St. Genevieve, virgin in Gaul (France)

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1894: GENEVIEVE was born at Nanterre, near Paris. St. Germanus, when passing through, specially noticed a little shepherdess, and predicted her future sanctity. At seven years of age she made a vow of perpetual chastity. After the death of her parents, Paris became her abode; but she often travelled on works of mercy, which, by the gifts of prophecy and miracles, she unfailingly performed. At one time she was cruelly persecuted: her enemies, jealous of her power, called her a hypocrite and. tried to drown her; but St. Germanus having sent her some blessed bread as a token of esteem, the outcry ceased, and ever afterwards she was honored as a Saint. During the siege of Paris by Childeric, king of the Franks, Genevieve went out with a few followers and procured corn for the starving citizens. Nevertheless Childeric, though a pagan, respected her, and at her request spared the lives of many prisoners. By her exhortations again, when Attila and his Huns were approaching the city, the inhabitants, instead of taking flight, gave themselves to prayer and penance, and averted, as she had foretold, the impending scourge. Clovis, when converted from paganism by his holy wife, St. Clotilda, made Genevieve his constant adviser, and, in spite of his violent character, made a generous and Christian king. She died within a few weeks of that monarch, in 512, aged eighty-nine./A pestilence broke out at Paris in 1129, which in a short time swept off fourteen thousand persons, and, in spite of all human efforts, daily added to its victims. At length, on November 26th, the shrine of St. Genevieve was carried in solemn procession through the city. That same day but three persons died, the rest recovered, and no others were taken ill. This was but the first of a series of miraculous favors which the city of Paris has obtained through the relics of its patron Saint.

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:


