Saint Giles: AKA Aegidus, Egidio, c.724, Greece
Memorial: September 1
Patronage is Extensive, Association with Rams
Saint Giles, like Saint Francis of Assisi, was born into a family of influence — about three hundred years prior to Saint Francis’ birth. Saint Giles was a gentle soul who wandered about the woodlands and meadows of his family’s holdings.
Amy Steedman in her 1905 book of saints, In God’s Garden, writes of him as a child:
He would lie for hours watching the birds busily build their nests, or the rabbits as they timidly peeped at him out of their holes. And soon all the woodland creatures began to look upon him as their friend, and even the wildest would come gradually nearer and nearer, almost within reach of his hand; and they seemed to listen when he talked to them, as if they could understand what he said.
From her description, we can imagine the influence this saint may have had on a young Saint Francis and how he too loved all of God’s creatures.
Saint Giles was a hermit who lived in France, having left his home in Athens after the death of his parents. His particular concerns were for cripples and the poor, and this is perhaps appropriate as Saint Giles’ Church is situated on a plot of land formerly called Cripple Garth. However, this is a coincidence, as ’cripple’ refers to a hole in a stone wall that allowed sheep to pass through, but not cattle. (Cripple walls are used today in new home construction and are located between the top of a foundation wall and the first floor of the home. They provide smaller openings for windows.)
From this misinterpretation, he became the patron saint of sheep and Saint Giles’ feast day is celebrated by dying sheep different colors! In Spain, shepherds consider Giles the protector of rams. On Saint Giles’ feast day it was the custom to wash the rams and color their wool a bright shade, tie lighted candles to their horns, and bring the animals down the mountain paths to the chapels and churches to have them blessed.
Among the Basques, the shepherds came down from the Pyrenees on September 1, attired in full costume with sheepskin coats, staves, and crooks, to attend Mass with their best colored rams. This event would mark the beginning of autumn festivals with joyous processions and jubilant dancing in the fields. Learn more at Saints.SQPN.com/Saint-Giles.
PONDER: As autumn moves in, what one small thing can I accomplish to help someone who is physically, mentally, or spiritually ‘crippled’ to prepare for the dark days of winter?
PRAYER: Lord, help me to find delight and joy through the creative work of my hands, that in all things you may be glorified.
Copyright 2019 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB