Saint Germana, sometimes called Germaine, was born in 1201 in the town of Pibrac, which is close to Toulouse, France. She is the patron saint of victims of child abuse.
St. Germana was a farmer's daughter. When she was born, her mother died, leaving her with only a father. Later, her father remarried a woman named Hortense.
Hortense hated Germana. Germana was ill and weak, with a right hand that was paralyzed and deformed. Hortense replaced Germana's mother's love that was lost with abuse and cruelty, Germana's father, Laurent, pretended that he didn't notice that Germana was being tortured. He wasn't around to defend her when Hortense left her in a drain to look after the chickens and forgot about her for three days. He didn't even care when Hortense poured steaming hot water on Germana's legs.
With this abuse, it's no wonder why Germana became even more ill. She got scrofula, a disease in which the neck glands swell up. Sores grew on her neck, and in her weakened condition, she became prone to every disease that came along. Instead of making Hortense pity her, though, this made her hate Germana even more.
Germana got no love or sympathy from her half-siblings. By watching their mother torment Germana, they learned how to abuse and despise her by putting pitch in her clothes and ashes in her food scraps. Hortense thought this was very amusing.
Hortense did eventually become concerned about Germana's illness, though, because she was afraid that her children would catch it. To protect her children, she made Germana sleep out in the barn. The only warmth that Germana had was from the sheep that also slept there. The only food she got was scraps of food that Hortense might remember to throw to her.
Being in the barn, the sheep that slept with Germana grew to trust her. Since no one thought that education would be of use to her, Germana spent the long days with the sheep. Instead of getting lonely, though, she made a friend in God. She didn't know a lot about faith, but she had a rosary and made up simple prayers like, "Dear God, please don't let me get too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother, and help me to please you." Because of that faith, a profound holiness and deep trust in God grew. Every single day, she would leave the sheep in God's care and walk to Mass. Many villagers wondered why the sheep weren't ever attacked by anything, God's protection never failed. One day, the river was flooding, and a villager thought they saw the river part so that Germana could get to Mass on time.
No matter how little Germana had, she shared it with others. She gave the beggars her food scraps. There were many good stories about her that entranced the villagers. She gave people forgiveness that deserved hatred.
The stories about Germana's holiness made Hortense furious. She wanted desperately to catch Germana doing something wrong. One freezing winter day, after throwing out a beggar that Germana had been sheltering, Hortense noticed that something was bundled under her apron. Certain that Germana had stolen from the beggar, she began to chase her and scream at her. As she was beating her, Germana pulled out what was hidden in her apron - vibrant, beautiful flowers that weren't supposed to be seen for months. She handed one to Hortense and said, "Please accept this flower, Mother. God sends it to you in sign of his forgiveness."
As the villagers spoke about the holy child, even Hortense softened her feelings toward Germana a little bit. She even invited her into the house, but Germana had become used to her straw bed and continued to sleep on it. She was found dead there and the age of 22, overcome by a life of pain and suffering.
With all the evidence of her holiness, Germana's life didn't mean a lot beyond her tiny village until God shed some light on it again. When her body was found some 40 years later, it was undecayed, which was impossible. As it usually is with saint's bodies, God chooses the despised as ugly and weak bodies to preserve, not the outwardly beautiful.
Saint Germana became a saint because she lived a life devoted to God and to others, and that is all God wants us to do.
Despite the opportunity to live a noble life at court, St. Catherine eagerly responded to her call to lead the religious life. Her piety, charity, and kindness attracted many to follow her along the road to perfection. The beauty of her life and death encourages us to resolve to live in perfect charity as a Lenten goal.
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