By l'Abbé Bérenger Saunière, priest of Rennes-le-Château 1885-1909


4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 22nd, Feast of Perpetual Adoration.
In Rennes: Catechism at 6.00, Mass at 8.00
Sunday procession
Sermon: the story of Germaine Cousin
Nativity of St John the Baptist

Germaine Cousin was born in Pibrac, a village of approximately 200 households, near Toulouse, in about 1579. Her father Laurent was a poor farmer and her mother was called Marie Laroche. Right from the very first moments of her birth Germaine was the victim of suffering and affliction. Even while being born she suffered cruel infirmities, being anchylosed in the right hand and attacked by scrofula. Hardly had she left the cradle than she had become an orphan; God took her mother from her and, to pile misfortune upon misfortune, her father hastened to remarry. His second wife had children of her own and, as almost always happens, instead of taking pity on the orphan that Providence had entrusted to her she took against her. - Here then is how Germaine began her life: poor, crippled, orphaned, and placed under the yoke of a cruel stepmother. But let us not judge these things as the worldly would do; these were actually the first graces of God. - It is to her miserable condition that Germaine owed her precocious flashes of humility, patience and other virtues. She loved pain like a sister, like a companion from her cradle, until her last breath.

As soon as she was of an age her stepmother, who could not bear her in the house, gave her the task of looking after the flocks. She did that to the end of her days. - Solitude is bad for those who do not dwell with God: being a shepherd amid the freedom of the fields, although innocent in itself, is usually far from being a job designed to protect the morals of children, not to mention the deep and dangerous ignorance of spiritual matters to which shepherds are condemned. But for Germaine it was a relaxation and a favour. God, who hides himself from the learned and the proud but who reveals himself to the meek and the humble, began to make Himself heard within her heart through the wonders of creation. - We do not know from whom Germaine received her first lessons regarding the truths of salvation. God Himself undertook the Christian education of His maidservant, by prayer, meditation, solitary meetings, etc…

In such circumstances, loneliness became a delight to her, not so much because it enabled her to shelter from the harshness and ill-treatment of her stepmother, but because it enabled her to enjoy the presence of God. O beata solitudo, O sola beatitudo! ["O blessed solitude, sole beatitude"] as a Desert Father said.

This little shepherdess even created her own further retreat within the retreat that she already enjoyed. She was never known to seek the company of the other young shepherds; their games did not attract her, and their laughter did not disturb her meditations. She sometimes spoke to girls of her own age, but only to gently exhort them to remember God.

When evening came and the poor girl returned from the herd to the paternal home there was nothing there for her; no one made a place for her besides the fire. Even in the house of her own father she scarcely enjoyed any solace or shelter. Her stepmother, always imperious, always irritable, made her sit in dark corners. Germaine was not allowed to approach the other children of the family, her own brothers and sisters, whom she loved tenderly. Even so, she was always ready to serve them, without displaying any jealousy of the hateful favouritism of which they were the object and she the victim. The inflexible harshness of her stepmother reduced the young cripple to resting in a cattle-shed or on a heap of vine-shoots at the end of a corridor. Submissive and respectful, Germaine kept silent and hid herself away. God had taught her how to love suffering, how to accept humiliation joyfully. All through her life she refused any food other than a little bread and water.

She walked in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ, imitated His passion step by step, forgave her torturers, fulfilled the precept of fraternal charity, and loved Jesus so much that neither affliction, persecution, life nor death could separate her from Him. She knew only one thing: Christ crucified.

