Sunday, June 16, 2013

Meeting St. Germaine

The Little Shepherdess 1885
This picture has been in my home for a decade or so. It's a print of a painting done by one of my favorite artists, W.A. Bouguereau.  I've always been mesmerized by her haunting gaze.

Lastnight, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I found this picture attached to an article about St. Germaine (she was "Saint of the Day" for June 15th). I don't know why, but I always thought St. Germaine was a valiant man who fought in the Crusades. Apparently not. There WAS, however, a St. Germain (no "e") who lived in the 3-400's, had a military career & ended up becoming a monk.

St. Germaine was a french girl who was born in 1579. She only lived to be 22. Besides the fact that her mother died, Germaine was born with a gimpy hand & a disease called scrofula, which is a type of tuberculosis. Her father remarried a vicious woman who succeeded in torturing & banishing Germaine from the house because she couldn't stand to look at her. Germaine was forced to live in the barn, eat table scraps & was sent off to spin wool & tend sheep in a particularly dangerous area of the countryside.

Because of her ardent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament & to Mary, she would leave her distaff (a spinning tool) or shepherd's crook in the field & run off to the little church in the village to attend Mass. It is said that the waters of the river parted on more than one occasion so she could cross. Each time she went, the sheep gathered around whichever implement she left behind & waited for her return. They were never harmed by predators. She served at Mass & gave to the poor. When her father finally got the guts to stand up to his wife, Germaine refused to take her rightful place in the house for the sake of humility. She died in 1601 & was buried in the church.

She was canonized as a saint in 1867. Her body had been found incorruptible in 1644 & countless miracles have been attributed to her intercession since. She is the patron saint of abandoned people; abuse victims; the impoverished; the disabled; and girls from rural areas (among others). You can find even more info on St. Germaine here & here.

When I saw Bouguereau's print in the store that day, I knew I had to buy it. It gave me a kindred feeling, like somehow, this girl & I had something in common. It seemed that the "Little Shepherdess" (a.k.a. St. Germaine) had willfully offered her friendship to me & I accepted by inviting her into my home. But I never knew her name, til now.

A Prayer to Saint Germaine
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.

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