Covering Ground, Unwilling to be Barren

6F6A3033Had I still been using a typewriter, there would be a pile of balled up, partially typed pages surrounding my desk. I thought I had a good piece written, but then not quite. It was reworked, altered, I paraphrased another writer, tried to add wit which only seemed forced, moved paragraphs…no, lead sentences…no…start again.

I thought this column would be about barren ground, earth laid fallow and exposed. I wanted to tell you about how it’s not natural to create an unproductive and sterile land. That nature wants to protect itself. Gardeners and farmers know that exposed soil is soon covered by plants. All manner of seeds fall to the ground and take hold. The seeds sprout, their roots secure the soil, and the ground is protected from the ravages of sun and wind.

I wanted my column to lead you into reflecting why we at times are not being fruitful. But all my words lacked depth, sounded trite and fell short in a way that was embarrassing.

I left my desk and sat before the home altar where I prayed and read. I went to Adoration and offered to God the few words that I had printed out and carried there. I tried to be open, to be still and calmly wait. I sat in the upholstered chair with the dog. I stared out the window. I returned to my desk and stared at the monitor.

All that I had were snippets of thoughts, disconnected and dispersed, and an imagined pile of wadded up paper strewn around my feet.

I found that I felt like the fallowed ground in my unproductive metaphor. My nature doesn’t want to be fruitless and barren, not even for a day. I feared that if I were idle for too long the winds of change would blow hot and carry away what was fertile ground, leaving me exposed as nothing more than the proverbial Dust Bowl.

I want to be fruitful…so add yet another blank sheet to my digital “typewriter.” Words or weeds, they both cover ground eventually.

Image by Mariask courtesy morguefile.com.

(1/23/13)

Almanac for Catholic Gardeners

A Catholic Gardner's Spiritual AlmanacFor years I’ve enjoyed reading the Farmer’s Almanac. All the random fun pieces of information and facts about growing and harvesting, were eagerly read throughout the year. I bought a new edition every January.

It was that love of almanacs that lead to the writing of A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, released by Ave Maria Press in 2015.

The construction of the book is, of course, by month, and each month is themed. It coordinates a garden topic and a liturgical garden plan, with what is taking place within our Catholic Church during that month.

Like most almanacs there are stories, tidbits of fun facts, quotes, and gardening information. Its not meant to be read all at once, but picked up while enjoying coffee or in the evenings, a light read before bed.

I’ve offered a way to not only grow in a garden, but also the garden of your soul. I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy and maybe send one to a gardening friend.

Peace and all good in the new year!

 

The Virgin Mary and Shadows

Nativity_by_William_BlakeThe angel appeared and said “Do not be afraid…”

Some heavenly being popped up in front of me, I’d need calming down too!

These words were spoken to Zechariah in Luke 1:13; and a few months later to Mary, Luke 1:30. Let’s never mind about St. John the Baptist’s father.  Consider only Mary for a moment.

Mary was well educated in the foundations of her religion. There is no doubt that she observed the traditions of daily prayers. One day while offering these prayers, a being, like no other, enters her private chambers.

Now, you and I have been taught that this was a glorious moment, an angelic event of great joy—and presumed peace-filled. Well, maybe later since the line in Luke 1:29 indicates otherwise—“for she was greatly troubled”—and the angel Gabriel had to settle her down before he could deliver the next shock to this little human girl!

I don’t imagine Gabriel to be a tiny Tinkerbelle kind of being. Even an entity Disney-small entering into my oratory would cause me to jump back a bit. A being as prominent as Gabriel would fill the whole room suddenly and completely. Is it any wonder Mary was greatly troubled and filled with fear?

Still, trying to recover from being startled—her heart racing and adrenaline flowing—the message is spoken that she will conceive in her womb a child, God’s own son.

The God she knew was unimaginably, and quite terrifyingly, powerful. He was a God that comes in storms, fires, and floods. If He comes to her what of her fragile humanness, of her delicate womb?

The Virgin Mary may also have considered God’s gentle ways, for he created the rosemary plant with its scent that filled a home. He gave to them sweet honey wondrously made by tiny bees.

We are not told what she thought, other than she was initially startled and afraid.