HER father's name was Severus, and her mother's Gerontia: she was born
about the year 422, at Nanterre, a small village four miles from Paris,
near the famous modern stations, or Calvary, adorned with excellent
sculptures, representing our Lord's Passion, on Mount Valerien. When St.
Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, went with St. Lupus into Britain to oppose
the Pelagian heresy, he lay at Nanterre in his way. The inhabitants
flocked about them to receive their blessing, and St. Germanus made them
an exhortation, during which he took particular notice of Genevieve,
though only seven years of age. After his discourse he inquired for her
parents, and addressing himself to them, foretold their daughter's
future sanctity, and said that she would perfectly accomplish the
resolution she had taken of serving God, and that others would imitate
her example. He then asked Genevieve whether it was not her desire to
serve God in a state of perpetual virginity, and to bear no other title
than that of a spouse of Jesus Christ. The virgin answered, that this
was what she had long desired, and begged that by his blessing she might
be from that moment consecrated to God. The holy prelate went to the
church of the place, followed by the people, and, during long singing of
psalms and prayers, says Constantius,[1]--that is, during the recital of
None and Vespers,[2] as the author of the life of St. Genevieve
expresses it,[3] he held his hand upon the virgin's head. After he had
supped, he dismissed her, giving a strict charge to her parents to bring
her again to him very early the next morning. The father complied with
the commission, and St. Germanus asked Genevieve whether she remembered
the promise she had made to God. She said she did, and declared she
would, by the divine assistance, faithfully perform it. The bishop gave
her a brass medal, on which a cross was engraved, to wear always about
her neck, to put her in mind of the consecration she had made of herself
to God; and at the same time, he charged her never to wear bracelets, or
necklaces of pearls, gold, or silver, or any other ornaments of vanity.
All this she most religiously observed, and considering herself as the
spouse of Christ, gave herself up to the most fervent practices of
devotion and penance. From the words of St. Germanus, in his exhortation
to St. Genevieve never to wear jewels, Baillet and some others infer,
that she must have been a person of quality and fortune; but the ancient
Breviary and constant tradition of the place assure us, that her father
was a poor shepherd. Adrian, Valois, and Baluze, observe, that her most
ancient life ought not to be esteemed of irrefragable authority, and
that the words of St. Germanus are {083} not perhaps related with a
scrupulous fidelity.[4] The author of her life tells us, that the holy
virgin begging one day with great importunity that she might go to the
church, her mother struck her on the face, but in punishment lost her
sight, which she only recovered, two months after, by washing her eyes
twice or thrice with water which her daughter fetched from the well, and
upon which she had made the sign of the cross. Hence the people look
upon the well at Nanterre as having been blessed by the saint. About
fifteen years of age, she was presented to the bishop of Paris to
receive the religious veil at his hands, together with two other persons
of the same sex. Though she was the youngest of the three, the bishop
placed her the first, saying, that heaven had already sanctified her; by
which he seems to have alluded to the promise she had already made, in
the presence of SS. Germanus and Lupus, of consecrating herself to God.
From that time she frequently ate only twice in the week, on Sundays and
Thursdays. Her food was barley bread with a few beans. At the age of
fifty, by the command of certain bishops, she mitigated this austerity,
so far as to allow herself a moderate use of fish and milk. Her prayer
was almost continual, and generally attended with a large flow of tears.
After the death of her parents she left Nanterre, and settled with her
god-mother at Paris; but sometimes undertook journeys upon motives of
charity, and illustrated the cities of Meaux, Leon, Tours, Orleans, and
all other places wherever she went, with miracles and remarkable
predictions. God permitted her to meet with some severe trials; for at a
certain time all persons indiscriminately seemed to be in a combination
against her, and persecuted her under the opprobrious names of
visionary, hypocrite, and the like imputations, all tending to asperse
her innocency. The arrival of St. Germanus at Paris, probably on his
second journey to Britain, for some time silenced her calumniators; but
it was not long ere the storm broke out anew. Her enemies were fully
determined to drown her, when the archdeacon of Auxerre arrived with
_Eulogies_, or blessed bread, sent her by St. Germanus, as a testimony
of his particular esteem for her virtues, and a token of communion. This
seems to have happened while St. Germanus was absent in Italy in 449, a
little before his death. This circumstance, so providentially opportune,
converted the prejudices of her calumniators into a singular veneration
for her during the remainder of her life. The Franks or French had then
possessed themselves of the better part of Gaul; and Childeric, their
king, took Paris.[5] During the long blockade of that city, the citizens
being extremely distressed by famine, St. Genevieve, as the author of
her life relates, went out at the head of a company who were sent to
procure provisions, and brought back from Arcis-sur-Aube and Troyes
several boats laden with corn. Nevertheless, Childeric, when he had made
himself master of Paris, though always a pagan, respected St. Genevieve,
and, upon her intercession, spared the lives of many prisoners, and did
several other acts of clemency and bounty. Our saint, out of her
singular devotion to St. Dionysius and his companions, the apostles of
the country, frequently visited their tombs at the borough of
Catulliacum, which many think the borough since called Saint Denys's.
She also excited the zeal of many pious persons to build there a church
in {084} honor of St. Dionysius, which King Dagobert I. afterwards
rebuilt with a stately monastery in 629.[6] Saint Genevieve likewise
performed several pilgrimages, in company with other holy virgins, to
the shrine of St. Martin at Tours. These journeys of devotion she
sanctified by the exercise of holy recollection and austere penance.
King Clovis, who embraced the faith in 496, listened often with
deference to the advice of St. Genevieve, and granted liberty to several
captives at her request. Upon the report of the march of Attila with his
army of Huns, the Parisians were preparing to abandon their city, but
St. Genevieve persuaded them, in imitation of Judith and Hester, to
endeavor to avert the scourge, by fasting, watching, and prayer. Many
devout persons of her sex passed many days with her in prayer in the
baptistery; from whence the particular devotion to St. Genevieve, which
is practised at St. John-le-rond, the ancient public baptistery of the
church of Paris, seems to have taken rise. She assured the people of the
protection of heaven, and their deliverance; and though she was long
treated by many as an impostor, the event verified the prediction, that
barbarian suddenly changing the course of his march, probably by
directing it towards Orleans. Our author attributes to St. Genevieve the
first design of the magnificent church which Clovis began to build in
honor of SS. Peter and Paul, by the pious counsel of his wife Saint
Clotilda, by whom it was finished several years after; for he only laid
the foundation a little before his death, which happened in 511.[7] St.
Genevieve died about the same year, probably five weeks after that
prince, on the 3d of January, 512, being eighty-nine years old. Some
think she died before King Clovis. ...

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