Foxes of Latton

Latton foxes, Minnie-Mama photographed byLynn Hurry

The Foxes have returned to Latton Vicarage!
Regular readers of this Blog will be familiar with the antics of the fox cubs in Latton Vicarage garden and we are sure there will be more this year. Mama Fox died last year bur one of her daughters, named by Vicar Lynn as Minnie-mama  has given birth. Another, who has been named Camilla in honour of The Queen, has already shown off some of her cubs.
Vicar Lynn has been busy with her photo-box so we are assured of regular updates.
As Spring unfolds, the world is teeming with new birth, of which the foxes  are a sign.

As the fox cubs are being brought up on ‘holy ground’ next to the church, watched over and fed by Vicar Lynn, it is not hard to think of it being an animal convent. Which thought brought to mind the story of St Ciaran and Brother Fox.

In 1934, the scholar Helen Waddell published a small colletion of tales from the Desert Saints and the animals who lived with them. The collection was revised in 1995 by Esther de Waal who provided an introduction to them.
This story is about St Ciaran after he arrived in Ireland at the behest of St. Patrick.

“When St Ciaran settled in Ireland, he sat under a tree. Nearby was a wild boar. The boar was very annoyed at seeing him but sensed something about the saint  that made him flee in terror. As Ciaran established himself and built a cell that would eventually grow into a monastery, the boar was made tame by God and he slowly returned. He became Ciaran’s servant and began tearing down twigs and grass with his teeth, helping to make secure the saints dwelling place. Ciaran regarded him as his first disciple.The boar became company for Ciaran until other animals joined.These animals came from their dens in the wilds. A fox, a badger, a wolf and a deer came to live with Ciaran. They all obeyed the saint’s words in all things as if they had been his monks.

Alas, though, one day, the Fox, shrewder and wilier than the others, stole the abbots shoes and, abandoning his vow, carried them off into the forest, intending to chew them out of sight. Knowing this, the good father sent brother Badger after the fox. The badger was well learned about the woods and set out obediently and straightway went to the den of the fox. Brother Fox was just about the gnaw his master’s slippers so he began to bite the fox’s ears and tale and cropped his fur. Fortunately, Brother Badger had got there in time. He forced the fox to return to the monastery to do penance for his theft. The shoes were returned none the worse for wear.
St Ciaran asked, “Why did you do this evil deed which monks shouldn’t do. We have all we need here—food, water and all we share with each other. If there were things that were lacking, we would have asked Almighty God to get it for you.”
Then the fox asked forgiveness and did penance by fasting and would not eat again until the Saint said he could. After that, Brother Fox lived sociably at peace with the others.

Other disciples joined Ciaran but always, those animals who had begun the work with him lived all the rest of their lives in his company, tame and familiar, for the same was always glad to see them always.
Not least, Brother Fox who had learned the way of repentance and the joy of God’s forgiveness.

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