June 8th is the Feast of Saint Medard.
“Should Saint Medard’s day be wet
It will rain for forty yet;
At least until Saint Barnabas
The summer sun won’t favor us”
This is a saying in France, and in particular in Picardy, where Saint Medard was born in Merovingian times. He was bishop of Noyon and a great missionary who worked for the conversion of the Franks. When Queen Radegunde left her murderer husband, King Clotaire, she fled to Saint Medard for refuge and was clothed by him in religious habit.
There are many varied stories of how he became a “weather saint.” Legend has it that one day Saint Medard gave away one of his father’s finest colts to a poor peasant who had lost his horse. Immediately after giving away the colt there was a torrential rain and everyone was soaked to the bone except for the generous Saint Medard.
“It’s Saint Medard watering his colts,” say the French farmers when the June rains come and help their fields. Later, when Saint Medard became bishop whe was known for his immense kindness to the farming people and especially to the poor among them.
Saint Medard set aside the income from twelve acres of his own land to be given to the most virtuous girl of his diocese, and it was he who started the “feast of the rose queen.” For many centuries in French churches a crown of roses was placed upon the head of the girl who had most edified the parish. The custom of crowning the rose queen still exists in some of the working districts in the suburbs of Paris, but the feast has become a secular one and takes place in the local sale des fetes with the mayor and civil officials in attendance.