Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Saint of Married Love - Countess Genovefa of the Rhine
In all the provinces of the Rhineland, there was once a very special couple. Heaven blessed their early days together. However, the forces of evil that seeks to destroy true love would attack them from every side.
The Lord of the castle in the Andernach region of the Rhine was known as Count Siegfried of the Palanate. It was his wife, the Countess Genovefa, who was venerated and esteemed by all. The people called her “Heilge” or Holy Genovefa. She was later called St., Genovefa. She indeed, was worthy of this title. She suffered cruel trials and sorrows. Let us begin to tell you of the true tale of Siegfried and Genovefa…
Siegfried’s castle stood near the old town of Andernach, just at the time when Charles Martel was reigning over the Franks.
Siegfried and his young wife lived in peaceful unity. It was only when the cloud of war came over their happiness, did their love and joy become tested. It was the much-dreaded Arabs from Spain, who had forced their way into the land of Gaul, who began the days of their sadness. These enemies of the Cross were now marching northwards, burning and destroying all on their course. They were enemies of the Christianity and the bells that told of the sacrifice of a God they would not hear…
Unless the land of the west was to share the fate of Africa, they had to be subdued by those who fought in heart or name, for the right to love Christ.
The war cry had reached the Palatinate. Siegfried had to go forth to the fight for freedom for the land dedicated to the God of all. Equipped in his armor, and having kissed his weeping wife, he bade farewell to the castle of his ancestors. As he looked back at the home where his beloved would wait for him, he was sad. His heart grieved at leaving the spot where, the happiest days of his life had been spent.
He entrusted the management of his property to Golo, his steward. He asked that his beloved wife be protected from danger during the time he was away. He asked Genovefa to trust Golo. He would assist her in providing for those entrusted to their care.
The poor countess was heartbroken at this bitter separation. Siegfried was her earthly love. The man destined to remind her of Christ, as husband and lifelong sacred spouse. From She felt immediately the loneliness of the castle. She deeply longed for her husband and his happy presence. She grieved for the sound of his voice, and the touch of his cheek upon her own.
She felt uneasiness with Golo. She would never speak to Golo as a friend. Indeed, her husband had recommended her to be cared and protected by him as her servant, but the way he looked at her was inappropriate, somehow evil or wrong. Then one day she recognized that his look was not one of friendship or sincere caring. It was a look that caused her eyes to shrink from his look. He had a passionate look, which gleamed in, through his eyes. It seemed to her that he was watching her every movement with looks her childlike soul did not wish to understand.
She missed her husband and his very presence more and more. To ease her longing she would go out on the balcony. It was here that she weaved golden dreams. The dreams were of her and Siegfried She dreamed of wedded bliss, a future of faith and love together. Often while she sat or stood on the balcony, looking out over the hazy blue distance, she could imagine the moment when Siegfried would return. Upon his return, she would lean her head upon his breast. She would tell him of the great happiness that heaven had in store for them.
Perhaps the war against the heathens might not last so long. Perhaps, she would be able to hold pledges of their love joyfully out to him from the balcony. With every dream the countess’ lovely face would be lit up with a gleam of blissful happiness. She would often bring her distaff to the balcony. She would weave dreams and cloth as she continued to look out into the hazy blue distance.
The secret aversion, which the countess intuitively felt towards the steward, was not without reason. Her angelic beauty had awakened lustful passion in Golo’s breast. Day by day, he did not strive to hide that he was lusting for her. On the contrary he sought her out to frequently discuss unimportant issues. She would respond with Christian kindness and ladylike courtesy. This ignited his. Passion even more, and one day, losing all control, he threw himself at the countess’ feet, declaring his love for her, and imploring her to return it.
Upon this disclosure, Genovefa with indignation and scorn, not only rejected his love, but also forbad him to appear before her again. He had betrayed not only her, but also Siegfried. He had utterly forgotten his duty. She told him that as soon as Siegfried returned, she would tell her spouse about his evil actions.
Golo’ s eyes flared up, and a deadly look of hatred gleamed from them. . He knew now he could hope for little or no pardon from her anger and shock. . Besides, his pride would not allow him to seek it. He desired only one thing now. This desire was for revenge. He had only the desire to create a dastardly plan. A plan to avoid Siegfried’s wrath and destroy Genovefa.
Hatred daily raged in his breast. He continued planning his revenge. The plan began as he dismissed all the servants of the castle. He put new ones of his own creation in their places. There were now only strangers in the castle except for he and Genovefa. Then one day he implemented his revenge. In front of the new employees, he appeared before the countess, and openly accused her of being unfaithful to her husband far away.
Genovefa was robbed of speech. She was shocked at such shameful words. Golo explained to all the new servants who were standing around in silent amazement, that he had already informed the count of Genovefa’s faithless conduct. Additionally, he, Golo as present administrator of the castle, would impose temporary punishment of the sinful seductress. He condemned the countess to be imprisoned in the dungeon, until the Siegfried returned home. Genovefa begged for the truth to be heard. She cried for justice with her tears. There was not a friend or just voice to defend her. She cried and finally, fainted from her protestations.
