St. Genevieve was a beautiful peasant born around 422 in Nanterre, France, to her father Severus and her mother Gerontia.
When Genevieve was only seven-years-old, St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre visited Nanterre. While there, many people flocked to receive his blessing. The young Genevieve stood amid the crowd which had gathered around the bishop. In no time, the man of God singled her out and foretold her future sanctity. At her request, the holy Bishop led her to a church, accompanied by all the faithful, and consecrated her to God as a virgin. Gemanus instructed Genevieve to always remember the promise which she had just made. He presented her with a cross engraved brass medal to always wear around her neck, as a reminder of the consecration which she had just made of herself to God. He ordered her not to wear any other bracelets, necklaces, or jewelleries, to avoid falling into vanity.
Encouraged by Germanus, Genevieve dedicated her life to prayer, practices of devotion and acts of penance. At fifteen, She began praying continuously and fasting, eating only twice a week, as a sign of her complete dedication to the Lord.
Following the death of her parents, Genevieve went on to live with her grandmother in Paris and travelled, sharing the faith, performing acts of charity, praying for the sick and prophesying. Her dedicated Christian way of life was filled with the signs of the Holy Spirit working through her.
The signs of the working of the Holy Spirit accompanying her included miracles and spiritually inspired predictions. She frequently had visions of heavenly angels and saints. However, when she shared those visions and experiences of the Lord, people began to turn against her. They called her a hypocrite and accused her of being a false visionary. In fact, they were determined to drown her in a lake of fire. However, the Bishop Germanus intervened and silenced those who were accusing her of false statements, and persecuting her.
Genevieve was appointed by the Bishop to look after the welfare of the consecrated virgins. She did so faithfully and helped to lead them into a greater degree of holiness as they grew closer to Jesus.
Genevieve had a great influence over Childeric; the King of Gaul who overtook Paris. During a time when Paris suffered with great famine, Genevieve travelled by boat to Troyes and brought back several boats full of corn. Although he was a pagan, Childeric respected her and spared the lives of several prisoners on her behalf.
She also had an effect on King Clovis. He listened to her advice and under her request, he granted freedom to several of his prisoners.
When Attila and his army of Huns came upon Paris, the Parisian Christians were prepared to run, but Genevieve spoke to them and convinced them to stay within their homes, fast and pray to the Lord. She assured them they would have the protection of Heaven. Her prediction came true as Attila suddenly changed his path and turned away from Paris.
Genevieve died at 89-years-old on January 3, 512.
Her relics were encased by St. Eligius in a handmade gold and silver shrine around 630. Over the years, the Normans destroyed the church several times. Once it was rebuilt around 856, St. Genevieve’s relics were returned and miracles began happening, making this church famous all throughout France.
Paris experienced proof of Genevieve’s intercession on many occasions. The most famous occurrence was the miracle of Des Ardens, or the burning fever. In 1129, a violent fever swept through the city, and doctors couldn’t stop the people from dying. The shrine of Genevieve was carried in a procession to the cathedral, and during the ceremony, those who touched her shrine were healed. Throughout the whole town, no one else became sick, all the ill recovered and only three people died.
Pope Innocent visited the city the following year and asked that an annual festival be held in commemoration of the miracle every year on November 26. His goal, as is always the case with such practices, was to keep their faith alive by reminding the faithful that the Lord always works in the lives of those who pray and draw close to Him.
St. Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris. She is depicted dressed in a long flowing gown with a mantle covering her shoulders and is often shown with a loaf of bread, representing her generosity toward those in need. Her feast day is celebrated on January 3.
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