Many times we see a stepmother portrayed as a monster in stories. In the case of Saint Germaine, the portrayal was all too much a reality. As a child, her stepmother accidentally left her in a ditch for three days and three nights. Another time, she was left without food for so long that she had to drag herself to the dogs plate. Again, her stepmother threw a bucket of boiling water over her legs. The children of the stepmother amused themselves by putting ashes in her porridge or sap from a tree in her shoes. If this proved not interesting enough, they tied strings to her braids and pulled with all their strength. On top of all these external persecutions, Saint Germaine was born with a deformed and partially paralyzed right arm and hand coupled with a tubercular condition which affected the glands in her neck.
Not to be excluded from other childhood diseases, Germaine had whooping cough, measles, mumps, and smallpox which nearly killed her. She coughed all winter, had a lot of pain in her back, and was stooped over like an old woman. Still, with all this abuse, the family or the townspeople showed no sympathy. Her stepmother repeatedly beat her until her face was swollen and covered with blood. She gave her a few crusts of moldy black bread daily for food. She was not good enough to stay in the house with the family. Thus, they exiled her to a bed of leaves and twigs under the stairway of the barn, among the animals. Abandoned and forgotten, she spent her nights cold, hungry, and sick. They could not even stand her presence during the day so they made her a lonely shepherdess occupied with the sheep. As though the stepmother had not done enough, she made the girl tend the flock near woods which were notorious for their ravenous wolves. Even more, she was given an allotment of wool to spin while the sheep were grazing. If she fell below the expected amount of spun wool, she was severely punished. Yet, in spite of these many hardships, she never lost her pleasant composure. How did this poor girl survive?
"Though my father and mother forsake me, yet will the Lord receive me." (Psalm 26, verse 10) As Scripture denotes, God will never forsake us. So it was with Saint Germaine. She had a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and for His Virgin Mother. She assisted daily at Holy Mass. When the church bell rang, she fixed her sheephook in the ground and trusted the sheep to the One True Shepherd. Her trust was well-founded. Never did a wolf from the forest disturb her flock. Her only textbook was her Rosary which she said continuously. When she could she gathered village children to tell them about the love Jesus and Mary had for them. Her love grew so much that on top of all her suffering she added voluntary penances. She would share her meager meals with the poor.
Finally, God vindicated saint Germaine in front of the villagers when it was observed that
the waters of a raging stream separated to form a dry path for her to reach the church on the other side. Another time villagers where walking by the stable where she slept when they heard a heavenly melody. Curiously they peered in to find her wrapped in ecstatic prayer with a halo about her head. One winter day, her stepmother accused her of stealing bread and hiding it in her apron. In fact, she had only taken the crumbs left on the table after the family had eaten to feed a poor beggar. When she obediently opened her apron, much to the surprise of everyone, fragrant flowers, not grown in the region, fell to the ground. This last miracle convinced her father that there was something special about her. He forbade the stepmother from abusing her anymore. He even went so far as to invite her back into the house, but she preferred the stable of the Holy Family.
Just as everyone became aware of her sanctity, she was found dead on her humble pallet at the age of twenty-two. Forty-three years later, when burying a relative next to her, a gravedigger found her body in perfect preservation. Unbelievably, his pick had struck the girls nose, and it began to bleed. Four hundred miracles or extraordinary graces later, she was beatified. A story is told that even the Holy Father was cold toward promoting the cause of this poor girl. One night on impulse he picked up the documents for her cause. After reading about her heroic virtue practiced under the most adverse conditions, he exclaimed, "Germaine is just the saint we need". Certainly this little French saint should be invoked often to help with out present age of prolific childbeating.