FIND THE SAINT Logo

Home     A - Z    Calendar   Puzzles

Patrons    Subscribe to Newsletter

Find The Saint
FIND THE SAINT Logo

January 3

St Genevieve painting by Charles Sprague Pearce 1887 - January 3

Saint Geneviève

Patroness of Paris, Virgin

(Around 422 – Around 500)

“God will protect you, we must trust in Him.”

Saint Genevieve

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life 

Geneviève (also known as Genovefa) was born around 422 in the village of Nanterre on the outskirts of Paris, France during the time of Attila the Hun.  She was the only child of Severus and Gerontia, hardworking peasants and was a shepherdess. Geneviève was so bright and attractive that when Saint Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, was visiting the village with Saint Lupus on their way to Britain in 429 to squelch Pelagianism, he took special notice of the seven-year-old. After his sermon, the inhabitants flocked about them to receive their blessings. Saint Germanus beckoned for her parents and foretold her future sanctity. When he asked Geneviève if she wished to be a spouse of Christ and serve God only, she asked that he bless her and consecrate her from that moment.

Gold Coin

Taking a gold coin from his purse, he gave it to her, telling her to keep it always as a reminder of that day and of God to whom her life belonged. Although in later years Geneviève was often hungry and had no other money, she never parted with the coin. Another version recorded by Constantius tells how the holy bishop went to the church, followed by the people, and during the long singing of Psalms and prayers, “he laid his hand upon the maiden’s head.” In either case, she continued tending the sheep and helping her blind mother in spinning and weaving.

Orphan as a Teenager

When Geneviève was 15, her parents died and she went to live in Paris, where she repeated her vows and the bishop of Paris gave her and two other girls the veil. She settled with her godmother Lutetia in Paris. There, Geneviève became admired for her piety, devotion to works of charity, her  fasting and the mortification of the flesh, which included abstaining from meat and breaking her fast only twice in the weekto eat a small portion of barley bread and some beans. (This fasting she continued until age 50 when her bishop commanded her to alter her diet.)

The young girl loved to pray in church alone at night. One day a gust of wind blew out her candle, leaving her in the dark. Geneviève merely concluded that the devil was trying to frighten her. For this reason she is often depicted holding a candle, sometimes with an irritated devil standing near.

Genevieve had frequent visions of heavenly saints and angels. She reported her visions and prophecies until her enemies conspired to drown her in a lake. Through the intervention of Germanus, their animosity was finally overcome. 

Saving Paris Through Prayer

Her bravery rallied the city in 451, when Attila II the Hun’s army marched on the city in an attempt to wrest Gaul from the Visigoths. The citizens were ready to evacuate the city. As the Huns battered at the gates of Paris, Geneviève persuaded the men to stay and gathered the women of the city for prayer. Her courage depended on complete trust in God, and as Attila and his army approached she encouraged the Parisians to fast and pray in the hope that God would avert disaster. Many citizens spent whole days in prayer with her in the baptistery. It is from this that the devotion to Saint Geneviève, formerly practiced at Saint- Jean-le-Rond, the ancient public baptistery of the church of Paris, appears to have originated. She reassured the people that they had the protection of heaven. She cared for the sick, fed the poor, and everywhere inspired confidence. “God will protect you,” she said, “we must trust in Him.”

At one point, however, when the crisis was at its height and the people were panic-stricken, they turned against Genevieve. They threatened to stone her and saying that she was a false prophet who would bring about their destruction. But the good Bishop Germanus had not forgotten her, and though he lay dying in Ravenna, Italy, he sent his archdeacon, Sedulius, to pacify the people. Sedulius persuaded the panic-stricken people that Geneviève was not a prophetess of doom, and to listen to her counsel not to abandon their homes. Many of the inhabitants lost heart and fled in panic. However, Geneviève again gathered the women around her.  Then, she led them out on to the ramparts of the city, where in the morning light and in the face of the spears of the enemy, they prayed to God for deliverance. Providentially, the same night, the invader turned south to Orleans, and again the city was saved, since when Geneviève, who was venerated even by the enemy, has been acclaimed as a savior and heroine of her people.

Saved Paris a Second Time

In 486, Genevieve’s bravery proved invaluable for the people of Paris for the second time. The Frankish King Clovis killed Syragrius, the Roman representative in Soissons, ending the Roman governance of Gaul. King Childeric of the Franks besieged the Paris, bringing its inhabitants to the point of starvation.

One night, when the city was blockaded and there was a serious shortage of food, Geneviève took a boat and rowed out alone (more likely at the head of a company) upon the river into the darkness to Arcis-sur-Aube and Troyes. She slipped silently and secretly past the lines of the enemy, landing at dawn far outside the city, where she went from village to village imploring help and gathering food, and returned to Paris–again successfully evading the enemy–with eleven boatloads of precious corn. (Other sources say that nightly she captained eleven barges to collect grain in the Champagne region.)

When the siege was over, Childeric, the ever-pagan conqueror, in admiration of her courage, sent for her and asked what he might do for her. “Release your prisoners,” she replied. “Their only fault was that they so dearly loved their city.” And this he granted.

