St. Germain of Paris: Abortion Survivor

St. Germain (original name Germanus), a famous bishop of Paris, survived his mother’s attempt to abort him by means of abortifacient poison.

“Then the pontifex of Paris was Blessed Germanus, sprung from the territory of Autun.* He was procreated by honored and distinguished parents: his father, Eleutherius, and his mother, Eusebia. Moved by girlish embarrassment because she had conceived him in her uterus a short time after another baby, the mother was eager to snuff out the infant before birth, and took a liquid so that she might get rid of him as an abortion. When it could not harm him, she overlaid her belly, so that she could suffocate by weight what she couldn’t hurt with poison.

“Mother fought with child; infant resisted from uterus. So was the battle between woman and womb. The matron was wounded and the infant one not killed. The burden battled on, lest his mother be made a son-killer.

“So it happened that he was preserved unharmed; he would come out uninjured, and delivered a mother who’d done no harm.

“From this — by how he came to be born — his future was to be foreknown, before what he did by virtue.”

— From “Vita Sancti Germanii,” by Venantius Fortunatus.

So yes, there are saints who understand the plight of both mother and baby in situations when abortion is contemplated or actually carried out, and of fathers who aren’t consulted or told that an abortion is being contemplated. I think he would be a very kind intercessor. (He is a patron saint of prisoners, by the way, so he understands people who feel trapped.) Also, we can see that there is hope for forgiveness and reconciliation for the parents of aborted children. People can change; God wants them to repent and make good lives, not live in guilt forever.

To tell the truth, his parents’ noble family was pretty messed up. His cousin’s mother actually tried to poison Germanus later on, so as to get the cousin all of Germanus’ inheritance money. So yeah, his family obviously had a lot of bad influences on his (mostly) good parents. (And yeah, history tells us that there were a lot of Merovingian Frankish mothers and grandmothers who went around poisoning boys in their own family, usually right when they came of age to take over. Not a nice culture.)

St. Germanus was born about the year AD 496 and died on May 28, 576. St. Venantius Fortunatus was writing not long after his death, and he knew Germanus personally; in fact, it was St. Germain who had commissioned a “Vita Sancti Marcellii,” from him, in honor of a previous dragon-shooing bishop of Paris. You can probably tell from St. Venantius’ strong imagery that he was best known as a poet.

St. Germain’s tomb apparently still stands at the abbey church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. In the Chapel of St. Genevieve, there are a series of stained glass windows depicting his life, including a scene showing a woman making the abortifacient and Eusebia drinking it.

St. Germain’s feast day is May 28. (Don’t confuse him with St. Germanus of Auxerre, or St. Germanus/Jarman, or any of the other Germanuses.)

St. Germain of Paris, pray for us! Eusebia and Eleutherius, pray for us!

* Augustodonum was the old Latin name that Venantius used.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “St. Germain of Paris: Abortion Survivor

  1. This is a really interesting story.

  2. Craig

    I had no idea.
    French pro-lifers should try to arrange a march along the Boulevard-Saint-Germain; I’m pretty sure it’s ultimately named after him.

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