I was reading in Faith Magazine about the life of St. Germaine Cousin. While reading it, I could not help but think of the story of Cinderella.
Variations of the classical Cinderella story have been around for centuries in many different cultures around the world. But the modern one that most of us know, (before Disney got hold of it and ruined it, like most of their fairy tales) was penned in 1697 by Charles Perrault. Other stories that he wrote that most would know are "The Sleeping Beauty", "Little Red Riding Hood", and "The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots".
As mentioned, Perrault published the story in 1697, 96 years after the death of St. Germaine, also French. One can't help but wonder if Perrault modified any of the details in the variations of the story to make it more or less fit St. Germaine. Perrault was a committed Catholic who wrote Catholic themes into his stories. He did not just write down folk tales as told by the common folk as did the Brothers Grimm some years later. He did embellish them, and many were embellished further in the retelling in the French court.
Here are some parallels:
- Germaine's father died when she was a child
- She was poor and raised by a cruel, abusive step-mother
- Her step-brothers were clearly the favorites in the family
- She would pray the Rosary for God to be kind to her step-mother instead of wanting vengeance
- She was fed only scraps but gladly shared them with beggars
No one is completely sure of how much of the story is Perrault's own fancy. A lot likely is. Look at the story and the life of St. Germaine and it is easy to come up with further extrapolations.
1. Cinderella's unnamed, unseen Father is in Heaven, as is our Heavenly Father.
2. The Fairy Godmother is the Virgin Mary or possibly the Holy Spirit.
3. The glass slipper is a symbol of the transition of Cinderella's former life of servitude to her new life as the bride of the Great Prince. In the original stories, Cinderella always had a golden or silver slipper. Perrault was going to change it to squirrel fur (hot fashion at the time), but by the time he was ready to finalize the story, squirrel fur was out of fashion, so he changed it to glass, knowing that no one would ever make a pair of shoes made out of glass. This gave it a timeless quality, which transcends fashion.
4. The symbol of transformation, or conversion, has always been the golden chalice that contains the Precious Blood which cleanses and saves. (The chalice is the symbol--not the Blood, which is actual).
5. The prince searched high and low for his bride, paralleled by the Parables of the Ten Virgins and the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost lamb.
6. Cinderella marries the Great Prince and is showered with blessings, as the Church is married to Christ and receives an abundance of blessings.
7. The prince takes her to his Kingdom to live with him, happily ever-after.
But I'm pretty sure there is no St. Gus-gus.
Here is the article from Faith magazine so you can read for yourself:
St. Germaine CousinFeast Day: June 15
St. Germaine Cousin (1579-1601) is the
patron for victims of child abuse and with good
reason. Weak and ill from birth with a deformed
and paralyzed hand, St. Germaine lost her mother
early. She found herself with a cruel and abusive
St. Germaine suffered from malnutrition
and from burns from her stepmother pouring
boiling water on her legs. Predictably, as her
health began to fail, she contracted a form of
tuberculosis that exacerbated her frailty and
increased her susceptibility to illness and disease.
The abuse culminated with St. Germaine’s
banishment to the barn out of fear that she would
pass her sickness to her stepbrothers.
Despite this abuse, however, St. Germaine
remained steadfast in her dependence on God.
With only a basic knowledge of the faith learned
from the catechism, she made a rosary of knots
and prayed simply: “Dear God, please don’t
let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to
please my mother. And help me to please you.”
As she grew in holiness and trust in God, she also
grew in mercifulness. She was known for sharing
her scraps of food with beggars and offering them
shelter in the barn in times of harsh weather and
she grew in the spirit of forgiveness toward the
woman who caused her such pain and suffering:
Throughout a life of hardship and abuse, St.
Germaine’s devotion to Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament was unshaken by what assailed her
in life. It was because of her walking humbly with
God that she was able to love mercy and act
justly especially with the one person she had most reason to not love.