St. Genevieve Saves Paris

· French Saint,Lay Person

An Early Sign of Holiness

A life committed to God started early for St. Genevieve (c. 422 - c. 500). The bishop St. Germanus of Auxerre was on a journey to England when he stopped at Genevieve's hometown of Nanterre which was a small village outside Paris, France. The young girl of about seven years of age was in the crowd that met the bishop and heard his greetings and brief message. 

While speaking, Germanus was given a moment of inspiration that let him know that the young Genevieve whom he saw would be a holy woman and live for God. As he greeted the people individually, he stopped and asked her if she would like to commit herself completely to God. After Genevieve replied that she would, the bishop placed his hands on her head and gave her his blessing.

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Holiness at Home

Indeed, the young peasant Genevieve would take a vow of chastity at the age of fifteen. However, she did not join any type of religious order but instead lived a life of prayer in her own home. After her parents Serverus and Gerontia died, she lived with her godmother Lutetia in Paris where she continued her life of prayer, piety, devotion, and charitable works.

In particular, she was dedicated to helping the poor especially through providing them with much needed food. Genevieve, herself, lived on a fairly meager diet which did not include any meat, only drinking water, and not eating for most of the days of the week.

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Persecution

Genevieve gained a deserved reputation for holiness. And, the Lord granted her visions of angels and saints, as well as wisdom about future events and the working of miracles through her intercession.

After innocently sharing about her divine conversations in visions, some people deemed her a false visionary. A number of people who had supported her turned against her. The outcry was strong, and many were prepared to have her put to death. 

Bishop Germanus stepped in and prevented any harm from coming to Genevieve. He then placed her in charge of the care of the consecrated virgins in Paris. For many years, Genevieve helped provide them with their material and spiritual needs.

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Saving the Lives of Paris

One of her best known acts of charity was providing food for the people of Paris when the Franks were laying siege to the city.

In order to obtain food, a group of boats were to be sent up the Seine River to the city of Troyes where grain could be obtained. Led by Genevieve, eleven boats slipped by the siege lines under the cover of darkness. After they arrived at their destination, Genevieve begged for enough grain to fill all of the boats.

The return trip to Paris was not easy as there were strong winds that threatened to capsize the ships and send all of the grain to the bottom of the river. Even as the boats were being tipped over on their sides as the wind blew the sails, Genevieve prayed to the Lord and miraculously all of the boats were quickly righted and the winds ceased.

After slipping back into Paris again by night, the boats were unloaded and the grain was baked into bread to be distributed to the hungry people of Paris.

Setting the Captives Free

Later Childeric who had laid siege to Paris heard of Genevieve's bravery, he asked to meet her. The pagan leader was duly impressed by her pluck and faith and asked Genevieve what he could do for her. She quickly asked that he release the prisoners of Paris who were only captives because they loved their city. Childeric followed through and let the men be set free.

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Feast Day: January 3

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