Conclusion:

Germaine, despite all the obstacles and the obligations of her job, attended Mass every day. Full of confidence, she would leave her herd in the countryside and run to take refuge at the feet of

the divine Shepherd. She knew that no harm would come to her herd and that the good Lord would look after it in her absence. Even when her sheep were grazing on the outskirts of the forest of Boucone, which was full of wolves, Germaine would plant her crook or staff in the ground to the sound of a bell and run to the call of Him Who would say: "Do not fear anything, little flock, I will be with you." On her return she always found her sheep just where she had left them, quiet and safe, as if in the fold. Never did any of the wolves take any of them, and never did this herd, guarded by the absent shepherdess, stray from the limits that she had marked out for it, and nor did it cause the least damage in the neighbouring fields. And just as it had pleased God to bless the herds of Laban under the control of His servant Jacob, in the same way He blessed the herd that Germaine His maidservant looked after. In the village as a whole there were larger flocks, but there was none more beautiful. Germaine's frequent absences did not deprive her stepmother of the opportunity to shower her with reproaches and insults. More than once the other inhabitants of Pibrac, witnesses of the wondrous power that enfolded her herd when the innocent shepherdess was at Church, lost their tempers with this malicious woman. They asked her whether she was not happy with the prosperity that Germaine brought to her home. - Conclusion. The respect, gentleness, patience and resignation shown by Germaine.

Accustomed as she was to attend Mass regularly, Germaine was assiduous in her approach to the sacraments of penitence and the Eucharist. She took communion every Sunday and on the annual feast-days. - Preparation of the young Saint for confession: the arrangements she felt she had to make, how she felt the need to purify herself of the least moral stain – the severe penitence that she would perform. Conclusion.

The enthusiasm with which Germaine received Holy Communion was such a touching spectacle that all those who saw it were charmed by it: it made an indelible impression upon them. - Dialogue of the young Saint with her God and the courage that she drew from Communion.

With her love of Our Lord Jesus Christ was combined a devotion to the Blessed Virgin, following the example of the Saints sent from God to be used as role-models for the people and to help revive in them the fire of devotion, and who have never failed to make themselves conspicuous by their love for the Virgin Mary. From early childhood our happy shepherdess had given evidence of this tendency and a sound piety towards the Mother of God which, according to the doctrines of the Holy Fathers, is a sign of predestination. Her rosary, which she often recited, was her only book. For Germaine the Ave Maria was an inexhaustible source of illumination, consolation and rapture. As soon as she heard the Angelus, wherever she might be, and in order to display more reverence, she would fall to her knees. Such was her fidelity to this pious practice that she was often seen kneeling in the middle of the snow and the mud, without having taken the time to seek a better place to kneel. - Conclusion. Devotion towards Mary.

One of the good works that her love for Jesus and Mary inspired in her was for her to bring together around her, whenever she could, some of the small children of the village, to help them understand the truths of religion and to persuade them to love Jesus and His Mother. - A spectacle worthy of admiration: we should follow her example and care for children, teach them… and not scandalize them. Encourage them to come to catechism, teach them to pray.

Her virtue, her piety, her devotion, made a deep impression on some, while in others it excited only mocking remarks and persecution. Some laughed at her simplicity, while others called her "excessively devout". - The courage of the young Saint. She did not have the respect of her fellow humans. - The conclusion to be drawn.

Just as God condescended to look after Germain's sheep when she left them in the fields to go to Mass, He suspended natural laws and manifested Himself through extraordinary events by showing just how agreeable to Him this poor girl, of whom people made fun, this "excessively devout" person of no importance was. To reach the village church Germaine was obliged to cross the Courbet, a brook which she was able to ford without difficulty in normal weather but which storm-showers sometimes swelled and made impassable. One day however, as she approached the Church according to her custom, some peasants who saw her coming from afar stopped at some distance from her, wondering out loud among themselves, with a scoffing air, how she would cross the brook, because the night had been rainy and the waters of the heavily swollen brook were crashing past with a might that would have formed an obstacle to the strongest man. Germaine arrived, without thinking of the obstacle, perhaps without even seeing it, and approached it as if it did not even exist. O how marvellous is divine power and kindness! Just as, in days gone by, the sea-waters had opened before the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses, so by the orders of God the waters of the Courbet had opened before the humble daughter of Laurent, and she crossed it without so much as wetting the hem of her dress. Seeing this wonder, which God very often repeated, the peasants looked on in fear and even the harshest among them began to respect the poor simple girl at which they had been wont to scoff.

