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St. Germaine

October 4, 2010

Some notes from my daughter:

I just read your last blog entry, and wanted to let you know that St. Germaine’s father remarried and her stepmother is the one that made her sleep out in the barn.  Her father was apparently unable to stand up to his new wife.  I think she had scrofula, which is of course unappealing to look at — and infectious? — so maybe that is the reason.

[Scrofula, I learn, is an inflammation of the lymph nodes, associated with tuberculosis. There can be open wounds, and TB is certainly infectious, so scrofula would be. I don’t know how directly so, however; most people with TB don’t have open wounds on their necks. ]

Also her body is incorrupt, except for where some French soldiers poured lye on it during the Revolution. [They worked really hard to get rid of those incorrupt bodies and other Catholic things! Wonder what became of the guy who had that job.]

There are many miracles told about her, one of which is that her stepmother chased her into the town square accusing her of hiding stolen bread in her apron, and when it fell open it was full of tulips — and it was December.  But it’s hard to know how accurate these stories are.

The story I remember best was that she went to Mass while she was tending the sheep. She put her staff in the ground and told them to stay by it — and they did. Sounds crazy, but the Isaian prophecy of the Messianic days includes peace among the beasts, and I know far too many crazy things to dismiss it. You know, the story of St. Francis and the wolf seemed pretty far-fetched, but when the church in Gubbio had to be remodeled, a massive wolf’s head was found under the flagstone doorstep.

Suffering is part of the lives of the saints, but the presence of God is made clear in ways that are very sweet and specific, miracles being not at all uncommon. Notice, however, that the miracles are not mere conveniences; they are signs of his presence and love. Seems like a healing of the scrofula might have been more convenient, but that was something Germaine accepted; the ability to go safely to Mass was what she asked for, and the wolves never went after her sheep when she was away on this daily project.

Her dates are 1579-1601. I had no idea she was so long ago. Her feast day is June 15.

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