowned. It was her job to see that he receive his rightful place at the throne. At seventeen, Joan approached Prince Charles and pledged her support, and Charles sent her to fight for France. She helped to win numerous battles in an age where women were rarely treated as human, let alone as an equal with men.

Joan’s courage inspired and encouraged the men that she led. Charles, thanks to Joan and her army, was crowned the king of France, but soon forgot who helped him to get there. In May of 1430, Joan was captured by the allied Burgundy-English faction and put in prison. For a year she was persecuted and constantly interrogated, and the men wanted her to deny ever hearing from the saints—something she still insisted was happening. When Joan refused to capitulate, she was condemned to be executed. Exactly a year after her capture, in May of 1431, she was burned at the stake in front of a large crowd of people. She was 19.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Patron of philosophers and preachers.

There are many legends surrounding Catherine, and she has been revered as a pinnacle of beauty and purity. Catherine was born a princess in a pagan family, and converted to Christianity at the young age of 14. She was well educated and very intelligent, stumping even older male scholars when they tried to debate with her. Catherine converted many people to Christianity, and a horrifying number of them were executed because of it.

Catherine maintained that she had a vision of the divine mother, Mary, and refused to rescind on that claim, or her belief in Christianity. She was imprisoned and scourged, then eventually beheaded. It is unclear what her exact age was at the time. Hers is one of the voices that Joan of Arc insisted she heard.

St. Clare of Assisi, Patron of Sore Eyes

Clare was born in the year 1194 in Italy. Her parents wished for her to marry at a young age—some accounts say at 12 years, others at 15 years—and she declined, insisting that she wanted to wait until she was 18. However, at 18, she decided that she wished to devote her life to God and the church. She heard the friar, St. Francis of Assisi, preach and felt compelled to follow him. She snuck away from her home while her parents were away and joined St. Francis on his journey out of town. She chopped her hair and went with Francis to the Benedictine Convent. Her father and brothers stormed the place, determined to take her back, but she grasped the altar and stayed insistent that she stay. She revealed her shorter locks and determination to remain. Just over two weeks later, her sister, Agnes, joined Clare at the convent.

Clare remained with St. Francis the rest of his life, living a poor and humble lifestyle. She cared well for her fellow sisters/nuns, and was faithful in prayer and deeds. Her face was often described as full of light after she returned from praying, and cardinals, bishops, and even popes sought her advice. She died at the age of 59.