Memorial, August 30th (August 11th, 18th Anglican, 31st, September 1st)
Patron of Vegetable Gardens
St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners, especially of those who grow vegetable and herbs. He was a loving 7th century Benedictine monk who was filled with that unique joy and humor so often seen in the Irish. He is becoming a very popular saint in the 21st century as more community gardens are created to serve neighborhoods and the poor.
While at the monastery in Ireland he learned a great deal about horticulture becoming very skilled in the use of healing herbs, and because of this doctoring skill he had many followers. With so many people seeking his help, he was unable to practice the sacred solitude he desired. With the hope to once again live in solitude, he went to France and for a while lived in a cave near a spring.
Eventually he went to the Bishop of Meaux, St. Faro, and asked for land to establish a hermitage and grow healing herbs and vegetables for himself and those in need. From his own inheritance in nearby Breuil, the bishop gave Fiacre a dwelling place in the forest. St. Faro also told Fiacre he could have as much land as he could fallow in one day. Legend has it that the next morning after Fiacre prayed, he walked around the perimeter of the land dragging his spade (or as one story claims the tip of his staff) behind him. Wherever the spade touched, trees were toppled, bushes uprooted, and the soil was entrenched.
Witnessing the event was one of the ever watchful ‘church ladies’ who adored St. Faro and felt it was her duty to protect the bishop’s holdings. She immediately scurried off to tell Faro that this hermit he was so overly fond of was betraying him with witchcraft. What she did not realize was that the bishop had developed a friendship with the monk and recognized the occurrence for what it was…an act of God.
This garden, miraculously obtained, became a place of pilgrimage over the centuries for those seeking healing. It was said that animals never ate from this garden. “It was as if his unwalled garden was spiritually enclosed.”
There are legends about Fiacre’s garden that relate to an odd patronage to this saint…that of hemorrhoids. This unfortunate condition, called ‘Saint Fiacre’s Illness’ during the Middle Ages, may be due to the following (unconfirmed) story: One day after St. Fiacre had worked long in the gardens, he too was suffering with this affliction. Sorrowfully he sat upon a large cold stone and prayed to God for a cure, and that stone softened, curing the hermit and apparently leaving a very specific imprint! People still journey to his garden to sit upon this healing stone and pray that their ailment will also be rectified.
Another tale tells that after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, Henry V allowed his soldiers to pillage Fiacre’s shrine. No matter the size of the beast or the efforts of the men, the cart bearing his relics could not be moved beyond the boundary of St. Fiacre’s land. It is said that after this incident Henry V developed and eventually died seven years later of hemorrhoids on August 31st, the Feast of St. Fiacre.
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Margaret Rose Realy is an Advanced Master Gardener with over thirty-five years experience in the green industry and leads workshop and retreats. She is the coordinator of the St. Francis Retreat Center Garden Society, a monthly columnist at CatholicMom.com and blogs about gardening and spirituality at Patheos.com. Look for her book, Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, available at Amazon in paperback and eBook, via Patheos Press.
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