Pibrac, Haute-Garonne, France

Pibrac church has a brick clocher-mur, a triangular-headed bell turret atop a fortified west wall; nothing unusual in that in the pays Toulousain, but the large gilded reliquary just inside makes you realize that you have stumbled upon an holy shrine.

Life was not kind to Germaine Cousin (1579– 1601). Born with a deformed right hand and a scrofulous skin condition, she lost her mother very early on; her stereotypical stepmother forced Germaine to have her bed in a barn. After a short life of ill health and of prayer by herself in the fields as a shepherdess, she died alone in her bed.

When her uncorrupt body was uncovered 43 years after her burial, people recalled that she was very faithful in attending Mass, took food to those even less fortunate than herself, and worked miracles in her lifetime. A long investigation ended in the canonization of Sainte Germaine de Pibrac in 1867.

The Catholic Church does not require its saints to have been born to lives of privilege, to have been given towering intellects or to be ‘respectable’ persons. We are free to believe that St Louis and St Thomas Aquinas led the rejoicing when the poor little shepherdess of Pibrac, patron of the abused and marginalized, was received among the Holy Company of Heaven.

PRAY for victims of abuse, both children and the aged.

REFLECT on Luke 6: 28: ‘Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.’ The Gospel commands us to pray for those who abuse us. This is difficult, sometimes exceedingly difficult, but not impossible.

REMEMBER the story of Germaine Cousin, against the day when someone preaching a corrupt gospel of consumerism tells you that Christians can expect to enjoy lives of uninterrupted material, physical and spiritual success.

Simon Cotton