03 January 2012

3 January - St. Genevieve; 10th Day of Christmas

Astronomy:  The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks tonight (actually, tomorrow morning before dawn).  This year, even though the moon is waxing, EarthSky says that it should set before the optimum viewing time in the small hours before dawn, and – unlike last year – eastern North America should get a good view.

I usually miss this anyway, because if the skies are not overcast (or snowing), it is bone-chillingly cold out - this is a case of see a falling star, make one quick and shivery wish, and run back inside to the warmth of central heating and hot coffee.

Weather: the weather today foretells the weather of October and March.

If the sun shines on the 10th day of Christmas, then will the oceans and rivers have a great supply of fish.

It will be the same weather for nine weeks as it is on the ninth day after Christmas.  Nine weeks. That takes us to March. 

“At Paris, St. Geneviève, virgin, who was consecrated to God by St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and became famous for her admirable virtues and miracles.”

Today is the feast of Sainte Geneviève, patroness of Paris and of the Women’s Army Corps, and invoked against fevers and eye trouble.  She was born in Nanterre (now in the western suburbs of Paris) around 422.  Tradition is divided on whether she was a peasant shepherdess or the daughter of well-to-do parents, but agrees that she showed a pious streak from her infancy.  When Saint Germanus (Germain) and Saint Lupus passed through the village on their way to combat heresy in England, Geneviève accompanied her parents to hear the bishops speak.  Saint Germanus, through divine inspiration, was so taken with the little girl and her serious intent to dedicate her life to Christ, that he consecrated her then and there to the life of a religious.

From then on, she performed miracles.  Having ticked off her mother in some fashion, she received a box on the ears from the lady, who was instantly struck blind and remained so for twenty-one months.  By the prayers of Geneviève and water from the well in front of their house, Madame’s eyesight was restored.  That same well also provided nourishing soup to the local peasants during a famine. 

After her parents’ deaths, Geneviève moved to Paris, where she practiced great austerities and gained some fame from her power to cure illnesses with the use of herbs.  It was said that to torment her, demons would blow out the candles which lighted her nightly vigils, but she rekindled them with her prayers, and drove away the darkness.  At some point, she was stricken with a malady that left her lying paralyzed for three days, during which time she saw visions of Heaven and Hell (and the people in them).  These visions she related upon her recovery, at the same time showing to many their secret sins as told to her by the Holy Spirit.  Understandably, this did not make her popular.  From being considered a miracle-worker and handmaiden of God, certain factions began to denounce her as a sorceress, for which death by drowning or stoning was the prescribed cure.

But St. Germanus, having returned from his labors in England, sought out his protégé, and stilled the murmurings of the people against her by explaining to them her history and how she had been chosen by God.

Her most famous miracle concerns the imminent attack of Paris by Attila the Hun in 451.  After prophesying that Heaven would protect the city, and leading the women in constant prayer and fasting for several days, Geneviève had the satisfaction of seeing the marauding troops withdraw without striking a blow.  They moved south towards Orléans instead, “and from this time she became, in a manner, the mother of the whole city,” says Mrs. Jameson in her book, Sacred and Legendary Art. 

In 464, when Childeric besieged Paris, she took command of the boats sent up the Seine to Troyes, at one point stilling the tempest which threatened to sink them, and returned with food for the starving citizens.  When Paris capitulated, she became a friend and advisor of Childeric and his son Clovis, who granted her many concessions for her people and liberated prisoners through her intercession.  She is said to have influenced Clovis to convert to Catholicism, and encouraged him to build a church dedicated to the Holy Apostles (later called the Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève) where she was subsequently buried around 512.

St. Geneviève, Musée Carnavalet, Paris (no idea what date.  Wikipedia says both 16th and 17th century; other pages say 19th century)
“The most ancient effigies of St. Geneviève as patroness of Paris represent her veiled, holding in one hand a lighted taper, in the other a breviary; beneath her feet, or at her side, crouches the demon holding a pair of bellows.  In this instance, the obvious allegory of the light of faith or holiness extinguished by the power of sin and rekindled by prayer, seems to have given rise to the legend.” Sacred and Legendary Art, Mrs. Anna Jameson (1879), p. 398.  In this painting, she is also shown with the keys of the city of Paris at her waist, while in the background the barbarians are dispersed by a storm.