The unhappy Genovefa awakened to find herself in an underground cell of the castle. She covered her face in deep sorrow. It was now that she sought her true help. She implored her Father in Heaven, who had sent her this trial, to assist her in her present affliction. She begged for the gifts of faith and fortitude.
There in the dungeon, after several months, she was to give birth to a baby. The baby was a boy. Without the comfort of a priest to administer the Sacraments, she herself baptized him with her tears. She gave him the name of Tristan, which means “full of sorrows.”
Siegfried had already been absent six months. He had fought like a hero. The followers of Mohamed having crossed the Pyrenees struggled with wild enthusiasm, hoping to subdue the rest of Western Europe to the doctrines of Islam. They sought to do this by fire and sword. In several encounters, the Franks had been obliged to give way to their power. These unbridled hordes had already penetrated into the heart of Gaul. It was here when Charles first appeared, and engaged the Arabs in the bloody battle of Tours. From morning until evening the struggle on which hung the fate of Christian Europe raged. And it was during these brutal battles that Charles was proven to be a great leader. He was given the worthy name of Martel. Martel, which means “the hammer.”
Siegfried fought with Charles. He was by his leader’s side like a lion; but towards one evening after fighting with courage, a Saracen’s lance pierced him. Though the wound was not mortal, he was obliged to remain inactive. For several months he lay on a sick bed, where he the thought longing with love in his heart, of his wife by the Rhine.
A messenger arrived one day at the camp. He was bearing a parchment from Golo. The count gazed long at the fateful letter trying to comprehend its meaning Golo had written, “Your wife is unfaithful to you. She has betrayed you with a servant named Drägo. The servant has been caught, but has since run away. The brokenhearted husband crushed the letter with his hand, a groan escaping: from his white lips. He then made a decision. He would go home. He started off accompanied a few followers. ‘He road onward, never stopping until he reached his own fort. There on the balcony where Genovefa once stood, now stood a servant. The servant looking searchingly out into the distance, and seeing a cloud of dust approaching in which a group of horsemen, announced it must be the triumphant Master of the castle.
A stately knight advanced, his charger stamping threateningly on the Drawbridge. Golo with hypocritical emotion stood before the count. The count had alighted from his horse. He was informed again of what had happened. “Where is the evildoer who has stained the honor of my house, where is he that I may crush his life out!”
“My lord, I have punished the wretch deservedly and banished him out of the castle,” answered Golo in a stern voice, sighing deeply.
The count made, a sign to Golo whose false eyes gleamed with devilish joy, to lead the way.
Siegfried entered the dungeon, followed by his servants and also by those who had traveled with him. . Genovefa listened breathlessly in her prison, with her beloved Siegried’s name trembling on her lips along with a prayer to God in her heart. Now the terrible trial would come to an end. Now she would leave this dungeon of disgrace triumphantly. She would, exchange her crown of thorns for the wreath of Christian victory.
The bolt was unfastened. Firm steps and the voices of men were heard. The iron doors were dashed open. She snatched her slumbering child. This boy who was the living reflection of their vow and the pledge of their love, and she held him towards her dear husband. Before she could utter her a sound, a cry of agony escaped her. Her husband had thrown her from him. He began to accuse her with words that bashed her soul like blows from a hammer to her head. The poor innocent countess was left senseless on the ground. The next day two servants lead mother and child out into the forest, where with their own hands, they were to kill her because of her unfaithful conduct. Her child was also to be killed. They hunter servants were to bring back two tongues from their bodies to the count as a proof that they had obeyed his orders.
The servants drove them into the wildest and deepest areas of the forest. It was here only the screams of birds of prey would break the silence. They men drew their knives. But the poor countess fell on her knees, and holding up her little child, implored them to spare if not her life, the life of her helpless child. Pity entered the two men’s hearts and withheld their hands and swords. Dragging the mother and child still deeper into the forest, they turned away hastily, leaving their victims to survive with only heaven and prayers
Genovefa’s tired feet wandered through the unknown forest. Her little child crying with hunger. He needed milk. She was unable to feed him. She cried to God with fervent prayer from the depth of her despair, for food for her son. The prayers of parents go to the Father the quickest, and suddenly there was relief of her dull pain within her heart. She felt composed and realized that her Father in heaven would not forsake them. Soon she and the baby both fell into a deep and sweet sleep. Upon awakening to her great astonishment she saw a cavern. In this cave she and Tristan would find shelter and warmth. Immediately, God wished to show her that he had indeed heard her prayer. A beautiful milk white doe came towards them. She rubbed herself caressingly against the abandoned Genovefa. Genovefa noticed that the doe was also a mother. She had breasts that had nurtured life. She asked this mother doe, if it would be a wet nurse to her starving little boy. The doe willingly allowed the little child to nurse. The next day the gentle does came back again. Genovefa thanked God from the innermost parts of her soul, for finding her son food and saving his life. She thanked him for shelter and the companionship of the doe. Soon Genovefa found roots, berries, and plants. The baby could now eat, and no longer needed the nourishment of the little white doe. However, everyday the doe continued to come back to comfort both Mother and child. They never were without their little guardian doe
Days, weeks, and months passed. Her unfaltering faith had rendered her agony less. In time she learned to forgive her husband who had condemned her unjustly. She even found that the message of her Lord God Christ was within her. She forgave her enemy. She even pardoned Golo who had taken such bitter revenge on her. Through forgiveness and hard work she was free and happy. Her lovely cheeks had become thinner, but the forest winds had breathed a soft red into them. Tristan was a child who had no cares nor gnawing pain in its heart, he grew into a beautiful little boy full of happiness and faith.
