Brother Juniper


The Servant of God Brother Juniper, Confessor, First Order

The pious lay brother Juniper was received into the order by St. Francis himself in the year 1210. All his efforts were directed towards the practice of humility, which is, of course, the foundation and the surest test of all the Christian virtues. Because he considered himself worthless before God and undeserving of any honor, he wished, in the simplicity of his heart, to be considered worthless and contemptible also in the sight of men. That is why he did many things that the world would consider foolish, but which, in the case of Brother Juniper, proceeded from holy wisdom.

Once, at the command of his superiors, he went to Rome. Many of the inhabitants, who had learned of his arrival and had knowledge of the sanctity of his life, respectfully came out quite a distance from the town to meet him. When Juniper saw so many people coming, he looked for a way out, and he found one that suited him well. Near the road, some children had placed a board over a beam and were amusing themselves by playing seesaw. Brother Juniper drew near and played seesaw with them.

The people were not a little astonished at this behavior; nevertheless, they approached, greeted Juniper with great respect, and told him that they had come to accompany him to the convent. Juniper paid no attention to their greeting, bent apparently on nothing but to enjoy himself with the children.

The Servant of God Brother Juniper

Then some of the people began to rail at him: “What a silly, childish person is this!” And they all withdrew. When they were far enough away, Juniper also proceeded humbly on his way to the convent of the friars in Rome, glad at having escaped their demonstrations of honor.

Such and similar instances induced St. Francis to say: “He is a good Friar Minor who has gained the victory over himself and the world as Brother Juniper has done.”

God showed how pleasing to Him was this holy simplicity of Brother Juniper by the miraculous power which He granted him over the proud spirits of darkness. On occasion, when the evil spirit refused to leave a possessed person at the prayers of St. Francis, the latter would say, “I will get Brother Juniper if you do not leave.” And forthwith the evil spirit would leave.

The last years of the holy brother were one continual burning desire for the possession of God. After he had spent forty-eight years in the order, God finally heard his prayer and took him to Himself on January 4, 1258, in the convent of Ara Coeli at Rome, where his body is also entombed.

The virtue of simplicity has become so unfamiliar to us that we have lost even the correct understanding of it. Simplicity is considered folly and stupidity, whereas it is really nothing else than the opposite of pretense and sham. It is the simple, honest intention to appear before men as we acknowledge ourselves to be in the sight of God. It is merely the fulfillment of the principle which our holy Father St. Francis so often uttered: “As much as each one is in the eyes of God, that he is and no more.”

As friends of the truth and of honesty, we ought to represent ourselves at all times and places just as we are. But are we not rather much concerned to conceal everything that may reflect discredit on us, and do we not endeavor through dissembling and deceit to impress others with an honorable opinion of ourselves? Is not much of what is considered polite and cultured only pretense, hypocrisy, and fraud? What confusion will overwhelm those who have thus acted when they stand at the final judgment, where everything will be disclosed for what it actually was before God! How we shall then be put to shame by the simplicity of Brother Juniper!

How happy is the soul that makes no account of the opinion of men. In all simplicity, it strives only to fulfill faithfully the duties of its walk of life and leaves everything else to God. Such a soul is ever at peace. The praise of people cannot cause such a person to become puffed up, their blame cannot discourage him, for he knows that praise cannot make us better and blame cannot make us worse than we are in the sight of God. This holy simplicity is true wisdom. It leads to perpetual peace, and on judgment day, it will be acknowledged even by the wise of this world, who will say: “These are they whom we had some time in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” (Wisd. 5,3)

*from the Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A. Habig, OFM

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