I’ve recently been struggling with a weakness that’s been sheltered in my darkest self as long as I can remember. That ugly whisper that waits just on the cusp of all that I do – listening, taunting, itching to poison me.
Vanity. It’s my vice of choice.
Alcohol? No thanks, I’m already tired.
Drugs? Nope, bills to pay.
Sex and rock and roll? Occasionally, but its hardly chronic.
What’s my poison? Oh just pride, envy, and some insecurity will do, thanks.
So what’s a girl to do when she’s struggling with the aftermath of multiple surgeries, numerous pregnancies, and an extra organ thrown in for good measure? Well naturally, like any other Catholic girl raised with the lives of the saints and other such guilt trips – I turn to mother church. I find a saint who will surely listen to my tirades of nonsense. And I found her! Not exactly a patron saint of vanity, but after reading numerous accounts of her – she’ll do. She’ll do nicely.
Saint Germaine Cousin. Don’t Google St. Germaine, you’ll just get booze.
There are lots of places you can find her story, (start here), but here’s a rundown:
Germaine Cousin was born in 1579 to an impoverished family in France. With a deformed hand and a sickly constitution, she didn’t exactly have a running start at life. Her father remarried while she was young to an evil stepmother straight out of Disney. This woman despised her little stepdaughter. She beat her, starved her, poured boiling water on her, and even allegedly “forgot” her in a drain for three days. Three. Days.
Eventually the abuse took it’s toll and little Germaine developed Scrofula on her face and neck. Fearing her unsightly illness would be contagious, Germaine was sent out of the family home by her parents and made to live in the barn. Germaine became the family shepherdess – surviving without provisions and only the occasional food scraps. No education, no clothing or shoes, no blankets in the winter. The dog was treated better. Germaine’s father overlooked the harsh abuse and allowed his wife to go hog wild inventing impossible assignments and cruel punishments. What a guy.
Despite the hostile world Germaine was born into, her story of faith is incredible. Without any catechism, she learned all she could by attending daily mass and soaking up the homily. She made a rosary out of twine, and called it her “bible”, having no books of her own. She prayed devoutly, asked forgiveness for her parents, and shared her small allowance of food with anyone who was hungry. Without having anything of her own, she relinquished all that she had, free of complaint and resentment.
Towards the end of her life, her father finally put his big-boy pants on and asked her to return to their home. “Nah, I’m good” she replied, knowing she had become closer to God alone in the barn than she could ever be to her family. She died when she was 22, alone in the cold barn – with her humble rosary linked through her fingers.
Her story continues after her death. She was found to be incorruptible and is attributed to both miracles for the faithful and some unpleasantness to those who attempted to desecrate her tomb. She has become the patron saint of abused children.
Dearest Saint Germaine Cousin. Here is my ridiculous prayer.
Saint Germaine, you were tormented and reviled by your family. Your holiness and trust in God remained your only joy and comfort amid your suffering. Help me to prize the true beauty of virtue and grace above the fleeting allure of material ideals.
When I sigh at a younger me in our wedding picture, show me that I am blessed to have a loving and accepting husband, regardless of my appearance.
When I feel isolated in the workings of home life, remind me how hard you were worked on Earth, without interaction or affection – only the love of God for comfort.
When I feel fatigued and overwhelmed at the demands of motherhood, remind me that I am cradled in human love and affection, the likes of which you never knew until death.
When I compare myself to others, show me my wrongs. Turn me, instead, to the only one who’s approval is worth seeking.
When I feel disappointed in the appearance of my home, my family, or I just want a new dress – help me to meditate on your humble barn, your inadequate clothing, and your want of warmth.
When I feel discouraged by my body, in all it’s wreckage left by disease, childbirth, and medications – I need your help the most. Help me to be thankful for the blessings my scars have earned. Remind me of your deformities, and the suffering they incited. Remind me that these trials are gifted to me by God.
Dear Sweet Saint Germaine, steer my pride; so that I may appreciate the way God created me, admire beauty in others without envy or comparison, and embrace the smudges and dents left by my crosses.
The last thing Germaine would have worried about was how her hair looked, or if she was fitting in enough cardio to keep her figure. Perhaps she’s an unlikely choice for such a vice, I believe that’s why I need her.