After having thus several times glorified the faith of Germaine by drawing aside material obstacles, God also wanted to glorify her charity towards the poor. This heroic tendency of kindness towards the unfortunate was, for the young Saint, a continuous source of severe testing. She was accused of stealing bread from the house. Her stepmother needed no encouragement to believe her guilty and treat her with the greatest severity. One day she learned that Germaine, who had just left home to follow the herd, was carrying in her apron some pieces of bread. Furious and armed with a stick she immediately ran after the young girl. At the time in question some inhabitants of Pibrac were out walking towards the smallholding of Laurent Cousin. Seeing Germain's mother out by herself they guessed what she was up to and followed her at the double to protect Germaine against the ill-treatment with which she was threatened. Having caught up with the stepmother they learned from her why she was angry. They reached the shepherdess together. Germaine's apron was opened immediately but, instead of the bread that they thought would be found there, there fell from there only flowers tied in bouquets, at a time of year when the ground does not produce any. Thus God repeated, for this poor girl, the miracle that He had performed for Saint Elisabeth, Duchess of Thuringia, and confounded by the same means the malice of her implacable enemy. Full of wonder, the witnesses to the miracle went at once to Pibrac to tell of what they had seen. Ever after people had the greatest respect for Germaine and considered to be nothing other than a Saint. Her father Laurent, conceiving more tender feelings for this virtuous girl whom he had misjudged so severely, forbade his wife to torment her any more and sought to give her a proper place in his household alongside his other children. But Germaine, accustomed as she was to suffering and in love with deprivation, begged him to allow her to go on living in the dark hovel to which her stepmother had confined her. - Love, charity towards the poor, who are the "members" of Jesus Christ. - I was hungry: I was thirsty: I was naked, I was sick and in prison. (St Matthew.) He who does not love his brother whom he can see, how will he love God whom he cannot see. (St John). Buy off your sins by giving alms. - Blessed are the poor in heart. If anybody could believe herself to be exempted from the obligation to perform charity then it was Germaine…

The death of Germaine followed closely upon the miracle of the flowers. God having sanctified her by humiliation and suffering withdrew her from this world at a time when people were becoming fairer towards her and starting to render her virtue the honour that it deserved. One morning her father Laurent, not having seen her depart for the fields as she usually did, went to call her out from under the staircase where she had insisted on continuing to live. She did not answer. He entered and found her dead on her bed of vine-shoots, her arms crossed on her chest, a prayer on her lips. - A Holy Death, hidden like her life, a happy death, a death without pain. - Only irreligious people and the evil ones fear death.

It was in 1601, around the beginning of the summer, that our Blessed One went to Heaven. She was 22 years old. The night she died, without witnesses, in this sad loneliness and on this pallet where so often her patience had delighted the hearts of Angels, it pleased God to express by a new wonder just how invaluable to Him her death was. Two monks walking towards Pibrac, surprised by the sudden darkness, were obliged to stop in the neighbouring forest, there to wait for daybreak. In the middle of the night, all of a sudden, the wood was illuminated by a brightness more beautiful than that of the dawn, and a group of Virgins, robed in white and surrounded by a bright light, appeared before the two travellers from the direction of the thatched cottage belonging to Laurent Cousin. Soon afterwards they passed by again, but this time there was one more of them, whom the others surrounded; and she wore a crown of fresh flowers. Astonished by this vision, the two monks thought that a pious soul had left the Earth. The following day, having arrived at Pibrac, they learned there that Germaine had just died. Her funeral was crowded. She was buried in the Church, according to the usage of this time, opposite the pulpit. Her name will live for ever more and she will never be forgotten. How many learned and famous men have had names that survived for only a few years; statues are erected to them, but in vain etc. for within a short while they were completely forgotten…





Bérenger Saunière's Sermons