Thursday, January 17, 2013

St. Juniper

St. Juniper was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. He worked at expanding the order and setting up new communities. He was known as “the jester of the Lord.” Tales of his work and humility are recounted in the book The Little Flowers of St. Francis, which is good because someone called “jester of the Lord” is bound to have some good stories.

One tale is that while Juniper meditating in front of the altar at Assisi, the sacristan stepped out for dinner. A beggar woman came in and asked Juniper for alms. Juniper cut off the silver bells hanging on the altar cloth and gave them to her. When the sacristan returned, he was angry that Juniper had destroyed the altar cloth. Juniper was brought before the General who loudly rebuked him in front of the other friars. Later that night, Juniper brought the General a candle and bowl of gruel and butter, saying, “Today when you rebuked me for my faults, I perceived that your voice became hoarse from over-exertion.” When the General, angered to be disturbed at such a late hour, tried to send Juniper away, Juniper said, “Since you will not eat this gruel which I made for you, at least do this for me: hold the candle and I will eat it myself.” The General finally could recognize Juniper’s charity and replied, “Since you will have it so, let us eat it together.”

In another tale, awesomely titled “How Friar Juniper, to abase himself, played at see-saw,” Juniper was headed to Rome, where his reputation of being a holy person was already known. He did not approve of receiving such devotion, and wanted to scorn the doting Romans. He saw two boys playing see-saw and joined them. The people at first greeted him with devotion and waited for him to finish, but as he continued to see-saw, they grew tired of waiting and asked, “What fool is this?”  They eventually went away. He continued to see-saw until the last person had left so that he could enter Rome with meekness and humility. St. Juniper’s feast day is January 29.

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