How a saint plants a garden

St. Fiacre was a seventh-century Benedictine monk who learned a great deal about horticulture at the monastery in Kilkenny, Ireland. He grew so adept at the use of healing herbs that people came from miles around until he could no longer practice the sacred solitude he so desired. Leaving his homeland, with the hope of once again living a quiet life, he traveled to France.

Eventually he went to the Bishop of Meaux, St. Faro, and asked for land to establish a hermitage—which eventually served as a hospice for travelers—and grow food for himself and those in need. From his own inheritance the bishop gave Fiacre a dwelling place in the forest between Meaux and Jouarre.

St. Faro also told Fiacre that 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—some say his staff—behind him. Wherever the spade touched, trees were toppled, bushes uprooted, and the soil was entrenched.

The story is told that one of the witnesses was an ever-watchful church lady. She was deeply committed to St. Faro and felt it was her duty to protect the bishop’s holdings. She immediately hurried off to tell him that this hermit he was so fond of was betraying him with witchcraft. Fortunately, St. Faro knew St. Fiacre well, and he recognized the miracle for what it was: an act done in unison with God. He helped his faithful informant understand that as well, and she too came to love the joyous Irish saint.