Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Saint Genevieve and barbarism: From Attila to the Republic

January 3 is the feast of Saint Genevieve. History tells that this great late Roman saint was born in the Western Empire about the year AD 422, and passed to eternal life on January 3, AD 512. During her life, she witnessed the momentous events which transformed her home in Roman Gaul to a province of the new Frankish kingdom, and indeed she played an integral part in these events.

Enjoy this excerpt from the Vita Sancta Genovefa, translated into 17th century English. Though reproduced in The Golden Legend, a collection of hagiographical literature compiled in the mid-13th century, the Life of Genevieve is reckoned to have originated from a much earlier source, possibly roughly contemporary with the life of the saint. This excerpt tells of how Genevieve convinced the merchants of Paris to leave their goods in the city during the invasion of Attila, prophesying that Paris would remain safe, while other cities would be devastated:

St. Genevieve and Attila, though these Huns look more like Franks to me.
"Tidings came to Paris that Attila, the felon king of Hungary, had enterprised to destroy and waste the parts of France, and to subdue them to his domination. The burgesses of Paris, for great dread that they had, sent their goods into other cities more sure. Saint Genevieve warned and admonished the good women of the town that they should wake in fastings and in orisons, by which they might assuage the ire of our Lord and eschew the tyranny of their enemies, like as did sometime the two holy women Judith and Esther. They obeyed her, and were long and many days in the church in wakings, fastings and in orisons. She said to the burgesses that they should not remove their goods, ne send them out of the town of Paris, for the other cities that they supposed should be more sure, should be destroyed and wasted, but by the grace of God, Paris should have none harm. And, some had indignation at her, and said that a false prophet was risen and appeared in their time, an began among them to ask and treat whether they should drown her or stone her. Whilst they were thus treating, as God would, came to Paris, after the decease of Saint Germain, the archdeacon of Auxerre, and when he understood that they treated together of her death, he came to them, an said: Fair sirs, for God’s sake do not this mischief, for she of whom ye treat, Saint Germain witnesseth that she was chosen of God in her mother’s belly, and lo! here be the letters that he hath sent to her in which he recommendeth him to her prayers. When the burgesses heard these words recited by him of Saint Germain, and saw the letters, they marvelled and feared God, and left their evil counsel and did no more thereto. Thus our Lord kept her from harm, which keepeth alway them that be his, and defendeth, after that the apostle saith, and for her love did so much that the tyrants approached not Paris, thank and glory to God and honour to the virgin."
Read the entire Vita as taken from the Golden Legend here. 

The relics of Saint Genevieve survived in Paris for nearly 1,300 years. Sadly, the anti-Catholic lunacy of the French Revolution brought about the destruction of the relics in 1793. In a bizarre satanic mimicry of justice, the Revolutionaries seized the relics on November 6, 1793 and held a mock trial. An excerpt from Striking Images, Iconoclasms Past and Present by Boldrick et al. tells the rest of the story:
"That evening, the revolutionary committee of the Section du Pantheon delivered up the reliquary of Saint Genevieve to the national Mint where it was broken up to be melted down to support the Republic’s war efforts. They then took the relics to the Hotel de Ville where they derided the objects’ efficacy in eliciting divine intervention, saying that, ‘The transit of this patron of Parisians took place with great tranquility and without miracles.”…They added derisively that ‘As the Parlement [of the ancient regime] could not be present, Saint Genevieve and her reliquary were lowered and transported to the Mint.’…To make the point unambiguously clear, on the municipality’s order, on 3 December 1793 the relics were taken to the Place de Greve and burnt, transforming objects deemed by Catholics to be saintly into profaned ashes that were scattered in the Seine…Indeed, as Sluhovsky has written, citing the contemporary newspaper Moniteur, ‘these bones were put on trial, were found guilty of collaboration with the royal authorities, and were condemned to be burned…to expiate thereby for the crime of participating in the propagation of error."
But Saint Genevieve would have the last word. The Revolutionary Republic would prove as short lived as Attila's empire--devoured just as thoroughly by God's cleansing fire.

No comments: