The Story of Germaine
Germaine was born in the remote French village of Pibrac in
She was no Joan of Arc, nor Therese of Lisieux; she had never been heard of in her lifetime beyond her own village and was a practical outcast there. She endured a wretched life as an unwanted child of the Cousin family. There is not even proof that she was entitled to the name of Cousin. The wife of Laurent Cousin hated her and abused her. Some are of the opinion that she was Laurent's daughter. This seems scarcely credible, as what father would allow his own child to be consigned to a stable and literally starved to death, particularly in the case of Laurent Cousin, who was quite well to do.
At any rate Germaine was a frail, sickly child, afflicted with scrofula, a nauseous disease which caused abscesses about the neck. Her right arm was deformed and partially paralyzed. She was a prey to every disease of the times due to the unsanitary conditions under which she lived.
Laurent Cousin's wife beat Germaine savagely. The child's body bore livid testimony of her cruelty. She was dressed in cast-off rags and never given a pair of shoes. Her feet were frost-bitten in winter and bloody in summer as she led the Laurent flock to pasture and back.
Germaine lived with the animals, had a mattress of hay and twigs in a corner of the barn. She was given little food and was often so hungry she ate what the dogs and pigs left behind. She was never sent to school, merely instructed briefly in order to make her First Holy Communion. The girl was shunned by children of her own age and ignored by adults. Her only refuge was the church. There she heard Mass every morning.
The most celebrated incident in Germaine’s life occurred shortly before her death. One wintry day the village people saw the stepmother pursuing Germaine as she drove her flock down the road. The woman was screaming loudly and she shrilly accused Germaine of having concealed in her apron some bread that she had stolen from the stepmother's home. Threatening to strike the girl with the club, she demanded that Germaine unfold her apron. The girl did so, and fragrant flowers, of a kind unknown in the region, cascaded to the snow-covered ground.
On the night of her death two monks traveling from Toulouse lost their way in the forest and sought shelter for the night in the ruins of an ancient castle. At midnight they were awakened by music overhead, accompanied by a pathway of light, inhabited by white-clothed forms. A tip of the luminous pathway rested over a barn in the distance. The forms again appeared going this time towards heaven and were accompanied by another who was garlanded with flowers. It seemed the forms were escorting the newcomer.
Upon reaching the village next morning the monks inquired if anyone had died during the night. Only a poor shepherd girl, they were told. Germaine Cousin had been found dead in a stable. Interest was enhanced when Germaine took on startling beauty after death. People flocked to the Cousin house to see her and departed calling her "a saint."
In accordance with the custom of the day Germaine's body was interred in the village church, consigned to a grave under the flagstone floor of the church opposite the pulpit, without marker or inscription.
Forty-one years later, when a relative named Edualde died after requesting to be interred in the Cousin place of burial, the grave diggers found a beautiful girl beneath the flagstone. The body was in a state of perfect preservation, as soft and pliable as a living person. The older residents of Pibrac identified the corpse as that of Germaine Cousin. The scrofula scars were evident and there was the deformed arm.
A series of astounding miracles through the succeeding seventeen years brought to Pibrac Monsignor Jean Dufour, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Toulouse. This investigator arrived on September 22, 1661. He found Germaine's body still perfect sixty years after her death! Germaine's canonization however, was to be as painfully acquired as her life had been. Her cause was plagued with obstacles.
In the year 1700 a voluminous file containing all official documents and testimony taken, was entrusted by Archbishop Colbert of Toulouse to a Capuchin monk, Father Constantin de Figeac, who was on his way to Rome. The file, however, was not delivered to the Vatican, for immediately on his arrival in Rome Father Constantin was sent to Mesopotamia. He left instructions that the precious papers were to be delivered to the Congregation of Rites. The papers were mislaid, forgotten.
The French Revolution became another form of torture, yet at the same time, the proceedings added evidence to the cause of Germaine. The revolutionaries of Toulouse decided that “superstition” should be stamped out of Pibrac. A tinsmith named Toulza was sent with three assistants to destroy the body of Germaine. They dug a hole under the sacristy floor, dumped the corpse into it, spread a large quantity of quicklime over it and drenched the lime with water. The lead casket was confiscated to be melted down for bullets for the revolution.
When the Reign of Terror subsided, the citizens of Pibrac urged a reopening of the lime pit. After two years in such a place the body of Germaine was again brought forth in perfect preservation, more beautiful than ever. The corpse was returned to the sacristy of the church.
In 1765 Abbe Francis, a priest of the village of Auriac near Pibrac, published a book relating the story of Germaine. The book inspired interest in the shepherdess throughout France. In 1843 Cardinal Paul d'Astros, Archbishop of Toulouse, officially reopened the cause of Germaine for canonization.
His successor, Pope Pius IX, was equally fascinated by Germaine but political events of the time drove the Holy Father from the Vatican, prevented Germaine's beatification until May 7, 1854. Canonization followed on June 29, 1867.
On that day the little girl with a withered arm, whom no one wanted, was given to the world to love and cherish as a glorified saint of God.
more about St. Germaine
Prayers to St. Germaine
- Saint Germaine, look down from Heaven and intercede for the
many abused children in our world. Help them to sanctify their
sufferings. Strengthen children who suffer the effects of living in
broken families. Protect those children who have been abandoned by
their parents and live in the streets. Beg God's mercy on anyone who
abuses children. Intercede for handicapped children and their parents.
Saint Germaine, you who suffered neglect and abuse so patiently, pray for us.
- Remember us, blessed Germaine, your brothers and sisters
who labor and suffer in this difficult world. Know that we place our
hope in you, ask for your help in our need, and for consolation in our
suffering. Hear us as we ask you to be with us in our time of trial.
You experienced much pain, isolation, humiliation, and suffering. Now
from your place of glory please look with kindness upon our sorrows. In
your happiness, remember our tears.
Form us in the way of your humility, your patience, your faith, and your charity.
And then, at the hour of our death, welcome us to our eternal home.
translated from the original French prayer