Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Introducing Saint Fiacre of Meaux

Fiacre at the forests edge

The Feast of Saint Fiacre of Meaux: pronounced (FEE-A-KRA) is celebrated on August 30 in Ireland and some dioceses of France. But his name is also known to people in other parts of the world as he is the patron saint of gardeners and herbalists.

 I figured, why wait until the end of August to talk about him when we could have the whole growing season to know him and invoke him prayerfully over the growing things around us: our work with flowers and vegetables, the herbs, the bushes and trees. Attending to his story, there are other aspects of life where he might be a heavenly-helper as well.

Fiacre was a 7th century Irish hermit. But it is said he could find no reclusion there, causing him to sail across and around the Celtic Sea to France. There he met Faro, a holy bishop, who offered Fiacre as much land as he could till in a day, where he could establish a hermitage, garden and oratory to the Mother of God.

But what do you mean he couldn't find reclusion in Ireland? That's how it is with holy people - they get discovered by mushroom or boar-hunters and the crowds soon make their way out into the woods, or the top of the mountain, or the off-shore island, seeking cures, prayers and spiritual advice. 

The story goes that Fiacre tilled an enormous tract of land with his spade, turning over boulders and tree roots and re-directing streams. Perhaps it was the town busy-body who watched all of this from a distance and who quickly reported Fiacre to the higher-ups as a warlock (male witch). 

I learned early on after ordination that every priest has his detractors. It's tough on the priest's morale, but there it is. Fiacre doesn't seem to have handled it especially well though, as when he completed his hermitage and oratory he banned women.

That's called a resentment, and we should hope he didn't use some religious rule to cover it up. So maybe we can ask Fiacre to send heavenly-help as we sometimes struggle with old and negative feelings about people who have done us wrong.

~ ~ ~

Catholicism is an incarnational religion. This means that human things really matter as God has become one of us in Jesus born at Bethlehem. Human experience is the place for the divine encounter more than shrines. Even at Lourdes - the divine event isn't the grotto so much as in the care of the many thousands of sick, elderly and poor who pilgrim there. 

But Incarnation can make for a sometimes messy religion. Remember in the Medieval bible, where the story of the Birth of Jesus is told by Saint Luke, the calligrapher-monk painted a little angel zooming in holding open a clean diaper!

That was a long segue. Apparently Fiacre would sit when he taught people about spiritual things (or gardening tips) which over the many years (go figure) caused some people to think of him as the patron saint of hemorrhoid sufferers. It's an incarnational religion!

But we hear that hemorrhoids are often caused by stress, and ours is a painfully stressful culture. Stress is everywhere: the roads, the parking lots and personalities, the schedules we keep, the deadlines we have to meet, the too-many commitments we make, the bills that have to be paid...

We might ask Fiacre to help us de-stress, so we don't wind up sick or pained. 

~ ~ ~

And around his little oratory Fiacre grew medicinal herbs which caused folks to recognize him as a healer. Healing: what a gift to give people. And don't we need healing today, especially of the interior kind? Heal our sadness, loneliness, weariness, bitterness, emotional pain...

You crossed the stormy sea
in search of greater solitude,
and planted a healing garden
in the forest of France.
Oh servant of God,
invite us now
to your house of prayer,
where we'll
glorify Christ
who is risen from the dead!


  1. I am not quite sure I understand this Saint, having never heard of him before. Were women his detractors? His exclusion of them seems to go against God's will.

    1. I don't know that we can say the exclusion of the other sex is always against God's will: a man never gets beyond the grill of a Carmelite House of nuns (except for the priest at Mass) and there are no women on Mount Athos in Greece. But did Fiacre exclude women because one was a detractor? That wouldn't be cool - but saints are humans, not angels. And how could we claim as a realistic model a saint who wasn't flawed? I find Therese of Lisieux so approachable because she said of her religious house of nuns: "Sometimes I feel as if I am living inside a volcano" and "Sometimes I get so bad a fit of temper I feel that I could eat someone alive."

  2. Thank you for teaching us about St. Fiacre. It is good to bring these lesser know patron saints to our attention. Pray for us St. Fiacre.

  3. A wonderful prayerful end to your post Father. Did you write this? You always humbly leave yourself unnamed as the author of many of the prayers you write, but I would like to know when they are your original thoughts and not something I can find elsewhere. Thank you.

  4. It's me alright. Thanks for asking. Holy Fiacre, pray for us. I visited his tomb years ago - a wonderful adventure for me. I'll tell more about it another time.

  5. This is a fun post as well as an informative one. "Incarnational" that's a new one for me. Thanks for bringing to the post, info on St. Fiacre. Might be nice to have his statue in my garden.

  6. Incarnation: God has a human face as we do in Jesus Christ. Because of the Incarnation EVERYTHING is different. Now about your garden statue: be sure it's Fiacre - don't let an eager nurseryman tell you that a statue of Francis is Fiacre. Look for the spade.

  7. We should all spend some time in seclusion in order to give God our fullest attention. It would help to enhance our human experience. Did Jesus not go out into the desert alone to pray?

  8. Thank you for your thoughts and reflections. It is always a learning experience. You keep it fresh Father and I love spending a fee moments here.

  9. When cynicism, despair, bitterness, or depression paralyze us, it means our soul is hurting. St. Fiacre we ask that you heal our soul and make us whole again.