St Genevieve

Virgin (entered heaven around 500)

Dear Jenny,

To answer your question, I think the Peace Corps has a worthy mission.  If you decide to go that route, you will have nothing at all to be ashamed of, and you will do much good to more people than you know.  At the same time, however, I feel obliged to remind you that “one does not live on bread alone” as our Lord pointed out (Matthew 4:4). We do indeed need to work hard to feed the stomachs of the hungry, but it isn’t enough – we also need to feed the starving souls.  I have often reflected on the curious fact that it has been the saints, those who truly love Jesus and strive to please him first, who have had the largest humanitarian impact through the ages. Today’s saint is a perfect example.

Genevieve was precocious.  She determined to make Christ her only spouse when she was but seven years old.  And she followed through with her commitment; when she was 15, she received the veil of a consecrated virgin, with two companions, at the hands of the bishop of Paris.  Thus began a life of prayer and self-sacrifice, which brought upon her a storm of opposition: calumny, accusations of hypocrisy, and other slurs accompanied her on the many charitable journeys she undertook – at one point her enemies even plotted to drown her.  It was a hard school, but she persevered until St Germanus sent her a special portion of blessed bread as a sign of his supernatural esteem for her. That seemed to win over her detractors.

In any case, she spent her time mostly in works of charity, great and small.  For example, when the Frankish king, Childeric, besieged Paris, Genevieve sneaked out of the city with a company of brave souls to gather provisions for the starving Parisians.  When Paris eventually fell, she betook herself to the pagan king in order to plead for clemency for the many prisoners and newly enslaved Christians. Her boldness and sincerity impressed the conquerors, and her efforts bore abundant fruit.  She obtained freedom for many captives from subsequent kings, and more than once stirred up the zeal of her fellow Christians to erect larger and more beautiful places of worship in the city. When Attila the Hun and his devastating army were approaching Paris, the people panicked with fear, but St Genevieve and her disciples encouraged the Christians to pray for deliverance and entered themselves upon a vigil of prayer in the baptistery of the Cathedral.  Sure enough, Attila changed his course for no apparent reason, and the city was spared.

These are only a few examples of the wonderful and miraculous deeds of this fair saint, so beloved by the French even today.  More than giving a few years of her life to serving those who were in need, she devoted her entire existence to her fellow men and women, seeing in them the countenance of Christ, and drawing her indefatigable strength from her love for him.

Wherever you choose to spend the next few years, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that you will do more good for more people, the more united you are to the Lord.  If you strive to serve him first, you won’t go wrong.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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