Germaine Cousin, Shepherdess, Abandoned, Victim of Abuse

Germaine Cousin, Shepherdess, Abandoned, Victim of Abuse

At the sound of the church bell Germaine knew that she should hurry. It was a long way from the field where she was tending sheep to the church where she would receive the Eucharist and worship the God who had been born, murdered, and raised from the dead. With her deformed hand and the sores and marks upon her neck from her scrofula Germaine knew she would attract attention from the crowds–as she usually did–but Germaine was undeterred from their confused and disgusted looks because she knew that Jesus welcomed her into his presence and waited patiently for all his sheep to return home. What mostly amazed the crowds, though, was that such a woman as Germain–who had clearly suffered and had reason to doubt the existence of grace and goodness–seemed so eager to extol the abounding love of God. So, Germaine took her staff in hand and planted it firmly into the soft soil of the pasture. Looking around at the many sheep in her care Germaine offered a prayer to God confidently asking for God’s protection over those placed in hers.Though there were wolves in the nearby forest who would gladly consume the sheep she had no fear of them because God had always protected the animals under her care at her request. Having handed their lives over to God Germaine made haste to get to the church before the service started.

That night after finishing her work in the field and having returned the sheep to their owner Germaine made her way back home to her father’s farm.Germaine’s mother had died when she was only an infant but her father had remarried and as sheapproached she could tell that her stepbrothers and stepsisters were just then sitting down to their nightly meal with her father and stepmother. She didn’t bother to go into the home, though, because she knew she would be unwelcome. From the first day that her stepmother had arrived in her father’s home she had outcast Germaine partly for fear that her deformity and disease–a form of tuberculosis that attacked the lymph nodes in her neck–might be passed on to her own children and partly because she was the daughter of her new husband’s first wife and represented a love and life beyond her domination. Germaine’s father caved to his new wife’s insistence and Germaine was forced to sleep in the farm’s stable or in a nearby tree. If she was exceptionally lucky and it was exceptionally cold she was occasionally allowed to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs of the home. She was fed a meager allowance of bread and water and often punished severely with scalding water by her stepmother for perceived slights and imagined wrongs. She accepted her stepmother’s abuse and prayed that she might be healed from the illness of soul that produced such evil within her.

Each day Germaine went out to live the lonely life of a shepherdess and bring home what little money she made to her father and stepmother. The small amount of bread and water afforded to her was often far less than she needed but she was still quick to give it away to those she met who were hungry. On more than one occasion Germaine prayed over the bread and multiplied it so that the many children who had come to learn the Faith from her–as they often did without the fear and disgust of their parents–might eat with her, as well. She never missed a service of worship at the church and was thankful for the little kindnesses she occasionally received from passersby and from the clergy.Germaine prayed simply (“Dear God, please don’t let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother. And help me to please you.”) but had a faith in God’s goodness and providence that was both unexpected and unshakable. One night her father finally came to his senses and decided to go and bring his daughter–now twenty-two years old–in from the cold to sleep in a bed in his and her own home. He tried for a while but Germaine resisted her father’s mercy because she knew her stepmother still refused. One morning he went to rouse her from her sleep in the tree because she had not awakened at her usual time. He found her dead from a combination of abuse and exposure. Germaine died without the comfort of her family but within the embrace of her Lord and Savior.

Photo Credit

Read more from Joshua Hearne at his personal website and the website of Grace and Main Fellowship, the non-traditional community he ministers with.

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