At the castle on the Rhine, sorrow was a constant guest since this terrible event had happened. Siegfried’s burning anger had sunk into sorrow, and often when he was wandering restlessly through the rooms so rich in sweet memories, where, now only a deserted stillness reigned. Agony awoke again in his heart. He now repented of his hastiness and severe punishment. In his ear his good angel whispered that he had been too cruel with his punishment, that he had condemned too quickly, and that he should have considered what he could have done to mitigate her punishment.
When these haunting voices pursued him, he would hurry away from the castle and its loneliness, not being able to bear the torment of his thoughts. Then to forget his trouble, he would follow the chase with the yelping hounds. But he only seldom succeeded in dulling his misery. Everywhere he seemed to see the pale face of Genovefa, looking imploringly at him from the floor of the dungeon.
The state of his master’s soul had not escaped Golo. This crafty and evil man cringed with bliss. The more sorrowful the count, the more Golo would feign to care for his welfare. A starving person accepts even the bread, which a thief offers, and Siegfried, supposing his steward wished to compensate him for his loss, accepted willingly every proof of devotion, and recompensed him with his favor. Although at the same time hating the man in his inmost soul. It was Golo who had rendered him such terrible news.
One day the count was extremely sad. He was angry with God. God once reigned with joy in his soul and marriage. He fought for Christ. Christ was not present in protecting his sacred marriage while he fought for his sacred symbols and holy land. He vowed that it would be impossible for him to forgive a God who like his wife, betrayed. He said there would never be anything that would make him love or serve heaven again. He then rode faster into the forest. During this chase, only only a few retainers, one of who was Golo, accompanied him. Siegfried pressed deeper than was his custom into the forest. A milk white doe sprang up before him. It was unusual, and with his need for a conquest, he chased this singularly beautiful animal. It was fast. He followed it into the bushes, hoping to shoot it. Hi drew his spear. It grazed the doe. The doe wounded, disappeared suddenly into a cavern. A woman whose ragged garments scarcely covered her nakedness, leading a little baby by the hand, suddenly came out of opening in the rock. The little doe was seeking her protection. The doe rubbed herself against Genovefa. Genovefa said who has hurt my little protectress?
She looked at the hunter, and her limbs began to tremble. She could scarcely stand, only her large ‘sad blue eyes gazed wistfully at him. A stifled cry, half triumphant, half a groan, escaped from her lips, and she threw herself at the count’s feet. From the voice, which had for long months only moved in earnest prayer or in low sweet words to the child, now flowed in solemn protestations of her innocence. Her words burned like fire into the soul of the count, and drawing her to his breast, he kissed her away her tears. He thanked Christ and begged his forgiveness for his anger and hate, and then he sank at Genovefa’s feet imploring her pardon.
He then pressed his little boy to his heart. He was again overcome with gratitude. He had found a touch of heaven in the happiness he now felt. He wept with joy. He called his son by a thousand affectionate names.
Then at the sound, of his bugle horn his retinue hastened towards him, Golo among them.
Do you know these two?” thundered out the count to the latter, tearing him from the throng and conducting him to Genovefa. The wretch, as if struck by a club, broke down and, clasping his master’s knees, he confessed his wickedness and sin. Golo begged for mercy. Siegfried thrust him contemptuously from him. He refused sternly, in spite of the countess’ intercession, to pardon Golo for his crimes. Gob was bound and led away, and a disgraceful death was his reward.
Now began a time of great happiness for Siegfried and his saint like wife. They lived their lives with a sense of undisturbed peace. They focused their love not only on each other, but also on those whose lives they could assist.
In gratitude to Christ and the Court of Heaven, Siegfried had a church built on the spot where the white doe had first appeared to him.
It was at this church that the countess often made a pilgrimage. This house of God was a reminder to her that faith and miracles are often not where we would expect them to be. In this church she would thank her Father for all that had happened to her. He had caused her tears to be turned into joy. She had been tested. The tests were not for God. She now realized that the tests were for her, for Siegfried, and for Golo. She knew who was the Master of her destiny. She knew that in the end, “all would be well,” for those who carried their crosses to Christ.
Finally, the day came when her soul had traveled to heaven. Her earthly remains were carried into the forest. It was here that she was to buried. She was place inside the church. The name and story of St. Genovefa comforts many married couples who wish to find faith and hope in their marriage vows.
Even now in Laach, Germany, the wanderer can be shown the church and the tombstone of St. Genovefa. The cavern, too, where she suffered so much, can be visited. It is said, that when tears from a soul in pain and prayer are heard from these sacred places, an animal can be felt. It is believed that it is the milk white doe who comes from heaven and Genovefa’s side, remind them to pray for faith and fortitude, and to never give up.