Tuesday, September 1, 2009

St. Fiacre and His Garden

St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners. In his native Ireland, his feast day is celebrated today, September 1. He is commemorated on various other dates elsewhere.

Tradition in Action relates, “St. Fiacre was born . . . into an illustrious Irish family. The Scots affirm that he was the son of one of their kings who was raised with his brothers by St. Conon, Bishop of Iona.”

According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:
St. Fiacre was “born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century; died 18 August, 670. Having been ordained priest, he retired to a hermitage on the banks of the Nore . . . Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628, at Meaux [France], where St. Faro" was the bishop.

St. Faro gave St. Fiacre a plot of land at Breuil and there, “Fiacre built an oratory in honour 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 labour of the garden. Disciples gathered around him and soon formed a monastery. There is a legend that St. Faro allowed him as much land as he might surround in one day with a furrow; that Fiacre turned up the earth with the point of his crosier, and that an officious woman hastened to tell Faro that he was being beguiled; that Faro coming to the wood recognized that the wonder worker was a man of God and sought his blessing, and that Fiacre henceforth excluded women, on pain of severe bodily infirmity, from the precincts of his monastery. In reality, the exclusion of women was . . . common . . . in the Irish foundations. His fame for miracles was widespread. He cured all manner of diseases by laying on his hands.”
St. Fiacre is a favorite of Mary Gardeners not only because he is the patron of gardeners but because he may have been the first Mary Gardener. It is difficult to pinpoint when the Mary Garden developed as an entity separate from the sacristan’s garden. The Mary Gardens website, however, suggests the possibility that the Mary Garden originated with St. Fiacre:
“St. Benedict is known to have had a monastic rose garden, or ‘Rosary’, in the 4th Century, but the first reference to an actual garden dedicated to Mary of which we know is from the life of St. Fiacre . . . who planted and tended a garden around the oratory to Our Lady he built at his famous hospice . . . ."
St. Fiacre is also the patron saint of taxi drivers.

St. Fiacre, from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.

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