By Mark Buhling —
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Catholic saints, much less an expert on St. Fiacre of Breuil. My knowledge of St. Fiacre comes mostly from wikipedia. Honestly, I am writing this because of my interest in local, earth friendly food production, food sovereignty, food security and how these can be part of our spiritual conversations. To that end, I was intrigued by Christine Sine’s request for a word about St. Fiacre. Here is what I have discovered in my quick search:
St. Fiacre is the patron saint of, among others, gardners. St. Fiacre was a gardner, an herbalist, a healer, probably an abbot, and probably an introvert. Identifying St. Fiacre as an introvert is, of course, speculation, but it is informed speculation; informed by my own introvert tendencies. If he was an introvert, he was an introvert that often, but apparently not always, required himself to live in community. And not only live in community but to engage in community in such a way as to recognize the burdens of others and ease their suffering though his gift for healing.
Though I do not have the gift of healing, I am, like St. Fiacre, and I suspect, like many of you, a gardener and an introvert that chooses to engage in community. I help manage Englewood Community Farm in Missouri and our best days on the farm are when there is strong community engagement. Our best days on the farm are when we are planting or tending or harvesting together. It is on such days that the hard news of the world fades and the louder voices of beautiful community are ringing. It is on such days that our farm, our common place, our gathering place fully expresses its potential to bring people together. But some days I am gardening alone. Some days I am pulling weeds by myself
This season at the farm we planted a large area of sunflowers. The have grown well and are now well over seven feet tall. They are impressive and have drawn people to the farm. Many have stopped to see them, to come get a closer look, and we are thrilled that our little farm is drawing such attention. But right next to the sunflowers are a few rows of purple hull peas. They are hardly noticed, so low to the ground next to the sunflowers but this small patch is one of my favorite places on the farm this year. Many days this summer I have spent a quiet hour in that patch,enjoying the solitude, the sun, and the tug of war with the weeds (the weeds are winning). Even still, my new awareness of St. Fiacre has helped me appreciate the contrast between the attraction of the tall, bright sunflowers and the low and quiet pea patch. I see the value in both, but my inclination is toward the low and the quiet. My inclination is toward solitude.
It is said that St. Fiacre began his work in Ireland but moved to France looking for peace and quiet. Or as Patrick Duffy writes: “As crowds flocked to him because of his reputation for his holiness and cures, he sailed to France in search of greater solitude.” As he settled in France, he was given a space to plant. A plot on which to grow his herbs and his vegetables. I don’t know if he found all of the quiet he was looking for.
Shall we stop for a moment and absorb this lesson from St. Fiacre: some of us are more compelled by the sunflowers; that which is tall, colorful, and bright. Some of us are drawn closer to the earth, to the low and quiet. May the life of St Fiacre be our guide. May we recognize the need for both community and solitude. And always, may we listen for the whispers of the Spirit of God in our gardens informing us which of these we need each day.
- Patrick Duffy, “Aug 30 – St Fiacre (7th century) patron of gardeners and taxi-drivers” (30 August 2012)
Mark Buhlig is the director of Points on the Wheel, a non profit dedicated to making the world a better place and co pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Gladstone, Missouri