January 3 – Genevieve of Paris; Most Holy Name of Jesus

Statue of St. Genevieve of ParisThe Venerable Genevieve of Paris (419/422–502/512), is that city’s patron saint[1], despite being born in Nanterre. I was unable to determine if Nanterre has a patron saint. Perhaps if it asks nicely, Paris will share. Genevieve wanted all her life, or at least from the age of seven, to be a nun, but sadly there were no women’s monasteries in the greater Nanterre area. When her parents died she packed her religious veil and went to live with her godmother in Paris. Authorities bicker about who made her a nun and when, but there’s no use in our getting embroiled in their fight. In Paris she lived a life of such piety that her neighbors were sure she must have something wrong with her[2] (the visions and prophecies thing probably didn’t help her here), and conspired to kill her. They were talked out of this by a visiting bishop, however; indeed, none other than the great Germanus of Auxerre (Jul 31), who had many adventures in Britain fighting Saxons and Pelagians or both, either figuratively or literally or both. Reports vary.

451 was a dangerous time to be living in Gaul, and I’m not just referring to the water. The rightly infamous Atilla the Hun was on the loose, destroying cities in an ugly swath, and by June, Paris was next on his punch card. The citoyens prepared to flee, but Genevieve encouraged them to stay and pray for God’s forgiveness. Sure enough, the Huns thought better of Paris, and turned aside to lay siege to Orléans, which they also failed to destroy. Genevieve played important roles in other fights both military and political, more than once winning clemency for people who were about to be unclemenced, in a manner of speaking.

After her death, Genevieve was buried in a church that she had helped found, primarily in the role of bishop-pesterer rather than brick-plasterer. Many miracles are associated with her relics, including saving the city from ergot poisoning (not to be confused with argot poisoning, which is the injurious infesting of a language with annoying jargon words) in 1129. Most of her relics were destroyed in the French Revolution, although at least one “large relic,” on a road trip to Oise at the time, was saved. What exactly that large relic is, my sources thankfully do not say.

Detail of the Worship of the Holy Name of Jesus, ceiling fresco by Gaulli, 1679The Most Holy Name of Jesus is celebrated today in the West. This is roughly analogous to the Feast of the Circumcision (see January 1) as celebrated in the Christian East, but referred to as “The Most Holy Name of Jesus” for various reasons (squeamishness cannot be altogether dismissed). Nobody calls it “Brismas.” It used to be celebrated on January 1, but things have changed. Then changed again. Then changed back.[3]

Indeed, depending on your religious order, location, century, and perhaps birth sign[4], the Most Holy Name is, will, or has been celebrated on: January 1, 8, 14, 15, and 31, August 7, the Sunday after Epiphany, and—in a brilliant display of calendric imagination—the Sunday between January 2 and 5 inclusive if such exists and January 2 if not. It fell out of the General Roman Calendar (named after General Roman Calendar, the great military strategist) in 1969, and was reinstated in 2002. Let’s face it, this feast has been around the block. Compassionate Roman Catholics worldwide are hoping it will settle in for a spell and cool its blistered feet.

One source suggests we commemorate this day by “special prayers of reparation” to our Lord for blasphemies against his name. Your intrepid hagiographer can find nothing to fault in this pious advice.

Throughout 2020 the Onion Dome is running a series of daily saints. In general we will meet one Orthodox saint and one Catholic saint per day, although many of course came before the churches split and thus are both. For an explanation of the whole thing, see the About page. Items with * are defined in the Glossary. Finally the † means “not really”.

[1] With Denis of Paris (Oct 9) and Nicholas of Myra (Dec 6)
[2] Because why else would you be pious? This is dark-ages Paris, remember.
[3] See the January 1 entry for slightly more detail, but don’t get your hopes up too much.
[4] Okay, maybe not birth sign.