Today, June 15, we celebrate the feast day of *Saint Germaine Cousin* (1579-1601), virgin of the Church, a long-suffering young woman who despite her trials lived a life of simple love and adoration of the Lord. She is the patron saint of victims of child abuse.
Saint Germaine Cousin was born in 1579 in Pibrac, a small village not far from Toulouse, France. From her earliest years she was a frail, sickly child, and throughout her life was afflicted with scrofula, a tubercular condition affecting particularly the glands of the neck. In addition, her right arm and hand were deformed and partially paralyzed. In spite of her many afflictions, the emaciated child possessed a charming, sweet disposition.
Her caring mother passed away while Germaine was an infant. When her father re-married, the new stepmother subjected her to emotional and physical cruelties and insults. Her father, afraid to lose his new wife, pretended not to notice.
Germaine endured not only bodily sufferings, but harsh, cruel treatment from her stepmother, who had a deep aversion for the little girl. The child was almost starved to death and obliged to sleep in the barn on a pile of leaves and twigs under the stairway. At break of day, summer and winter, she would drive the sheep into the fields to graze, then watch them until evening. She had to spin during this time, and if the allotted wool was not spun, she was severely punished.
Starving, maligned, sick, and ill-treated, Germaine never once cried out in hatred. Rather, she turned to the Lord. Her favorite prayer was simple and obedient: “Dear God, please don’t let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother. And help me to please you.” From her simple request, repeated daily, grew an inspiring faith, profound holiness, and a deep trust of God.
Saint Germaine left her flock each day, in the care of the Lord and her guardian angel, setting down her staff and crook, and walking into the nearby town to attend daily Mass. She never worried about her sheep, confident that the Lord would watch over them.
She engaged in many self-imposed austerities, in reparation for the sins of the world. Her life of charity, self-denial, penance, and piety became well known to the townspeople, who began to look upon her with respect and awe.
As the days went on, her stepmother began to change, softening at first, later inviting Germaine back into the house to sleep. However, Germaine refused any comfort. It was there, laying in the barn with her sheep, with her Rosary entwined in her fingers, she died peacefully at age 22, her long, difficult life finally taking its toll on her frail body and was buried in the village church.
43 years later, when a relative was to be buried near her and the stones were removed, the grave-digger found to his amazement, the body of a beautiful young girl in a state of perfect preservation. His pick had struck her nose, and the wound was bleeding. Some of the older residents identified the girl as Germaine Cousin. Miracle after miracle occurred, and in 1867, she was inscribed in the list of Saints by Pope Pius IX.
*St. Germaine Cousin, pray for us*.