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July 31: The Bishop Who Stopped A Pagan Army With Alleluia!
On this day in the blessed year of our Lord 448 AD, Saint Germanus of Auxerre died.
Born at Auxerre in 378 AD, Germanus (also known as Germain) studied law at Rome and became a lawyer. He married a Roman noblewoman, and rose to the attention of Emperor Honorius, who appointed him to be a governor for his province in Gaul (now France).
The bishop of Auxerre at the time was Saint Amator (344 AD - 418 AD). The Lord told Bishop Amator that he would die soon and that Governor Germanus would succeed him. The bishop immediately visited the Prefect of Gaul (the superior office for Germanus) and asked permission for Germanus to be made a member of his clergy — which was granted. When Germanus next entered the church with the congregation, Bishop Amator had the church doors locked, and had the tonsure given to Germanus against his will in front of the crowd — and announced that Germanus would be the next bishop of Auxerre.
Germanus did not dare to resist — but instead sold his possessions at once, and gave his land to the church, and adopted a life of penance. He became known among the local people for miracles, like healing the sick. He tried to conceal it but was forced to exorcise demons in public on occasion — and so his reputations spread. In addition, he directed the founding of a monastery, dedicated to Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, on the banks of the Yonne River.
In 429, he was sent by a council of bishops to Britain to combat the Pelagian heresy which was popular there — along with St. Lupus, the Bishop of Troyes. (Along with them traveled St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, who was part of their retinue at this time.) Both them preached throughout England. Finally, Germanus and Lupus got the opportunity to debate the British clergy about Pelagianism at a public gathering before a huge crowd near the grave of Saint Alban. After the heretics had explained their position, the two holy bishops responded with such skill and power that the Pelagians could form no adequate defense, and the crowd were convinced of the orthodox faith.
Soon after this debate, Germanus healed the blind daughter of a military officer — and the miracle was widely reported. He also visited the grave of Saint Alban, the first martyr of Britain — and wrote down the first account of Alban’s life after he was told the story in a vision.
Germanus performed another miracle by saving an army of Britons in North Wales from a marauding party of Picts and Saxons. With the pagan pirates approaching, the saint chose to lead the Christian army in the field of battle. He marched them to a valley between two high mountains, and then commanded the soldiers to shout once he gave the signal. As the enemy drew near, Germanus cried out “Alleluia!” three times — and then had the army of Britons shout. The echo was so loud that the pagans feared a much greater force was upon them — and so they fled for their lives, leaving behind their arms and treasure.
This event is known as the “Alleluia victory” against the Saxons.
On his return to Gaul, he healed the sick wife of the prefect of Gaul, and stopped the general of a barbarian army from destroying his hometown province.
He died on July 31 while he was in Ravenna, Italy — pleading for the citizens of his province who were in revolt from the Roman government — in 450 AD.
His body was buried in Auxerre in a church which later became the Benedictine abbey known as St. Germain's.