SAINTS: Saint Germanus Quiets A Specter, by Constantius of Lyon

From Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre

Once when Germanus was on the road in the winter and had passed the entire day in fasting and weariness, he was advised to find shelter somewhere with the approach of evening.  There was a little house some distance from the road.  Now long abandoned, its roof had partially collapsed and it was covered in foliage due to general neglect, so it seemed almost better to brave the night in the cold of the open air rather than to find shelter in that place of danger and horror, especially since two old men had claimed that this particular house was uninhabited because something terrible dwelt there.  When the most blessed man learned this, he approached the dreadful ruin as though it was a place of beauty, and among what had once been many dwellings he found one that just barely retained the semblance of a living space.  There his few companions placed their light packs and prepared a modest meal, but the bishop ate nothing at all.

As the night wore on, one of the priests assumed the duty of reading aloud and Germanus, exhausted by fasting and weariness, was overcome by sleep.  Then, suddenly, a dreadful shadow appeared before the reader and rose little by little in front of his eyes, while a shower of hail struck the walls.  The terrified reader implored the aid of the bishop.  Springing up immediately, Germanus stared down the image of the fearful apparition.  Once he had invoked the name of Christ, he commanded the ghost to say who he was and what he was doing there.  Putting aside its frightful façade, the ghost replied in a low voice like a suppliant that he and his companion had been the perpetrators of many crimes, that they lay unburied and because of this they disturbed living men, as they were unable to find rest themselves, and they asked Germanus to petition the Lord on their behalf so that he might receive them and grant them eternal rest.

The holy man grieved to hear this story and ordered that the ghost to reveal the place where their bodies lay unburied.  Then, with a candle lighting the way, the shade led the way, and amid great difficulties caused by the ruins because the night was stormy, he indicated the place where their bodies had been thrown.  When the day returned once more, the bishop invited some of the locals and encouraged them to help, while he stood by to oversee the completion of the work.  Heaps of debris that had piled up over time were cleared away with rakes.  The bodies were found strewn about in disarray, the bones still fastened with iron bindings.  According to the law of burial, a grave was dug, the remains were freed from their chains and wrapped in linen, earth was thrown upon them, and the prayer of intercession for the dead was recited.  Rest for the dead was achieved and relief for the living as well, for after that day the little house, without any hint of its former terror, prospered with new inhabitants.


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