Today is the feast day of Saint Germaine Cousin. Ora pro nobis.
Germaine Cousin was born in 1579 in Pibrac, a small village not far from Toulouse, France, and she died in 1601. 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 child possessed a charming, sweet disposition.
Germaine’s mother died while she was young. Germaine endured harsh, cruel treatment from her stepmother.
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.
Every morning she was at Mass, and afterwards went to kneel before Our Lady’s shrine. To reach the church she had to cross what was ordinarily a small stream; but after a heavy rain it would become a raging torrent. Several times at those moments, the villagers were amazed to see the rushing waters separate when Germaine approached, and then to watch her cross on dry land. When she left her sheep to go to church, she would place her staff upright in the ground, and the sheep never went far from it. One day the stepmother was seen pursuing Germaine as she drove the sheep down the road. She was accusing the girl of having stolen some bread and concealing it in her apron. When Germaine unfolded her apron, fragrant flowers, foreign to that region, fell to the ground. (3)
Saint Germaine was especially devoted to Our Blessed Mother. Not only did she make and pray the Rosary, she gathered children of the village to teach them the catechism, demonstrating with her Rosary, and instilling in them the love of Jesus and Mary. Her devotion to the Angelus is said to have been so great that she would fall on her knees at the sound of the bells, even if she were crossing a stream. (5)
Germaine died one night in the year 1601, at the age of twenty-one, and was buried as was the custom in those days, in the village church. Forty-three years later, when a relative was to be buried near her and the stones were removed, the grave-digger found to his amazement, the body of a beautiful young girl in a state of perfect preservation. His pick had struck her nose, and the wound was bleeding. Some of the older residents identified the girl as Germaine Cousin.
The private veneration of Germaine had continued from the original finding of the body in 1644, supported and encouraged by numerous cures and miracles. The documents attested more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces. On 7 May, 1854, Pius IX proclaimed her beatification and on 29 June, 1867, placed her on the canon of virgin saints. Annually thousands of pilgrims visit the church of Pibrac, where the relics of Saint Germaine are enshrined. She is represented in art with a shepherd’s crook or with a distaff; with a watchdog, or a sheep; or with flowers in her apron. (3)
Image: Église Saint-Georges de Saint-Georges-de-Reintembault (35). Intérieur. Tableau. Sainte-Germaine-Cousin. (7)