The Catholic Defender: Servant of God Brother Juniper
Saint Juniper (San Ginepro, d.1258), called "the renowned jester of the Lord," was one of the original followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, admitted to the order in 1210 by St. Francis. Juniper established Franciscan missions in various locations, and when St. Clare of Assisi was dying, he was at her side. Juniper is buried at Ara Coeli Church in Rome. His feast day is 29 January. Junípero Serra (1713–1784, Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer) took the name in honor of Saint Juniper.
Brother Juniper was a close friend and one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi. He had such compassion for the poor that he continually gave away whatever he had including his coat and shirt.
Brother Juniper joined the Franciscan Order in 1210 and he helped establish monasteries in Viterbo and Gualdo Tadino, Italy. He is depicted in the "Little Flowers of St. Francis" written by an unknown author. Brother Juniper was with St. Clare of Assisi during her final days. He died in 1258 and is buried at Aracoeli Church in Rome.
Brother Juniper's feast day is Jan. 29.
The Servant of God, Juniper, O.F.M., best known as Brother Juniper (Italian: Fra Ginepro) (died 1258), called "the renowned jester of the Lord," was one of the original followers of St.Francis of Assisi. Not much is known about Juniper before he joined the friars.
The devils could not endure the purity of Brother Juniper's innocence and his profound humility, as appears in the following example: A certain demoniac one day fled in an unaccustomed manner, and through devious paths, seven miles from his home. When his parents, who had followed him in great distress of mind, at last overtook him, they asked him why he had fled in this strange way. The demoniac answered: "Because that fool Juniper was coming this way. I could not endure his presence, and therefore, rather than wait his coming, I fled away through these woods." And on inquiring into the truth of these words, they found that Brother Juniper had indeed arrived at the time the devil had said. Therefore when demoniacs were brought to St Francis to be healed, if the evil spirit did not immediately depart at his command, he was wont to say: "Unless thou dost instantly leave this creature, I will bring Brother Juniper to thee." Then the devil, fearing the presence of Brother Juniper, and being unable to endure the virtue and humility of St Francis, would forthwith depart.
“Would to God, my brothers, I had a whole forest of such Junipers,” said Francis of this holy friar.
Once upon a time the devil, desiring to terrify Brother Juniper, and to raise up scandal and tribulation against him, betook himself to a most cruel tyrant, named Nicholas, who was then at war with the city of Viterbo, and said to him: "My lord, take heed to watch your castle well, for a vile traitor will come here shortly from Viterbo to kill you and set fire to your castle. And by this sign you shall know him: he will come in the guise of a poor beggar, with his clothes all tattered and patched, and a torn hood falling on his shoulders, and he will carry with him an awl, wherewith to kill you, and a flint and steel wherewith to set fire to the castle; and if you find not my words to be true, punish me as you will."
At these words Nicholas was seized with great terror, believing the speaker to be a person worthy of credit; and he commanded a strict watch to be kept, and that if such a person would present himself he should be brought before him forthwith. Presently Brother Juniper arrived alone; for, because of his great perfection, he was allowed to travel without a companion as he pleased.
Brother Juniper was so full of pity and compassion for the poor, that when he saw anyone poor or naked he immediately took off his tunic, or the hood of his clock, and gave it to him. The guardian therefore laid an obedience upon him not to give away his tunic or any part of his habit.
A few days afterwards, a poor half-naked man asked an alms of Brother Juniper for the love of God, who answered him with great compassion: "I have nothing which I could give thee but my tunic, and my superior has laid me under obedience not to give it, nor any part of my habit, to anyone. But if thou take it off my back I will not resist thee." He did not speak to a deaf man; for the begger forthwith stripped him of his tunic, and went off with it. When Brother Juniper returned home, and was asked what had become of his tunic, he replied: "A good man took it off my back, and went away with it." And as the virtue of compassion increased in him, he was not contented with giving his tunic, but would give books, or clocks, or whatever he could lay his hands on, to the poor. For this reason the brethren took care to leave nothing in the common rooms of the convent, because Brother Juniper gave away everything for the love of God and to the glory of his name.
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.
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.
As Brother Juniper was one day hearing Mass with great devotion, he fell into an ecstasy, and so continued for a long space of time. And when he came to himself, he said with great fervour of spirit to the other friars: "Oh, my brethren, who is there in this world so noble that he would disdain to carry a basket of mud all the world over, in the hope of obtaining a house full of gold?" Then he added: "Alas, why will we not endure a little shame to obtain life eternal?"
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 apologized 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.
He died in 1258 and is buried at Ara Coeli Church in Rome.