She had but one question for this messenger from heaven…How? Still some fear. If God took on a body, it would surely be greater than a mortal’s. Would he come to her through the body of her Joseph? If not through her betrothed, than what of the scandal?

Gabriel assures her that in the most unobtrusive element on the earth, a mist of a shadow, God would envelope her.

We are not told if she had time to pray, to brace herself, to ask for mercy.

Here her faith stilled her heart. The answer was not a helpless resignation from this very young woman, she had a choice. She chose to let go of her fear. She chose to surrender her body to an unimaginable event—full union with God.

Gabriel received a willing yes, and then departed, and Mary was left in wonderment.

And the privacy of the conception of a child remains—as it should—between the parents.

The Virgin Mary’s moment of fear turned into trust and the world’s salvation began. Ten months later, the world in wonder rejoiced, and angels may have fainted with overwhelming joy.

May the peace of Christ be with you dear reader, now and throughout the new year. My Christmas gift to you, if you would like, is a year of prayer during The Year of Mercy…please leave your request in the comments.

 

Image the Nativity by William Blake, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

(December, 2014)

 

The Prince of Peace and His Princess

Pink Princess 0397254442012See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now… 1 John 3:1-2

There are several of us in the Body of Christ who have either been abandoned or abused by parents and don’t necessarily fully connect with the concept of being a special child of God. Perhaps that is why I find pictures of a mother with her child the most evocative of all — not for the sake of my empty arms — and why I asked those questions of those I feel close to. A friend, Simcha Fisher (mother of ten!), shared with me a profound moment of her insight.

In the article I wrote for the Catholic web site, Aleteia, I share a few thoughts about when being called “a child of God” draws a blank.

Image courtesy morguefile.com.

 

 

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Damask Rose

Rosa_damascena_002Marian gardens are the most popular Catholic garden for homes. A garden dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe would include the Damask rose.

Most of us know well the miracles associated with St. Juan Diego from Our Lady of Guadalupe, of her image imbedded on his tilma and the dark pink roses left growing on Tepeyac Hill for St. Juan after his vision. The Holy Virgin sent him back to those who doubted with unquestionable proof that she had indeed made the request for a shrine to be built on that hillside: The roses that Juan carried, besides it being winter and the wrong time of year for them to be flowering, were not from that region at all, but from the bishop’s home town of Castille, Spain. That rose was the Castilian Rose or Damask Rose, Rosa damascena.

The Damask rose is known for its fine fragrance and their flowers are harvested for commercial use in oils and perfumes, and for cooking. The crusader Robert de Brie is often given credit for bringing this rose from Persia—the name refers to Damascus, Syria, a major city in the region—to Europe in the mid thirteenth century. Another story says the Romans brought the rose to England.

In an article by Jerry Haynes, History of Roses: Damask Rose,

For centuries, the Damascus rose (Rosa damascena) has been considered a symbol of beauty and love. The fragrance of the rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose water by an ancient method that can be traced back to biblical times in the Middle East, and later to the Indian subcontinent. An Iranian doctor, Avicenna, is credited with the discovery of the process for extracting rose water from rose petals in the early 11th century. Damascus roses were introduced into England during the reign of Henry VIII and were frequently displayed and scattered at weddings and festivals.

Depending on what USDA Zone you live in, the modern cultivars of this rose would make an excellent addition to a larger garden dedicated to Our lady of Guadalupe (for those in colder climates, consider hardier doubled dark pink roses with high petal counts and strong fragrance).

Rosa x damascena cultivars are hardy in USDA Zones 6-9 and are known for their size; 4-7’ tall, a sprawling large shrub rose.  Like most roses, they require a slightly acidic soil with good drainage, and full sun. In warmer Zones afternoon shade will help keep the blooms from fading. In areas with high humidity, be sure to allow for air movement to prevent fungal diseases. Watering is moderate, giving them a good deep drink once or twice a week depending on summer temperatures. Pruning is minimal and usually only to remove injured or diseased wood. Trying to train it to fit in to a small space is useless, being a shrub rose and all, so go with right-plant-right-place when adding it to your landscape.

On their web site, Heirloom Roses offer several cultivars.

Image By H. Zell (Own work),  via Wikimedia Commons.