Daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and Marie Laroche, who died while Germaine was an infant. A sickly child, Germaine suffered from scrofula, which is tuberculosis of the skin. She was afflicted with unsightly inflammation of the lymph nodes in her neck usually contracted from unpasteurized milk from infected cows, and her right hand was deformed.
Ignored by her father and abused by her step-family, she was often forced to sleep in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs, was fed on scraps, beaten or scalded with hot water for misdeeds, real or imagined.
At age nine Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, where she spent much time praying, sometimes using a rosary she made from a knotted string. She refused to miss Mass, and if she heard the bell announcing services, she set her crook and her distaff in the ground, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel , and went to church; her sheep were unharmed during her absences. It is reported that once she crossed the raging Courbet River by walking over the waters so she could get to church.
Germaine was so poor it is hard to imagine she would be able to help
others, but she was always ready to try, especially children whom she gathered in the fields to teach a simple catechism and share the little food she had. The locals laughed at her religious devotion, and called her ‘the little bigot’.
Once in winter, her stepmother, Hortense, accused her of stealing bread by hiding it in her apron, and threatened to beat her with a stick. Germaine opened her apron, and summer flowers tumbled out. Her parents and neighbors were awed by the obvious miracle, and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to live as she had.
In 1601 she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs, and she was buried in the Church of Pibrac opposite the pulpit. When accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation, her body was found incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated by an anti-Catholic tinsmith named Toulza, who with three accomplices took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the French Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.
Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces received through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and of spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges, France in 1845.
“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.” – prayer of Saint Germaine
O Saint Germaine, look down from Heaven and intercede for the many abused children in our world. Help them to sanctify these sufferings. Strengthen children who suffer the effects of living in broken families. Protect those children who have been abandoned by their parents and live in the streets. Beg God’s mercy on the parents and adults who abuse children. Intercede for handicapped children and their parents.
Saint Germaine, you who suffered neglect and abuse so patiently, pray for us. Amen.