Joan, or Jane, the physically deformed daughter of King Louis XI of France, was endowed with wonderful gifts of mind and heart. Although she suffered much throughout her life, she accepted her disabilities with patience and spent many of her days in prayer and meditation. Under the guidance of her spiritual director, a Franciscan priest from whom she received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis, young Joan prepared to give her life in service to God as a member of a religious community.
But her father had other plans. He announced that Joan would marry the Duke of Orleans, and no objections were to be voiced. Joan dutifully obliged, though her marriage was not a happy one. When the duke ascended the throne as King Louis XII, his first act was to divorce the queen on the grounds that he had only agreed to the marriage to escape the anger of the king, his predecessor. The pope agreed that compulsion had been involved, and declared the marriage null and void.
Joan felt an immediate sense of relief and made her way to Bourges. There she lived a secluded life of prayer and, in 1501, founded a contemplative order of nuns—the Sisters of the Annunciation. God called Joan home only a few years later.
She was canonized in 1950.
Life dealt Joan a bad hand from the beginning. Born with deformities, she yearned to seek the arms of the only Lover who could see her real beauty, but her royal father had other plans for her. Only when she was at last ejected from her unhappy marriage was she free to devote herself to conversation with God. Life doesn’t always deal us the cards we want either but like Joan, we can play them with grace.
image: Coloured line engraving of St. Joan / Wellcome Colllection / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)