St Germaine Cousin
Born in 1579 of humble parents at Pibrac, a village
about ten miles from Toulouse; died in her native place in 1601. From her birth she seemed marked
out for suffering; she came into the world with a deformed hand and the disease ofscrofula, and,
while yet an infant, lost her mother. Her father soon married again, but his second wife treated
Germaine with much cruelty. Under pretence of saving the other children from the contagion of
scrofula she persuaded the father to keep Germaine away from the homestead, and thus the child was
employed almost from infancy as a shepherdess.
When she returned at night, her bed was in the
stable or on a litter of vine branches in a garret. In this hard school Germaine learned early to
practise humility and patience. She was gifted with a marvellous sense of the presence of God and of
spiritual things, so that her lonely life became to her a source of light and blessing.
poverty, bodily infirmity, the rigours of the seasons, the lack of affection from those in her own
home, she added voluntary mortifications and austerities, making bread and water her daily food. Her
love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and for His Virgin Mother presaged the saint. She assisted
daily at the Holy Sacrifice; when the bell rang, she fixed her sheep-hook or distaff in the ground,
and left her flocks to the care of Providence while she heard Mass. Although the pasture was on the
border of a forest infested with wolves, no harm ever came to her flocks.
She is said to have
practised many austerities as a 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. Whenever she could do so,
she assembled the children of the village around her and sought to instil into their minds the love
of Jesus and Mary.
The villagers were 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. In
repairing to the village church she had to cross a stream. The ford in winter, after heavy rains or
the melting of snow, was at times impassable. On several occasions the swollen waters were seen to
open and afford her a passage without wetting her garments.Notwithstanding her poverty she found
means to help the poor by sharing with them her allowance of bread.
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 the other children, but she begged to be allowed to remain in
thehumbler position. At this point, when men were beginning to realize the beauty of her life, God
called her to Himself. One morning in the early summer of 1601, her father finding that she had not
risen at the usual hour went to call her; he found her dead on her pallet of vine-twigs. She was
then twenty-two years of age.
Her remains were buried in the parish church of
Pibrac in front of the pulpit. In 1644, when the grave was opened to receive one of her relatives,
the body of Germaine was discovered fresh and perfectly preserved, and miraculously raised almost to
the level of the floor of the church. It was exposed for public view near the pulpit, until a noble
lady, the wife of François de Beauregard, presented as a thanks-offering a casket of lead to hold
She had been cured of a malignant and incurable ulcer in the breast, and her
infant son whose life was despaired of was restored to health on her seeking the intercession of
Germaine. This was the first of a long series of wonderful cures wrought at her relics.
leaden casket was placed in the sacristy, and in 1661 and 1700 the remains were viewed and found
fresh and intact by the vicars-general of Toulouse, who have left testamentary depositions of the
fact. Expert medical evidence deposed that the body had not been embalmed, and experimental tests
showed that the preservation was not due to any property inherent in the soil. In 1700 a movement
was begun to procure the beatification of Germaine, but it fell through owing to accidental
In 1793 the casket was desecrated by a revolutionary tinsmith, named Toulza, who with
three accomplices took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and
water on them. After the Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime
had done its work.
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
cause of beatification was resumed in 1850. The documents attested more than 400 miracles or
extraordinary graces, and thirty postulatory letters from archbishops and bishops in France besought
the beatification from the Holy See.
The miracles attested were cures of every kind (of
blindness, congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and spinal disease), besides the
multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges in 1845. On 7
May, 1854, Pius IX proclaimed her beatification, and on 29 June, 1867, placed her on the canon of
virgin saints. Her feast is kept in the Diocese of Toulouse on 15 June. 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
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