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The 'Feast Day of St. Germana Cousin' Explained

Updated on May 27, 2015

Childhood

Born in 1579, in Pibrac, near the capital city of Haute-Garonne, Toulouse, Saint Germana (Germaine) led a difficult life marked by abuse and isolation. Her father, Laurent Cousin, was known as a respectable farmer; her mother, Mary Larroche, died when she was five years old.

Physically marked by a deformed hand and the disease of scrofula, widely regarded as the "king's evil," Germana was shunned by her family, particularly her step-mother, who was afraid she would contaminate the others. In truth, the woman abhorred her, repulsed by the swelling and sores which marred her skin and disgusted by the useless arm that lay paralyzed from birth.

Today, the swelling she experienced in her lymph nodes would be seen as a symptom of tuberculosis and treated with antibiotics, but in the 1500's, it was rumored that scrofula could only be cured by the touch of a king. With no king in sight, Germana was cast off and sent to work as a shepherdess at the age of nine.

For Germana, the comforts of home were limited to a bed of vine-twigs in the stables. She knew no love, but was well acquainted with beatings, scalding water, and lack of sustenance. Food scraps were doled out begrudgingly and often laced with ashes. And although some might expect this kind of treatment to promote anger and frustration, Germana was well known for her patience and humility. Her constant isolation and loneliness only served to bring her closer to God.

Though poor, infirm, and physically weakened by year round exposure to the elements, Germana would leave her flock each day to assist with the Holy Sacrifice and attend mass. It is said that the sound of church bells would immediately bring her to her knees, and that no matter the weather, she would attend to her duties with a joyous heart. Though Germana had found no love or favor among the members of her family and was taunted by many in her community, she was visibly loved by God.

Miracles

Germana subsisted on nothing more than bread and water and would share even the most meager of portions with those less fortunate. Her strength came from prayer, and her suffering was done in silence. The abuse she experienced was met with forgiveness.

Small children would often join her in the fields, where she would teach them catechism underneath a tree that still stands today. Her rosary beads consisted of a string; she knotted herself, and while attending church services, her flock was cared for by their very own guardian angel. The wolves that traversed the countryside never so much as came near them.....

As time went on, people talked about the miracles that surrounded this poor misshapen girl. A number of witnesses would find themselves running into the village to report the miraculous parting of the Courbet River, which granted her safe passage through the swollen waters on her way to mass, something that was observed each and every time its banks overflowed. There is no doubt that the villagers began to see Germana in a new light, but their new found reverence did not extend itself to the step-mother, who would consistently strive to discredit her.

One instance involved an accusation of theft and public finger-pointing, as the woman (her step-mother) threatened Germana with a stick and charged her with sharing stolen bread with the poor. The woman's angry shouts and threatening behavior soon drew a crowd, and all in attendance watched as Germana went to expose what she knew to be her own pitiful allowance of brown bread. It makes me smile to think how shocked her audience must have been when they saw her apron filled not with the bread everyone expected to see, but rather a mass of beautiful, unknown flowers...... fresh as could be, in the middle of winter.

Appalled by reports of his wife's behavior, Laurent finally acted like the father he should have been all along and intervened. He ordered his wife to cease her constant torment and abuse and requested his daughter come to live as one of the family...... this time, it would be Germana who refused.

Death

Early one morning, in the spring of 1601, Laurent, alarmed by the bleating of sheep, realized Germana had not awoken at her usual hour. Anxious, he sent one of her brothers to check on her. When she didn't answer her bother's calls, Laurent himself went to her pallet where he found her dead. She was twenty-two years old.

Interred at the parish church in her hometown of Pibrac, Germana lay peacefully at rest until her grave was disturbed during the burial of one of her relatives forty-three years later in 1644. Miraculously, her body was found perfectly preserved, even though it had never been embalmed. Experts were called in to prove that her body had not been altered and to rule out the possibility that properties in the soil were responsible for its unaltered state. Administered tests negated both possibilities.

Since her death, Germana (Germaine) has been credited with intercession in over 400 miraculous occurrences, which include not only the healing of incurable ailments, but the multiplication of food to nourish the nuns in Bourges. Saint Germana is the patron saint of victims of child abuse, the disabled, the impoverished, and those who suffer from illnesses. Her official feast day is celebrated on June 15th.

Sources

"Saint Germana Cousin." Saint Germana Cousin . N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2014.

"Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine." King's Evil and the Royal Touch . N.p., n.d. Web. 17 June 2014.

BUTIÑA, Francisco Javier., and William MACDONALD. "St. German Cousin." Light from the Lowly; Or, Lives of Persons Who Sanctified Themselves in Humble Positions ... Translated from the Spanish by ... W. McDonald, Etc . Gill & Son: Dublin, 1884. N. pag. Print.

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