St. Juniper (aka Fra Ginepro), one of the original Franciscan monks in the thirteenth century, is known as a “jester of the Lord.” Apparently his love for God and people caused him to do some rather ridiculous things, such as giving away all of his clothing, but his enthusiasm was so infectious that everyone forgave him.
The most famous story is recorded in chapter one of Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi:
A sick man asked Juniper for a pig’s foot to eat. Juniper, eager to please, ran to the forest, found a pig, cut off the foot and cooked it for the invalid. The pig’s owner found out and was (justifiably) furious. St. Francis sent Juniper to apologize.
Juniper couldn’t understand the problem, so he told the owner all about the sick man and how wonderful it was that he was able to find a pig’s foot for him. When the owner got even angrier, Juniper decided that the man hadn’t understood what had happened, so he told the story again. Juniper obviously felt that the owner would be grateful that his pig had been used for such a good purpose as soon as he understood.
At some point, the owner became overwhelmed by Juniper’s enthusiasm and fell at his feet, confessing his sins. Then he took the rest of the pig and gave it away to the needy.
I suspect St. Francis and the other monks were rather amazed by the man’s change in heart.
Generally, I believe Christians are called to practice discernment as well as charity, but sometimes I’m afraid we let fear – fear of tomorrow, fear of how others will see it, and fear of the unknown – prevent us from doing all the good we could. Let’s all celebrate the feast of St. Juniper by doing something good even if it’s not entirely logical.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.