Saint of the Day – 1 September – Saint Fiacre (Died 670) – Priest, Abbot, Monk, Hermit, apostle of charity, gardener – born (c 600-670). Born in c 600 in Ireland and died on 18 August 570 probably in Saint-Fiacre, Seina-et-Marne, France. Also known as Saint Fiacre of Breuil. Patronages – gardeners, herbalists, victims of haemorrhoids and venereal diseases, Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne, France.
St Fiacre was famous for his sanctity and skill in curing infirmities. He emigrated from his native Ireland to France, where he constructed for himself a hermitage together with a vegetable and herb garden, oratory and hospice for travellers. He is the main patron saint of gardeners for he had what we call today “green fingers.”
St Fiacre is not mentioned in the earlier Irish calendars but it is said that he was born in Ireland in the early sixth century. He was raised in a monastery where he became a monk and imbibed knowledge of herbal medicine.” Fiacre was ordained a Priest and elevated to the rank of abbot. In time he had his own hermitage and perhaps a monastery, possibly near St Fiachra’s Well, County Kilkenny, Ireland. As crowds flocked to him because of his reputation for his holiness and cures, he sailed to France in search of greater solitude, in which he might devote himself to God, unknown to the world.
He arrived at Meaux, where Saint Faro (Died 675), who was the Bishop of that city, gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. There is a legend that St Faro offered him as much land as he could turn up in a day and that St. Fiacre, instead of driving his furrow with a plough, turned the top of the soil with the point of his staff. The anchorite cleared the ground of trees and briers, made himself a cell with a garden, built an oratory in honour of the Blessed Virgin and made a hospice for travellers which developed into the village of Saint-Fiacre in Seine-et-Marne.
Many resorted to him for advice and the poor, for relief. His charity moved him to attend cheerfully those that came to consult him and in his hospice he entertained all comers, serving them with his own hands and sometimes miraculously restored to health those that were sick.
He lived a life of great mortification devoted to prayer, fasting, keeping vigils and manual cultivation of his garden. His fame for miracles was widespread. He cured all manner of diseases by laying on his hands. He died on 18 August 670 and his body was interred in the local church of the site of his hermitage complex, which church became his original shrine.
The fame of Saint Fiacre’s miracles of healing continued after his death and crowds visited his shrine for centuries. Mgr. Seguier, Bishop of Meaux in 1649 and John de Chatillon, Count of Blois, gave testimony of their own relief. Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint, the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill, in thanksgiving for which, she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. Before that king underwent a severe operation, Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, began a novena of prayers to Saint Fiacre to ask the divine blessing.
His relics at Meaux are still resorted to, and he is invoked against all sorts of physical ills, including venereal disease. He is also a patron saint of gardeners and of cab-drivers of Paris. French cabs are called Fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre, in Paris. Saint Fiacre’s feast is kept in some dioceses of France and throughout Ireland on this date. Many miracles were claimed through his working the land and interceding for others.