Attila devastated several cities in Gaul – now France – but a young virgin, Saint Genevieve, managed to preserve the city of Paris.
Newsroom (21/09/2021 10:28, Gaudium Press) The only child of a wealthy Gallo-Roman aristocratic family, Genevieve was born in Nanterre, today a suburb of Paris, in the year 420.
Saint Germanus Notices a Girl
St. Germanus of Auxerre and St. Lupo, on their way to England to fight Pelagianism and to Christianize the people, decided to stay in Nanterre and went to the church, which was full of people.
Enlightened by a divine light, Saint Germanus saw a seven-year-old girl amid the crowd and understood that God had chosen her for a glorious mission.
It was Saint Genevieve. He begged her to be brought into his presence and recommended that she consecrate herself to Our Lord in spotless purity, as his bride. She exclaimed that this was the greatest desire of her heart.
When her parents died, she was twenty years old and began to lead a religious life in a house near Nanterre.
Attila moves towards Paris
In 451, Attila, king of the Huns, headed toward Gaul to conquer it. After dominating Metz and massacring its inhabitants, he headed for Paris, whose population was terrified.
Saint Genevieve gathered the women in the church and exhorted them to make vigils of prayers and fasting to placate the divine anger, and reminded them of the examples of Judith and Esther, great Israelite heroines of the Old Testament who freed their people in distressing situations.
And to the men who intended to flee, she warned that the cities in which they intended to take shelter would be devastated by the Huns, while Paris, by the grace of Jesus Christ, would be unharmed.
After a few days, ungodly individuals began to call her a false prophetess, they wanted to stone her and throw her into the Seine River. At a certain moment, an archdeacon arrived in the city. Before a crowd gathered in the town’s main square, he proclaimed that Genoveva was a saint, about whom St. Germanus had spoken great praises.
Soon after, news arrived that Attila had diverted his route and, therefore, Paris was saved. From then on, Saint Genevieve was venerated by the inhabitants.
Her name became known even in the East. St. Simeon Stilita, who lived on top of a column in Syria, greeted her as his sister in Christ.
Saint Clotilde and Clovis visit the holy virgin
On one occasion, when the inhabitants of Paris were suffering from famine, Genoveva arranged for wheat to be brought in from other regions, and so the scourge stopped.
Clovis, who had been baptized in 496 by Saint Remigius, decided to make Paris the capital of the Frankish kingdom. With his wife, Saint Clotilde, he went to that city and Saint Genevieve convinced him to erect a monastery on a hill there.
After the death of the virgin saint in 500, this hill was renamed “Saint Genevieve’s Mountain”, and the monastery became “Saint Genevieve’s Abbey”, in which the tombs of Saint Genevieve, Saint Clotilde and Clovis were later placed.
During the French Revolution, the remains of Saint Genevieve were taken to Paris and burned in a public square on December 3, 1793.
“In Heaven there was great joy when this baby girl was born”
Regarding Saint Genoveva, Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira stated:
“One understands the warmth of sanctity, the intensity of the spiritual life, what was, after all, this enormous flowering of Saints on which the Middle Ages, point by point, had been building.”
St. Germanus and St. Lupo, “along their journey, pass through a little town called Nanterre, where their first move is not to go to the hotel or the inn, or to a place where they can enjoy themselves. The first thing they do after a tiring trip is to go to church to pray.
The people, observing how they pray, are amazed.
“Suddenly, in this atmosphere of fervor, a grace is noticed by all: those two saints […] distinguish, among the faithful around them, a great Saint, a seven year old girl.
“They called her and, in front of all the people, one of them made a prophecy about what the girl would become. And he begins by saying: ‘Know that there was great joy in heaven when this girl was born. […]
“No one doubted, no one asked for proof, everyone believed, including the little girl and her father. Because these people are the blessed of whom the Gospel tells us, who believe without having seen.
“They think: it is so natural that there was joy in Heaven over a holy girl being born! The saints are so frequent and so numerous, they are in such continuous contact with Heaven, that they know what goes on there. So it is natural that they know. It is a normal communication.
“How different this is from the distance that separates us from the supernatural in our day! Before admitting that a thing comes from Heaven, contemporary man equips himself with all the weapons of rationalism to see if he can deny it. Having no means of refusal, only then does he resign himself without much enthusiasm to, from time to time, admit it.”
Her fame spread as far as the East
Saint Genevieve “grows, fills the panorama with her presence, and blossoms like a flower in the center of the garden of the West. There was no press, radio, or television; however, the fame of Saint Genevieve spread even to the East, to the point that Saint Simeon Stilita, in Asia Minor, heard of her.
“He was the famous Saint who lived on top of a column, from which he never came down, praying all the time. It was a form of a true hermit. He then hears about the virtues of Saint Genevieve and, by these “radars” that the Saints have for sensing each other, understands that she was his spiritual sister and greeted from afar, from the top of his column, this flower that was being born in the doux pays de France – sweet country of France.
“We see the contacts passing over the seas, the islands, the mountain ranges, the deserted and populated vastnesses, and these two Saints forming a kind of voltaic arc of holiness at that time.”
Saint Genevieve is the patroness of Paris and the Armed Forces of France. Let us ask her to protect us against the present enemies of the Church, who are much worse than Attila, because, perverting the sense of good, truth, and beauty, they drag souls to the worst vices.
By Paulo Francisco Martos