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A Forest Full of Junipers

February 7, 2014

I don’t know if any of you know about Brother Juniper. It’s possible we all know something of St. Francis and how he preached to birds and shook hands with wolves and this and that. Probably we’ve seen Francis in somebody’s lawn holding up the bowl for the birds to bathe in. But I wish we had some statues of Brother Juniper. He really would make you stop and look twice to see if it were a statue of a friar or a circus clown out there on the lawn.

There’s too many stories to tell here, and they’re all good. Most you can find in the book The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of imaginative and often humorous tales about what the early Franciscan Friars felt their way of life was all about. Francis shaking hands with the wolf is in there. But Brother Juniper is the hero of quite a few of the tales — which lets you know that he was a kind of role model for those early friars. And what a wonderfully funny model he is, too.

Let’s see. How about the story when a fellow friar was sick, and Brother Juniper went to a neighboring farm and simply cut up the nearest pig to feed his ailing brother back to health? As you can imagine, the local farmer was more than a little upset. Brother Juniper’s spontaneous charity almost cost him a few bruises that time, but fortunately St. Francis ran up and calmed the farmer down. The farmer even gave them the entire pig in the end. Good old Brother Juniper.

Or how about the one when Brother Juniper went out to preach and a crowd of villagers came expecting a learned doctor or theologian? Brother Juniper was not going to try to be overly-educated for anybody. Instead, he ran to the playground and began playing see-saw with the village children — as if to say: “Look, I’m not someone learned or important — just a simple soul with a simple message of Jesus and the Gospel.” The villagers were not impressed. But I’m sure the children loved it.

Ah, Brother Juniper. I wish we had your statue outside — playing on the see-saw, carrying a local pig to feed your fellow friars. All those strange and wonderful stories, and all to show one thing: that you just wanted to love God in the here and now. No wonder St. Francis slapped you on the back and shouted to all who would listen: “If only I had a forest full of Junipers!”


From → Musings

  1. Br. Juniper permalink

    I endorse this post!
    -Br. Juniper, OFM (IC Province)

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