Saint Germaine Cousin and Her Barn

Because of a skin infection she bore, her family made St. Germaine Cousin live in the barn away from the family. She grew up isolated and away from those who were supposed to care for her. My heart breaks when I think of this little girl, in the country of Pibrac, France, sent to a barn to live by her father and step-mother. What surprises me, and inspires me, is the way she dealt with such abandonment. By the grace of Jesus Christ, that barn became a tabernacle of God’s presence. Some people reported seeing lights pour out of the barn in the middle of night, a supernatural light that shone through the windows and cracks in the barn. When many would look upon isolation with dread, Germaine, even as a humble girl, made that place one of encounter with the living and present God. She knew, by her child-like faith, that her Jesus was real and present. She opened up her heart to the Holy Spirit, and the light of the Holy Spirit filled that barn like the presence of God filled the Tabernacle Moses fashioned in the desert for the Israelites (Exodus 40). When I read these accounts, and ponder the truth of God’s presence, I know I want more of us in the Church to desire such a life, lived in the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Germaine Cousin lived the life St. Paul the Apostles spoke to when he wrote: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Germaine is not inhuman or more human than we are now. She carried the same humanity, and that, with deformities and disease and the limits of youth. And, yet, none of that prevented her from desiring to know the presence of God and live in His presence and light. When we look to the saints, do we see inspirations of how we can live and what God wants to do in our lives? Or, do we place what we know about the saints on the shelf of amazing figures and think that such graces cannot happen now? Germaine received these experiences of the Holy Spirit in her life not because of her greatness, but through her life of faith and charity. She did not “earn” such affection from the Father, she simply received that loved and allowed the Father of all encouragement and consolation give her that grace (2 Corinthians 1:3). These gifts she received are extraordinary, but they display the truth and reality of the presence of the Holy Trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit aches to dwell with us profoundly, really, truly, spiritually, and experientially. I don’t see St. Germaine as one who would see herself competing with us in a race to win holiness points; rather, I see in her someone who would want to point to Jesus and say, “He wants to dwell like this with you, too.” Imagine living in the grace of God’s presence like Germaine. The fullness of His presence would place all of our problems into the right perspective; we would see things in the light of eternity. Whether we live in a barn or mansion, the greatest home in which we would dwell would be the Father’s house. And, this wouldn’t be simply a pious platitude, it would be more real than the barn or mansion in which we live.

When neighbors began to notice the holiness of St. Germaine, and after a miracle her step-mother witnessed firsthand, Germaine’s family invited her to live with them in the home. Instead of accepting the invitation, Germaine chose to live in the barn. This makes sense on the level of the spirit, but this cuts against the wisdom “of the flesh.” Who would want to live in a stinky barn and sleep on straw when a family home sits on the other side of the property? And, yet, think of Jesus who chose to enter the world in a cave or barn with livestock. The King of Kings rested in a food trough for animals as a baby. Perhaps it was this identification with the new born King that freed Germaine enough to choose the barn over the family home. Her Heavenly Father’s House became more real to Germaine than her biological father’s house. It became so real to her and so consoling, that the she would choose that hermitage to the ordinary family home. She was not alone in the barn. She was residing in the palace of the King, bathed in light, in the company of the angels and saints. Amazing.

Perhaps we can honor St. Germaine by printing off a picture of her and placing it in our prayer corner, near a chair that we rest in, or place it in a prayer book. We can honor Jesus by blessing the little jewel in his crown, Germaine Cousin, by seeing in these places in our homes the very gateway into the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can ask St. Germaine to pray that we receive the grace she accepted: To see in our humble dwellings the very place where the Father desires to extend His Home. We don’t need to travel far to encounter the real and living presence of the Holy Trinity. His presence is close, wherever we are, and wherever we live.

 Let us pray…

St. Germaine, open my eyes to see the presence of the Holy Trinity in my life. Pray to the Holy Trinity that He give me an awareness of His presence in my life. Ask Him, St. Germaine, to bathe me in the light of His love. Show me what it means to dwell in the Tabernacle of the LORD. Ask the living and present God, to grant me the gift of child-like faith in which you shared. Ask our Father to grow this gift of faith into a lifestyle of living in His presence. Pray, St. Germaine, for me to experience and know the living God the way the Israelites did in the Tabernacle. Make His presence and the Father’s Home more real to me than the walls around me, the floor below me, and the roof above me.

St. Germain, pray for us. Amen.