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Saint Genevieve

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Saint Genevieve was born in the year 419 to a Roman father and Greek Mother in the French town of Nanterre. Not much is known of early early life, but reports have been written that at the age of seven, the Bishop Saint Germanus of Auxerre stopped in her town. Germanus singled her out and prophesied of her sanctity. At her request, he led her to the local church and consecrated her to God as a virgin. The day after, after asking her if she remembered her promise to God, he gave her a brass medal to wear around her neck as a reminder to the consecration she made to God.

When he parents died some years later, he moved in with her God mother Lutetia who was living in Paris (Lutetia was also the name of the city at the time). There she lived a life of sainthood, abstaining from meat, fasting for all meals but three during the week and having frequent visions of angels and saints. These visions brought the ire down on her in opposition and criticisms from the town people who believed her to be an impostor. The towns people gathered and planned on kidnapping her to drown her in a local lake, but were stopped on Germanus' return to the city. So moved by her visions and piety, Germanus appointed her to care and look after the virgins consecrated to God in the city.

In 451, the Huns began to prepare for an attack on Paris. Saint Genevieve persudaded the panicking townspeople not to worry, not to flee, but to pray. Atilla's army did not attack and destroy Paris, but instead attacked the town of Orleans. To this day, historians are unsure of why Atilla changed plans, though most Catholics believe fully it was due to her intercessory prayer.

In 464, Paris was surrounded and blockaded by Childeric. Passing across the siege lines by boat to Troyers were she would return with corn and food for the needy peoples of Paris. Childeric also met with her on several occasions during the siege, though he was pagan, was so moved by her that he released several prisoners of war showed great clemency towards the people of Paris.

Genevieve was devoted to Saint Denis and built a chapel in Paris to honor him and his relics. The chapel would go on to be a famous pilgrimage during the 5th and 6th centuries. She would often pray there with a candle - tradition holds that the devil would often appear and blow out the candle to distract her.

Genevieve would die at the age of 89 on January 3, 512. She was buried in an abbey founded by Clovis I. The church there would witness many miracles near her tomb, but was plundered and partially destroyed by Vikings in 847. In 1129, as a fever swept the city decimating the population, the shrine was carried in procession around the town. Tradition holds that all who touched the shrine during the procession were cured of the fever and the fever quickly faded in the days afterwards. To this day, the town celebrates the removal of the fever by her shrine.

In 1636 Francesca de Blosset founded an institute named the Daughters of Sainte Genevieve to teach young girls and nurse the sick. During the French revolution it was shut down and repressed, but fully revived in 1806 under the new name of The Sisters of the Holy Family.

Her tomb can be seen at the church of Saint Etienne du Mont in France today, and her feast day is celebrated January 3rd.

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