Miracles in the Life of Saint Germaine of Pibrac
aka Saint Germaine Cousin
Her father never interfered with his wife’s ill treatment of the girl. The only concession he seemed to give her was the permission to go to Mass every week, which she took advantage of whenever she could. This is where the Lord broke through the dense fog of her life. He showed her a completely different view of how her life could be. He gave her an understanding of the Sacraments. She developed a hunger for the Mass. During the week, as she was tending her sheep, she could hear the church bells ring for the beginning of Mass. She wanted so badly to be there. Her spirit soared from the field she was in to the Church, and she took part in the Mass spiritually, much like St. Paschal Baylon, who would be in the field when he heard the bells of the Church, and his heart took flight to take part in the Mass.
A time came when that was not enough for her. You have to realize that this was her life. Her entire existence up until this time when the Lord introduced her to the Mass was at best, dreary. She developed a hunger for the Eucharist, which was to be the catalyst which brought about the beginning of one of the miracles given to St. Germaine. One day, the Lord spoke to her heart. She was out in the field, tending the sheep. She heard the bells which called the people to Mass. She knew they were calling her to Mass. She could not be without the Lord. She took her distaff, a staff with a cleft end for holding flax, which she used for spinning her wool, and thrust it into the ground. From that day on, it didn’t matter what time of the year it was, the summertime when the ground was soft, or the coldest day of winter when the ground was rock solid. When she thrust the piece of wood into the ground, it stayed. She then huddled her flock of sheep around the distaff, and told them to stay there, and stay together. Do not wander off. Then she ran off to the Church on those days to take part in the Mass.
Now, to those of us who have no experience in sheep herding, what she did was not only ill-advised, it was ridiculous, almost impossible. There’s no way you can keep the sheep together unless the shepherd is with them, guiding them. In addition, in the forest where she tended sheep, it was infested with wolves, which always attacked unattended herds of sheep. However, her sheep were never touched. She never lost a sheep. The wolves didn’t attack, and no sheep ever wandered off.
Her time at Mass was not only the high point of her day; it became the driving force in her life. She would gladly suffer all that her step-mother and the elements and her illness and deformity could hand out to her. But she could not do without her Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. This was to be the momentum for another miracle which is spoken about at her shrine. Each spring, the Courbet River overflowed after the winter snows melted. This created a wide chasm between where St. Germaine was with her sheep and the road to the Church. The flooding made crossing impossible. This would have been the evil one’s way of preventing our little saint from her one great experience of each day, the Mass, and Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
On the first day that this occurred, two friends who were with her warned her not to try to cross the river; it was too deep; the flow of the rapids was too strong and the current too swift. It could take her and sweep her downstream. Our little saint could not take the chance of missing her opportunity for Mass that day. She made the Sign of the Cross, at which point the river miraculously parted in two, reminiscent of the Miracle of the Eucharist of Avignon (1433), where the water in a flooded church parted to allow the Blessed Sacrament to be taken off the main altar, and carried to safety, and the Biblical parting of the Red Sea.
Word of this miracle, and the subsequent miracles of the parting of the river spread rapidly throughout the village. There were actual eyewitnesses to the miracle. Other shepherds tending their sheep in the field where she tended hers would pass her flock huddled around the distaff, stuck in the ground. They were amazed that the sheep were so obedient. It didn’t matter if it was the heat of summer, or the freezing cold of winter, snow or rain, the sheep always obeyed the command by Our Lord Jesus so that our little Saint could take part in the celebration of the Mass. Soon everyone was talking about Germaine and her special gift. People began paying more attention to her. They had always thought she was a good girl, misfortunate in her living condition with her family. But they never thought of her as being particularly blessed by the Lord. Now they saw a different side to Germaine, a heavenly side. However, this was to have a negative effect on her stepmother.
There is a terrible but true expression, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Well, the more people talked about this miraculous occurrence, and paid attention to the girl, the more Germaine was beaten by her stepmother. But through all of this, and the years of ill treatment at the hands of her stepmother, Germaine only treated her with homage and regard.
Another miraculous manifestation which has been the talk of the village, and St. Germaine’s followers all these years is what is called the Miracle of the Flowers. Germaine had taken to giving scraps of bread to the various beggars who came to her for help. She had gained the reputation of being compassionate to the multitude of those less fortunate, whose situations were similar to hers. But the few scraps she was given for her meals was not even enough to take care of her, much less to share with the many who came to her for help. So she would sneak into the house and take crusts of bread from the kitchen.
Her stepmother, always looking for an excuse to belittle or punish her, caught Germaine taking the bread. When she caught her in the act, she beat her mercilessly, stating that she was not about to feed every indigent who came to St. Germaine. Well, this one day, Germaine had taken bread from the kitchen, and was heading down the road to give it to some of the destitute poverty-stricken people who depended on her. The stepmother caught wind of what she was doing, and ran after her, calling her a thief, and demanding she open her apron to let the bread fall out. This took place in the center of the town, where the whole village seemed to be there for this.
The stepmother planned it this way so she could justify her wicked behavior towards the girl before the whole village. Germaine obediently opened her apron, thinking the bread would fall out, and she would have to suffer the wrath of her stepmother. But the Lord stepped in, and rather than bread falling out, beautiful flowers cascaded to the ground. Shades of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. These were flowers that were not found in this section of France, and definitely not in the wintertime, which is when this occurred. Praise Jesus.
