Saint Juniper

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Saint Juniper

Postby Kirk Anderson » Tue 13 Nov, 2012 9:21 pm

I was talking to Jenny M today and telling her about Saint (or Brother) Juniper. He was a 13th century Franciscan friar who may have had autism. We thought he'd make a great patron saint of autism, and wondered if learning about him on his feast day (29th Jan) would be an interesting and positive experience for children with autism.

If you search the web, there are several stories about him and you can see why people have suggested he may have been on the autistic spectrum. He joined the Franciscan order in 1210 and was received into the order by St Francis of Assisi himself, who clearly liked Brother Juniper as he is quoted as saying "Would to God, my brothers, I had a whole forest of such Junipers." Juniper was noted for his generosity, his simplicity, his humility and particularly his patience, in fact St Francis is also quoted as saying that 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..."

So why autism? Well it seems he took things very literally. When sent to look after a poorly friar, he asked how he could help. The friar said he was so hungry he could eat a pigs hoof, so Brother Juniper duly went out and found a pig, chopped off its hoof and cooked it for the monk. But the story doesn't end there, apparently the owner of the pig turned up at the monastery furious about his pig and Brother Juniper was sent to apologise. Thinking the famer hadn't understood his good deed, instead of apologising Brother Juniper explained his actions to the irate man. This just made the farmer even crosser! Brother Juniper then assumed he hadn't explained the situation properly the first time so explained it all over again, and gave the farmer a hug for good measure. Luckily, the farmer was so impressed by Juniper's passion he donated the rest of the pig to the friars.

So we have taking things very literally and misreading social situations. Apparently he was very literal in other areas too, particularly when it came to giving to the poor. He often gave his own clothes away, as well as those of the other friars! In fact he was eventually ordered to stop giving his clothes away, so took to saying to beggars "I can't give you my clothes but I won't stop you taking them off me". He also cut the front off a gilded altar cloth and gave it to a beggar woman who'd asked him for money. When his superior found out he was so cross he yelled at poor Brother Juniper until he was hoarse. Feeling sorry for his superior's throat, Brother Juniper made him a pudding and woke him up in the middle of the night to give it to him. When the man said he didn't want to eat a pudding in the middle of the night, Brother Juniper asked him to hold a candle while he ate it himself as he didn't want it to go to waste.

On another occasion he went to Rome to visit a convent. Apparently he'd gained a reputation as a "holy fool" (he's also known as "the renowned jester of the Lord") and a group of people gathered to see him arrive. Puzzled and a little scared by the crowd, Brother Juniper spied some children on a seesaw and went and joined in their play until the crowd gave up and went away. He then continued on to the convent.

Reading all that, and you couldn't make it up, you can see why people reckon he had autism. So I think he should be made patron saint of autism and, on the 29th Jan, we should all celebrate our inner autistic person!
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Kirk Anderson
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Re: Saint Juniper

Postby Kirk Anderson » Tue 29 Jan, 2013 9:03 am

Happy St. Juniper's day everyone!
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