There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to level about the limited role of women in the Church. In fact, 84% of all canonized (that is, officially recognized) saints are male. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of female saints who have gained recognition through the centuries. Their stories of intelligence, bravery, and perseverance are inspiring to faithful and secular alike.
1. Clare of Assisi
The daughter of a wealthy count in the Italian town of Assisi, Clare renounced her high-class status to become the first follower of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded an order of nuns called the Order of Poor Ladies which still exists around the world today, including in a monastery Wilmington DE. Driving home her point about poverty, she wore plain robes and cut her hair short.
2. Julian of Norwich
Technically, Julian is not truly a saint because she has never been formally canonized. Instead, her status is “Blessed.” Nevertheless, she is a holy woman with a fascinating story. Julian was an anchoress, which is someone who withdraws from society to live an ascetic life of prayer and seclusion, in England in the 14th century. She was a mystic who reported receiving a series of visions, recording these in a book called “Revelations of Divine Love.” Julian is the first published female author in the English language. Even by today’s standards, some of her beliefs as expressed in the book seem heterodox if not outright heretical, yet she avoided the Church’s censure.
3. Joan of Arc
Like Julian of Norwich, Joan of Arc claimed to receive visions in which she was instructed to lead French troops against the British during the Hundred Years’ War. She did so while still a teenager and helped to win the battles that placed King Charles VII on the throne of France. Unfortunately, she was captured by English sympathizers and tried on trumped-up charges. Her beneficiary, Charles VII, did nothing to help her, and she refused to renounce her visions to secure her own freedom. Instead she was burned at the stake.