She was a very peaceful soul. The more the Lord filled her with His love, the more she became content, no, joyful with her surroundings and her situation. Everybody in the village could see this conversion in the girl, but the children could see it more clearly. Their souls are clear of all the garbage we adults cram into our minds. In addition, they have an instinct about who is trustworthy and who is not. Germaine’s entire demeanor was so peaceful and loving that they felt comfortable being in her presence. So they would follow her as she performed her tasks. She didn’t have a lot of free time, so they had to get her while they could.
Very often, they would come upon her in the fields, and she would be deep in prayer. She had a Cross, made of two twigs put together and tied with hay. She also had a Rosary made out of knotted twine. These were her possessions and they were the most important belongings she had. She might be sitting on the stump of a tree, or a rock. They would gather around her and listen to her talk about Jesus and her love of our Faith. Remember now, she had no education. She could not read, write, or spell. How did she possess the knowledge to keep these young people spellbound for hours at a time? We believe she was inspired by the Holy Spirit to instill the love of Jesus into these young people, in the hopes that they would pass it on, and no families would treat their children like St. Germaine’s treated her.
The attitude of the townspeople towards Germaine changed. After seeing how the children were attracted to her, and how her step-mother tried to beat her and berate her in front of the locals, and how she did not react or criticize her wicked step-mother in any way, they came to realize that this was truly a child of God. Not only these things, but manifestations began to occur, especially at night at the barn where Germaine lived. Bright lights could be seen coming from the barn, almost as if it was on fire, only the lights seemed heavenly. Beautiful music emanated from the barn, which they could not understand. Many would gingerly walk to the opening of the barn, to see Germaine kneeling in prayer, in ecstasy. She was the happiest girl in the village. She truly became, in their eyes, the holy girl.
The change in attitude of all the villagers towards Germaine had an effect on her father first. He grieved for the way he had mistreated this child, his daughter for so many years. He asked her forgiveness, and demanded to his wife that she be allowed to live in the house, and eat proper meals, and wear good clothes. Although he was not aware of it, his wife, Germaine’s wicked step-mother, was having a conversion experience herself. She couldn’t help but see the spiritual beauty of this child, whom she had treated so shamefully from the time she was a little girl. Not to the same degree as the father, but she too wanted to make amends for her outrageous behavior.
But Germaine was content living the life the Lord had given her. She reconciled with her father, telling him she was very happy in the barn. This is where she had spent most of her life. This is where the Lord had blessed her mightily. She wanted to continue in this place. As a matter of fact, she even found other means of discipline that she could practice, which she felt made her closer to Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. However, she did give in to her parents’ requests that she eat better and dress better, even if she was to stay with the animals in the barn. But all of that was to be short-lived. Our little Saint was to be called Home by her Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary, who had protected the child with Her Motherly Mantle for all St. Germaine’s life.
There are two accounts of the death of St. Germaine, both complementing the other. One tells of a priest traveling from one part of France in the direction of Toulouse, which is very close to Pibrac. When he arrived in Pibrac, on his way to Toulouse, he could hardly see. The night was dark; there were no lights to help him. He really groped through the town. All at once, a heavenly aura lit up the sky. He saw a procession of saintly virgins almost float down from Heaven toward a barn in the village. Then he saw a virgin ascending to Heaven. He was completely spellbound by the vision. He knew it had to be of God, but did not know what it meant. He decided to stay the night in Pibrac, to try to determine the meaning of this vision.
On the other side of the village, coming from Toulouse, two monks groped in the near-pitch dark night of Pibrac. They feared they were going in the wrong direction, so they took refuge in the remains of a castle, which had been abandoned. They too saw the same vision, of the brilliant virgins coming down from Heaven, followed by the virgin going up into Heaven, accompanied by a multitude of Angels. They, too, decided to find out what it meant the next day when it was light out.
When both the priest and the monks described to the locals the next morning the events of the previous evening, they people were stymied at first, but when they heard that she was crowned with a diadem, they immediately thought of the little Saint in their midst, Germaine. They assumed she had been taken up from her life of misery into Heaven. All went to the barn, where they found Germaine’s father, weeping over the body of his daughter, laying on her little thatched mattress, a rosary in her hands, and her face beaming.
Possibly more attention was given to this beautiful young girl than had ever been given her before. By the way, the marks on her face all but disappeared, and her arm was able to be positioned almost the way it would be if she had not suffered her illness. Her step-mother, in an act completely foreign to her personality, dressed Germaine in a beautiful dress, simple, as befit the flavor of the area she lived in. The little children made a wreath for her head, and placed it on her body. Great pains were taken to make this, the day she died, the most memorable in her life. Her body was brought, in solemn procession, to the church she loved so much, and buried there. And that should have been the end of the story, or so everyone thought.
But that’s not the end of the story. Forty three years later, in 1644, when most of the children Germaine taught in the forest, were now grown, probably parents, a woman in the parish died, and had requested to be buried in the church near the altar. When the workmen dug up the floor near the altar, they found the tomb of Germaine, who had long since been forgotten, her father and mother having passed on. When the workers opened the floor, they found the body of a young girl, perfectly intact. As a matter of fact, the pickaxe used by one of the workers hit her nose, and it began to bleed.
Well, the workers ran all through the village, ranting and raving about the body that was found in the church. The entire village came to the church to see the miraculous occurrence. Distant relatives of the Cousin family, of which she was a part, having heard the stories all their life of the little saint, identified the corpse as being the little Holy girl, Germaine Cousin.
Remember now, this was a good generation after she had lived and died. Even if the children, now adults, remembered Germaine, their memories would have been dimmed by the years. Add to that the new people who had moved into the village, and a priest, who was probably only a child when she died, and the bottom line is that she was fairly unknown any more.