f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saints in the Garden

St. Fiacre
Fiacra, Fiachrach, Fiaker, Fiacrius, Fiakrius, Fiacrio, Fevre
?-670, Ireland
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.”[1]
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.
And on that note, this posting will end.

[1] Mike Hales, Monastic Gardens, page 11.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saints in the Garden

The Four Waters

St. Teresa of Avila
Theresa, of Jesus, The Roving Nun, The Teacher of Prayer
1515-1582, Spain
Memorial, October 15th
Patronage is extensive
A doctor of the church; she is one of the Incorrupt whose body remains intact.

St. Teresa of Avila was a Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic who was an affectionate extrovert of great joy and determination. Often sick in her early years she did not labor in gardens as required of the other Sisters, but she did convalesce in them and found them a source of meditation and insight.  It wasn’t until she was around forty and having regained her health that her spiritual development really began to take root and at forty-seven she began writing about the practice of prayer.
Part of her early writings on spiritual doctrine depicts different stages or grades of a life in prayer in metaphorical terms taken from watering a garden, known as the “four waters.” The water being how God reaches the soul and our soul is the garden to be grown for his delight. A very simple description of prayer is that God plants the garden that we grow through prayer which is equated with different ways of irrigation:
·         We draw the water from a well using a rope and then carry the water to our garden; this is an active form of praying, using one’s faculties and reaping what benefits one can through ones own efforts.
·         Next, to simplify the flow a water-wheel is used which has dippers. As the wheel turns the water is poured into a trough that hydrates our garden. St. Teresa describes this stage as a point when the faculties of the soul begin to recollect itself, bordering on the supernatural, and this enjoyment brings greater delight.
·         The flow of irrigation is then expanded by means of a stream. This form of prayer is more mystical, requiring little human effort with all the faculties focused on God. 
·         In the final method of watering our garden we accept the rain God sends without our own effort. This is called the Prayer of Union and is totally infused by God, a mystical action taking place in varying degrees.
In her book, The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa gives a much more expansive and beautiful explanation of the gardens of our souls. The book also tells, by her own admission, her exploits as a teenager with a great attraction to fashion, perfume and boys! Her poor widowed father in exasperation and fear for her virtue sent her to an Augustinian nunnery, and once there her life found a different kind of fertile soil.