Trusted Counselor

When, on the death of Childeric, Clovis succeeded him and consolidated control of the land from the Rhine to the Loire. He married Childeric’s elder daughter, Clothilde, who was a Christian and tried to convert her husband without success. Clovis allowed his first son to be baptized, but the child died. The second son was baptized and came close to death, but recovered at the prayers of Clothilde and Remi.

Meanwhile, Geneviève became his trusted counsellor. Clovis entered a harsh battle and promised to be baptized, if he should win. He won and under the influence of Geneviève, he converted in 496. His people and servants followed suit. Clovis, like Childeric, released many prisoners at her request. Through her influence, Childeric and Clovis displayed unwonted clemency towards the citizens.

Geneviève also initiated the interest of many people in building a church in honor of Saint Denis of Paris, in his honor to house his relics. Geneviève made many pilgrimages in the company of other maidens to the shrine of Saint Martin of Tours. Her reputation for sanctity is so great that it even reached Saint Simeon the Stylite in Syria (he asked to be remembered in her prayers).

Her Death

Clovis I founded an abbey where Genevieve might serve, and where she was also entombed after her death around 500 in Paris, France. Later, the church was renamed Sainte Geneviève and it was rebuilt in 1746.

From the time of her burial, miracles performed at her tomb made her and the Church famous all over France. The most famous instance of all is the so-called miracle des Ardens or burning fever (ergot-poisoning) in 1129. Bishop Stephen of Paris had her shrine carried through the streets in solemn procession. Many thousands of the sick who saw or touched the shrine were immediately cured, and only several deaths from the plague were said to have occurred thereafter. In the following year, Pope Innocent II ordered that date to be kept annually in commemoration of the miracle.

St Genevieve St Genevieve  statue at Church of Saint Etienne (Stephen) du Mont - January 3
St Genevieve statue at Church of Saint Etienne (Stephen) du Mont

In times of national crisis, the French have often turned to Geneviève for help. In 1741, Louis XV came to her church to thank her for a cure wrought at her intercession. When the Bastille was taken, people again came to thank her. In 1790, the Commune went to her church for Mass. In 1793 the body of Saint Geneviève was taken from her shrine and publicly burned at the Place de Greve. At the time of the French Revolution, the church was secularized and is now called the Pantheon, a burial place for French worthies. But some of the relics were spared and later placed in the Church of Saint Etienne (Stephen) du Mont, where thousands visit them each year.

Born:                   Around 422 in Nanterre near Paris, France

Death:                 Around 500 in Paris, France

Beatified:            Pre-Congregation

Canonized:         Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          January 3

Patron Saint:     Against Disasters; Against Fever; Against Plagues; French Security Forces; Paris, France; Women Army Corp (WACs)

Sources:

Reflection

Saint Genevieve was only a poor peasant girl, but Christ dwelt in her heart. With her sanctity, she pulled the city of Paris together in prayer twice to be saved from invaders trusting God’s goodness to protect them against Attila the Hun’s march on Paris. When the city was blockaded and there was a serious shortage of food, Geneviève took a boat and rowed out alone up the river into the darkness and came back with eleven boatloads of precious corn. She converted many including King Clovis, and negotiated the release of prisoners. Although you may not live in a city like Paris under seige, Saint Genevieve demonstrated the power of prayer.

Like Saint Genevieve, does Christ dwell in your heart? How can you use the power of prayer today combined with your trust in God to protect those around you?

Prayers

Saint Genevieve, you who by the days before, penance and prayer, ensured the protection of Paris, intercede near God for us, for our country, for the devoted Christian hearts. You who cured the sick and fed the hungry, obtain the light of God and make us stronger to reject temptation. You who had the concern of the poor, protect the sick, the abandoned, and the unemployed. You who resisted the armies and encouraged the besieged, give us the direction for truth and justice. You who through the centuries never ceased taking care of your people, help us to keep the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. May your example be for us, an encouragement to always seek God and serve him through our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Saint Genevieve, pray for us. Amen.

Source: Prayer to Saint Genevieve – Saint Genevieve Catholic Church (stgen.info)

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Did you know Christ the Redeemer and Saint Genevieve have something in common?

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Genevieve – Virgin

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 3 January – Saint Genevieve (c 419-c 502)

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. January 3 St. Genevieve, or Genovefa, Virgin, Chief Patroness of Paris

Catholic Exchange – St. Genevieve

Catholic Fire – Prayer for Paris

Catholic Ireland – Jan 3 – St Geneviève of Paris (c.422-500)

Catholic News Agency – St. Matilda Feast Day: Mar 14

Catholic Online – St. Genevieve

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Genevieve

Independent Catholic News – St Genevieve

New Advent – MacErlean, A. (1909). St. Genevieve. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Mary’s Basilica – St Genevieve by Scott Slattum

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Genevieve (d.500)

St. Genevieve – Saint of the Day – January 3 St. Genevieve

Sanctoral – Saint Genevieve

Wikipedia – Genevieve

Video Link

Saint Genevieve | Voice of Saints | January 03 – YouTube Video (Saints Fans Association)