Celebrating Saint Genevieve

Today, January 3 is the Feast of Saint Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris.  Since my time here in Paris, I have spent many hours visiting cathedrals and learning much about the historicity and example of Saints.  There is much to learn from their life of obedience, sacrifice, and dedication.  Often, in the midst of great difficult and persecution, their faith remained steadfast and resolute.

These saints are certainly revered here in Paris, especially the French Saints.  True, some many lean towards worship of them, but in my experience that is not the case.  They are honored for what they accomplished on earth and admired as an ancestor of the Christian faith.  I am constantly being challenged and inspired as I read the writings and stories of many of these saints.

Here is a blurb about Saint Genevieve

Childhood and Calling

She was born of wealthy parents in Gaul (modern France) in the village of Nanterre, near Paris, around 422. Her father’s name was Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia. According to the custom of the time, she often tended her father’s flocks on Mt. Valerien.

When she was about seven years old, St Germanus of Auxerre noticed her as he was passing through Nanterre. The bishop kissed her on the head and told her parents that she would become great in the sight of God, and would lead many to salvation. After Genevieve told him that she wished to dedicate herself to Christ, he gave her a brass medal with the image of the Cross upon it. She promised to wear it around her neck, and to avoid wearing any other ornaments around her neck or on her fingers.

Years later, when she was fifteen, Genevieve was taken to Paris to enter the monastic life. Through fasting, vigil and prayer, she progressed in monasticism, and received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and of working miracles. Gradually, the people of Paris and the surrounding area regarded Genevieve as a holy vessel (2 Tim. 2:21).

Historical Involvement

In 451 she led a “prayer marathon”that was said to have saved Paris by diverting Attila‘s Huns away from the city. When Childeric I besieged the city in 464 and conquered it, she acted as an intermediary between the city and its conqueror, collecting food and convincing Childeric to release his prisoners.

When it was reported that Attila the Hun was approaching Paris, Genevieve and the other nuns prayed and fasted, entreating God to spare the city. Suddenly, the barbarians turned away from Paris and went off in another direction.

Shortly before the attack of the Huns under Attila in 451 on Paris, Genevieve, with the help of Germanus’ archdeacon, persuaded the panic-stricken people of Paris not to leave their homes and to pray. The intercession of Genevieve’s prayers caused Attila’s army to go to Orléans instead. During Childeric‘s siege and blockade of Paris in 464, Geneviève passed through the siege lines in a boat to Troyes, bringing grain to the city. She also pleaded to Childeric for the welfare of prisoners of war, and met with a favorable response. Later, Clovis I liberated captives and showed greater lenience to wrongdoers after Genevieve urged him to do so.

Spiritual Legacy

St Genevieve considered the Saturday night Vigil service to be very important, since it symbolizes how our whole life should be. “We must keep vigil in prayer and fasting so that the Lord will find us ready when He comes,” she said. She was on her way to church with her nuns one stormy Saturday night when the wind blew out her lantern. The nuns could not find their way without a light, since it was dark and stormy, and the road was rough and muddy. St Genevieve made the Sign of the Cross over the lantern, and the candle within was lit with a bright flame. In this manner they were able to make their way to the church for the service.

There is a tradition that the church which St Genevieve suggested that King Clovis build in honor of Sts Peter and Paul became her own resting place when she fell asleep in the Lord around 512 at the age of eighty-nine. Her holy relics were later transferred to the church of St Etienne du Mont in Paris. Most of her relics, and those of other saints, were destroyed during the French Revolution. I have included pictures I took at the church.

Saint Genevieve believed in the power of prayer, fasting, and charity.  She trusted in God for intervention and provision and certainly believed that the miraculous still happened.  An entire city (Paris) celebrates her life of piety, purity, and prayer and believed that it was because of prayer that the city was spared.

May that be believed today for Christians praying and seeking the welfare and salvation of towns, cities, regions, and nations.

Saint Genevieve Saint Etienne du Mont

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