Saint of the Day – 15 June – Saint Germaine Cousin (1579–1601) Laywoman, Penitent, Apostle of Charity, miracle-worker – born in 1579 at Pibrac, France and died in 1601 in her parents’ home in Pibrac, France, apparently of natural causes, aged 22. Also known as Germana Cousin, Germaine of Pibrac. Patronages – abandoned people, abuse victims, child abuse victims, against poverty, disabled and handicapped, people, girls from rural areas, illness, impoverishment, loss of parents, shepherdesses, people disfigured by disease, physical therapists. Her body is incorrupt.
Germaine Cousin was a 16th-century shepherdess who lived from 1579 to 1601. Born with a lame right hand and the disease scrofula (a non-tuberculous infection of the lymph nodes of the neck), she projected quite an unsightly appearance. The only child of Laurent Cousin and Marie Laroche, Germaine lived about 1.5 miles west of Pibrac, France. When she was just five years old, the plague suddenly took her dear mother and her father soon after remarried. Germaine was physically and mentally abused by her new stepmother, Armande de Rajols.
Armande’s hatred of little Germaine was so intense that she forced her to live for 17 years in the family barn and to watch the sheep near the wolf-infested La Bouconne forest, hoping the wolves would kill her. Isolated, cold and lonely, Germaine embraced a life of prayer, penance, and almsgiving, she assisted the poor and hungry, even though she herself was malnourished. She offered up her suffering to God.
She is practised many austerities as reparation for the sacrileges perpetrated by heretics in the neighbouring churches. She frequented the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist and it was observed that her piety increased on the approach of every feast of Our Lady. The Rosary was her only book and her devotion to the Angelus was so great that she used to fall on her knees at the first sound of the bell, even though she heard it when crossing a stream. The villagers are said to have inclined at first to treat her piety with mild derision, until certain signs of God’s signal favour made her an object of reverence and awe.
It was while these abuses were taking place that miraculous wonders began to surround Germaine. People from the village witnessed her, on several occasions, parting the turbulent spring waters of the Courbet, which she had to cross to get to Mass in the morning.
On another occasion, Germaine had filled her apron with surplus bread from her meagre daily rations so that she may feed the poor. Her stepmother pursued her into town, hoping to expose her to the townspeople as a miscreant and a thief, who was stealing from her household pantry. After catching up with her in the public square, she forced her to reveal the contents of her apron. When Germaine opened her apron, it wasn’t bread that came flowing out but summer flowers. It was the middle of winter. Everyone was amazed and began to see Germaine in a different light. The stepmother, however, was unmoved and continued to persecute the young girl until her death. This wasn’t for much longer, as Germaine soon died alone in the barn where she had been forced to live for 17 years.
Her father at last came to a sense of his duty, forbade her stepmother henceforth to treat her harshly and wished to give her a place in the home with his other children but Germaine begged to be allowed to remain in the humbler position. At this point, when men were beginning to realise the beauty of her life, she died. One morning in the early summer of 1601, her father found that she had not risen at the usual hour and went to call her, finding her dead on her pallet of vine-twigs. She was 22 years old at the time.
Mysterious lights enveloped the barn the night she died. Two monks who were travelling from Gascony noticed the light from far off. Approaching cautiously, they witnessed angels descending upon the barn in large numbers and taking a soul robed in a virgin’s gown, up to heaven. It was only at Germaine’s deathbed that the stepmother finally began to weep bitterly for her mistreatment of the girl she eventually repented.
But, the story of Germaine’s life was soon forgotten.
In 1644, some 43 years following her death, the body of a noblewoman was being interred in front of the sanctuary of the church, when a workman accidentally exhumed Germaine’s incorrupt body from under the flagstone floor. Her body looked and smelled as fresh as the day she had passed away. News spread like wildfire throughout the town. Her body was exposed in the Church in the hopes of eliciting religious fervour.
Madame de Beauregard, a prominent lady, put a stop to this. She complained to the Parish Priest about the disgusting exhibit of a corpse near her pew. She threatened to withhold alms if Germaine’s corpse continued to be exposed. The Priest complied with her request and removed the casket. Not long after, Madame de Beauregard was stricken with a fatal disease. Distressed by his wife’s condition and her irreverence toward a possible saint, her husband pleaded for her life before the Tabernacle, requesting that Germaine intercede. Moments later, Germaine appeared in spirit to Madame de Beauregard and healed her instantly of her ailment.
Despite these apparent signs of sanctity and several attempts at initiating the cause of her Canonisation, Germaine wasn’t Beatified until May 7, 1854 – 210 years after her incorrupt body had been found. Her Canonisation finally took place on 29 June 1867 By Pope Pius IX.
Saint Germaine was forgotten, neglected and unloved for most of her life. Even after her death, it seemed that the Lord purposely kept her well hidden. Most Catholics have never heard of her and that includes Religious and Priests. In our complex and fast-paced world, Germaine’s simplicity, charity and piety don’t seem to fit in anywhere.
The reason is, that we have now brought up entire generations of entitled young people, who see themselves as central to the universe’s purpose. They are the first to complain if things don’t go their way. In recent news, is it not surprising to learn about a woman stabbing her fiancé over their wedding colour scheme? We are witnessing the consequences of a narcissistic culture that seeks pleasure without any kind of moral compass to guide the conscience.
How could Germaine’s life story fit into such a culture? It would seem, that we are not quite ready yet.
We and our children were brought up on the idea that our “self-esteem” needed to be enhanced. In this way, we’ve made an entire generation incapable of seeing it’s own darkness, empowered with the perception of its own strength and unique gifts. At the same time, this generation’s children, disconnected from any moral compass, think they can do no harm. Meanwhile, a mother in her thirties was sucker-punched while walking with her daughter. No apparent reason was reported, but the public was outraged that such random acts of violence could take place. It was part of the “knockout game,” a depraved form of entertainment for young people.
It is imperative that we begin, once again, to talk to our children about living virtuous lives of self-effacement and not self-empowerment – lives of temperance and not overindulgence. It is pressing, that we share with our children, the idea of living a simpler life that is rooted in love, penance, almsgiving and prayer.
Our children need to hear that the Lord Jesus is drawn to those who are small, hidden and pure, not just to those who are smart, rich, attractive and self-empowered.
In the book Germaine: Requiem of a Soul, Andrew St-James recounts the full history of Saint Germaine. She was a pure soul who abandoned herself completely to divine providence, who learned to surrender her will completely to God.
This inspirational story shatters all the conventional theories modern man may have about God and about the modern concepts of self-empowerment . For when Jesus approaches, He does not strengthen and empower the individual, as most Protestant evangelists claim. Instead, as Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes, “when the Lord approaches, he weakens.”
God is not distant from the suffering of man. The story of Germaine Cousin attests to that truth. The events that surround the life of Saint Germaine have been clearly documented and can be regarded as a reliable historical record of her most remarkable life. It’s a story that has been lost but it is time now for it be told to our children and loved ones. Amen