Tuesday, February 2, 2010

brother juniper

Here is a story from part three of "the little flowers of saint francis" - THE LIFE OF BROTHER JUNIPER

Once Brother Juniper came to stay in Rome, where his reputation for holiness had already spread. Therefore many Romans, out of devotion, went out to meet him. When that humble man saw them from a distance and realized why they were coming, he wondered how he could turn their devotion into scorn and mockery.

And so seeing two boys seesawing on a plank set on a log, each sitting on the opposite end and going up and down, Brother Juniper quickly went over to them and removed one of them from the end of the plank and sat there himself and began to play at seesawing with the other boy.

Meanwhile the crowd of Roman people arrived. And when they saw him seesawing, they were astonished. However, they greeted him very reverently and waited for him to stop playing so that they might honor him by conducting him to the friary. But Brother Juniper paid little attention to their reverence and devout greeting or their waiting, for he seemed to be more interested at seesawing. And after they had waited quite a while, some of them began to be bored and say: "What a fool he is!" But some, knowing his ways, felt still greater devotion for him. Then, as he did not stop playing, all of them went away and left Brother Juniper seesawing.

And when they were all gone, Brother Juniper was very happy because he had seen some of them mocking him. So, rejoicing in their scorn, he went on his way and entered Rome in all meekness and humility, and came to the friary of the Friars Minor.

To the glory of Christ. Amen.

Brother Juniper was a friend of St. Francis. He was considered 'stupid' and 'foolish' by people who didn't know him well, but a 'genius' and 'wise' by those who did. We need people who help us see genius in stupidity and wisdom in foolishness. We need Brother Junipers to turn the world upside for for us because we can see the world more clearly, feel it more deeply, and touch it more efficaciously from the bottom side of history among the smallest and most forgotten people around us. In a world where "videri quam esse," where "appearance is more important than being," we need Brother Junipers to teach us that "esse quam videri!" We need Brother Junipers.

In their wonderful picture book, "Brother Juniper," Diane Gotlieb and Meilo So write and illustrate a story about our hero. St. Francis and seven other brothers leave Brother Juniper in charge of the chapel while they go out to preach. While they are gone, he gives away everything inside of the chapel to the poor people in the community. He even gives away the walls, the windows, and the doors! He finally gives away his broom and his robe to a shivering cleaning woman who has no broom and who cannot sweep.

The brothers return and find Brother Juniper standing naked in an empty hole where the chapel had been. They shout at him, "You've ruined our church!"

On Sunday, Brother Juniper stands on a rock and yells, "Ding, Ding, Ding," because it's his job to ring the bell and he gave the bell to a teacher who wanted to start a school. All of the brothers stand with long faces in the hole when...all of the townspeople come and gather around Brother Juniper. A child says, "We just came to say thank you!".

At that moment, St. Francis arrives and puts his arm around Brother Juniper's shoulder. "Look, Brothers, at the fine church that Brother Juniper built. I wish I had a forest of these Junipers."

Imagine what the world would be if there were Junipers everywhere. Be a Juniper wherever you are.


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