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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Life of Saint Fiacre ~ Patron Saint of Gardeners

The St. Fi in my backyard. I don't know what he has been up to lately, because things have certainly gotten out of hand in my garden.

Saint Fiacre was born in Ireland in the seventh century and was raised in a monastery at a time when much of mankind's learning and knowledge was left in the care and protection of the monks. Travelers brought seeds and plant material, as well as cultural enlightenment, from as far away as Rome and the Holy Land. St. Fiacre's days at the monastery taught him a deep love of silence, the joys of planting and harvesting crops and an appreciation of nature.

Eventually, St. Fiacre achieved unwanted fame as one skilled with herbs, a healer and a holy man, causing disciples to flock to him. This cut drastically into Fiacre’s quiet time, so seeking greater solitude; he left his native land and sought refuge in France, at Meaux.

At Meaux, he was warmly received by St. Faro. Faro gave Fi some of his own land in Breuil, beautiful property surrounded by forests. Here Fiacre built an oratory in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a hospice in which he received strangers, and a cell in which he himself lived apart. He lived a life of great mortification, in prayer, fast, vigil, and the manual labor of the garden. The vegetables and flowers he grew around his monastery were said to be quite superb.

The legend of St. Fiacre says St. Faro allowed him as much land as he might entrench in one day with a furrow. Fiacre turned up the earth with the point of his staff, toppling trees and uprooting briars and weeds. A suspicious woman hastened to tell Faro that he was being beguiled and that this was witchcraft; Faro however recognized this was the work of God.

With time, Fiacre’s reputation for miracles became widespread. He cured all types of diseases by laying on his hands; blindness, polypus, and fevers are mentioned. A curved stone on which he had once sat attracted pilgrims seeking relief from hemorrhoids.

St. Fiacre died on August 18, 670. His remains were initially interred in the church at Breuil, where his sanctity was soon attested by the numerous cures wrought at his tomb. In 1234, his remains were placed in a shrine by Pierre, Bishop of Meaux, his arm being encased in a separate reliquary. In 1479, the relics of Sts. Fiacre and Kilian were placed in a silver shrine, which was removed in 1568 to the cathedral church at Meaux for safety from the destructive fanaticism of the Calvinists. In 161,7 the Bishop of Meaux gave part of the saint's body to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in 1637, the shrine was again opened and part of the vertebrae given to Cardinal Richelieu (yes the same one mentioned in the book, The Three Musketeers).

You remember what relics are? We saw those fabulous reliquaries in the basement of the Duomo? A little creepy in my book. If you want more info on reliquaries, look here for a lengthy, but informative article on old ones and here for 'modern' ones.

Many churches and oratories have been dedicated to him throughout France. His shrine at Breuil is still a resort for pilgrims with bodily ailments. St Fiacre is most renowned as the patron saint of gardeners. He is also the patron saint of taxi drivers and people with hemorrhoids. Fiacre's connection to cab drivers is because the Hotel de Saint Fiacre in Paris, France rented carriages. The sign of the inn was an image of the saint, and the coaches in time came to be called by his name. People who had no idea who Fiacre was, referred to the cabs as "Fiacre cabs", and eventually as "fiacres".

So the bottom line is, do I pray to St. Fiacre to help me get my garden back in order, because quite frankly, it has become a pain in my butt.

If things don't look up, I may just say a few prayers to the Easter Bunny in my backyard...

or perhaps the wingless angel I schlepped all the way back from that gargoyle place in Boston.

Yes, that is some of the ivy you potted up for me.

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