Our vegetables from farms and gardens are ripening — at least in the Midwest — and we are enjoying the “fruits of labor.” A patron saint of vegetable gardens is Saint Werenfrid, whose feast day falls in the middle of August.
August 14, St. Werenfrid, c. 690-780
Patron of Vegetable Gardeners
St. Werenfridus was a Benedictine monk born in England who traveled to Ireland as a missionary and died in the Netherlands. Like most Benedictines, he worked the monastery gardens so as to feed the community and the poor. He was well known for his holy nature and service to the poor; he nourished not only their bodies but their spirit as well.
The care of monastery gardens during the Early Middle Ages continued to develop the rule of self-sufficiency to reduce the reliance on secular provisions. This can be traced back to St. Benedict of Nursia who taught not only specific religious rules, but that from within the monastery walls would come all the necessary foods, and medicinal and utilitarian herbs.
The Cellarer was the leading monastic official in charge of maintaining provisions. He was responsible for feeding the entire monastic community, including lay-workers and peasants in need, as well as a steady stream of guests who visited the monastery on a journey or pilgrimage. This official would have managed all the gardens, apiaries, ponds and herds. It is he who would have assigned the work for St. Werenfrid to perform.
This beloved saint performed his duties well and for many decades. He lived into his late 80s, and during those centuries, that was considered miraculous. He died in Arnhem, Netherlands, and many reported that at the site of his death the scent of heaven was emitted; some of those present sensed the fragrance of roses and others of lilies. A dispute arose between the inhabitants of Estervoost and Elst near Arnhem for the honor of possessing his sacred remains. To settle the dispute, his coffin was set afloat upstream and floated until it came to rest … on the shore at Elst (Richard Stanton, A Menology of England and Wales, p. 393).
This incident is still commemorated on the provincial coat of arms.
Copyright 2019 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB.
A portion of this post is an excerpt from A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, p.164. Ave Maria Press, 2015.