Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saint Germaine Cousin Virgin (1579-1601)

Saint Germaine Cousin was born in 1579 in Pibrac, a small village not far from Toulouse, France. From her earliest years she was a frail, sickly child, and throughout her life was afflicted with scrofula, a tubercular condition affecting particularly the glands of the neck. In addition, her right arm and hand were deformed and partially paralyzed. In spite of her many afflictions, the emaciated child possessed a charming, sweet disposition. Germaine endured not only bodily sufferings, but harsh, cruel treatment from her stepmother, who had a deep aversion for the little girl. The child was almost starved to death and obliged to sleep in the barn on a pile of leaves and twigs under the stairway. At break of day, summer and winter, she would drive the sheep into the fields to graze, then watch them until evening. She had to spin during this time, and if the allotted wool was not spun, she was severely punished.

 The village children, not sharing the hostility of the adults toward this forlorn child, loved to listen to her speak about the goodness and love of God while she guarded her flock. The only instruction Germaine ever received was the catechism taught after Sunday Mass in the village church, which she attended with joy. During the long hours of solitude she spent in the fields and in the stable at night, she remained in sweet communion with God, and never complained of her hard life.

Germaine's heart was full of charity for others. Beggars would come to her for sympathy and to share the scraps of bread which she had. When Madame Cousin heard about this she would often beat Germaine while screaming, "I'm not going to feed every tramp that passes by." Then one cold winter day Germaine went into the kitchen to get some scraps for her hungry friends, when suddenly her stepmother walked in. The angry woman thought the girl was carrying some bread in her apron.
She grabbed a stick and chased the girl to an open area, hoping to prove to all that Germaine was a thief. Armand demanded that Germaine open her apron. The frightened girl did and suddenly a wonderful miracle took place. Instead of scraps of bread, a bunch of beautiful, fresh flowers, not from that area, tumbled to the ground! This only increased the admiration and love of the villagers towards Germaine, and stepmother was shown to be a tyrant. Other miracles too were reported, which proved that God showered His blessings on the poor girl. It was reported that the barn where she slept was flooded with light at night and that heavenly singing was heard by those passing by.
Finally after almost twenty years of neglect and abuse, Lawrence Cousin put his foot down and demanded that Germaine's living conditions be changed for the better. He apologized for his neglect and asked the girl to take her place inside the house and live with the family. But Germaine told her father, "Papa, I am perfectly happy living in the barn." In living alone and in suffering, the girl found Jesus and would not exchange Him for the comforts of the world!
Germaine's years of prayers and sacrifices finally began to change the heart of the cruel stepmother. Armand was not given much time to make up for the past years of her wicked treatment towards the poor girl. Germaine's life was now coming to an end; her illnesses had worn her out and she had little strength left.
In the spring of 1601, a priest was traveling to the city of Toulouse. It was night when he reached the town of Pibrac and he
could hardly see his way in the darkness. Suddenly a beautiful brightness lit up the sky and the priest saw a vision of a beautiful procession of virgins in brilliant light, coming down from Heaven into the village of Pibrac. Then he saw a virgin going up to Heaven, who was wearing a brilliant crown, in the company of many angels that were brighter than the stars. That same night, two religious, also having lost their way in the darkness, saw the same vision as well. But neither the priest nor the two religious understood the meaning of the lovely vision.
In the morning, Lawrence could hear the sheep bleating and realized that Germaine had not taken them out as she had done in the past eighteen years. "Germaine," he cried out, but the girl did not answer. Going into the barn, he stopped suddenly; there he found his poor daughter dead, on her bed of straw. Her rosary was entwined around her fingers and her face was shining like an angel. She died as she had lived; without human comfort.
Meanwhile that same morning, the travelling priest and the other two religious hurried to tell the villagers saying: "Last night I saw a virgin going up to Heaven. She was wearing a brilliant crown and was accompanied by a crowd of angels that were brighter than the stars." Up to that time the villagers did not know about anything special that happened in their town, but from the description that the travellers gave, they knew at once that it was Germaine, the holy shepherdess.
Running to the Cousin farm, the villagers found that Germaine had died, but she was beautiful to look upon; God had healed her body. She looked more like an angel than a person! Her faithful friends, the children, had gathered wild carnations and stalks of rye to make a wreath for her head. And the converted Madame Cousin dressed her poor stepdaughter in a beautiful dress, and placed a candle in her hands. Germaine's body was then buried in the village church where she had loved to pray.
But this is not the end of the story. In 1644, forty-three years after Germaine's death, an older woman asked to be buried in the church near the pulpit. Two workmen removed some flagstones and they were surprised to see just below the surface, the body of a young girl. Like madmen they ran through the village telling about their discovery and bringing back a crowd of people with them. Two of the people who had known Germaine during her life, testified that the body of the girl was indeed that of the Germaine Cousin, the shepherdess. The body was then removed and placed in a glass casket. Then it was put in the vestibule of the church for all to see.
Devotion to Germaine grew and many people prayed to her. In 1789, almost 200 years after her death, the French Revolution had begun. The Masons; who are enemies of the Catholic Church, tried to destroy everything that was Catholic. But they were having a hard time destroying the faith of the people in the region of France where the body of Germaine was honoured. To help destroy the Catholic Faith of these people, three soldiers dug a hole and threw the body of Germaine into the hole. Then they covered it with quicklime and dirt, to cause the body of the holy girl to turn to dust.
Those who had performed this sacrilegious deed were suddenly struck with different diseases. The neck of one soldier was deformed so that it turned till his face looked backwards! And another was scarcely able to walk without the aid of crutches. The third soldier carried his punishment with him to his grave, but the other two soldiers repented of their sin and obtained a complete cure through the prayers of Germaine.
In spite of what the Revolutionaries had done, the faithful continued to pray at the new grave of Germaine, the holy shepherdess. After the revolution, her body was removed from the grave and it was found to be as fresh as ever. Thanks to the power of God, the quicklime had not injured Germaine's body in any way!
Many years later, because of all the miracles which Germaine had obtained from God through her prayers, in June, 1867, Blessed Pope Pius IX canonized her as a saint and made June 15th, her special Feast Day.  St. Germaine Pray for Us.  

Saint Germaine Cousin is the patron saint of victims of child abuse, a problem that continues to impact millions of children world-wide each year, and an estimated 800,000 children in the United States. UNICEF estimates that nearly 20% of girls and 10% of boys will be victims of physical or sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. From this startling statistics, it is clear that our world needs the intercession of Saint Germaine now, more than ever!