Saint of the Day – 29 January – the Servant of God Brother Juniper OFM (Died 1258) – Franciscan Friar. Brother Juniper is called “the renowned jester of the Lord” and was one of the original followers of St Francis of Assisi. Not much is known about Juniper before he joined the friars. In 1210, he was received into the Order of Friars Minor by St Francis himself. “Would to God, my brothers, that I had a whole forest of such Junipers” Saint Francis would say.
We don’t know much about Juniper before he joined the friars in 1210. Francis sent him to establish “places” for the friars in Gualdo Tadino and Viterbo. When Saint Clare was dying, Juniper consoled her. He was devoted to the passion of Jesus and was known for his simplicity.
Several stories about Juniper in the Little Flowers of St Francis illustrate his exasperating generosity. Once Juniper was taking care of a sick man who had a craving to eat pig’s feet. This helpful friar went to a nearby field, captured a pig and cut off one foot and then served this meal to the sick man. The owner of the pig was furious and immediately went to Juniper’s superior. When Juniper saw his mistake, he apologised profusely. He also ended up talking this angry man into donating the rest of the pig to the friars!
Another time Juniper had been commanded to quit giving part of his clothing to the half-naked people he met on the road. Desiring to obey his superior, Juniper once told a man in need that he couldn’t give the man his tunic but he wouldn’t prevent the man from taking it either. In time, the friars learned not to leave anything lying around, for Juniper would probably give it away.
He died in 1258 and is buried at Ara Coeli Church in Rome. He was never formally Beatified.
St Junípero Serra OFM (1713–1784), born Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer, took his religious name in honour of Brother Juniper when he was received into the Order.
St Francis said of him: A perfect friar would have “the patience of Brother Juniper, who attained the state of perfect patience because he kept the truth of his low estate constantly in mind, whose supreme desire was to follow Christ on the way of the cross.”