Speaking Engagements, 2015

Benedictine oblateI’ll be presenting at a diocesan event, a couple of times at a retreat center, and for a garden group. If you’re in the area, please consider attending and introduce yourself!

Would you like me to come to your town? The list of topics I offer is found on my speakers page. Below is where you can find me over the next few months. Hope to see you there.


July 22-24, Catholic Writers Guild Conference

Catholic Marketing Network, Somerset, NJ

A Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Benedictine Walked in to a Room: Perspective of Writing as a Lay Religious. I’ll be the moderator and part of the panel.

Fortitude: Composting Fear and Growing as a Writer; On Being Fruitful Beyond a Known Way.

Ave Maria Press will have a book signing event at their booth for new authors. If you’re at the trade show and conferences, be sure to stop over for a copy of A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. I would love to meet you!

Catholic Non-fiction Panel, Moderated by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle.

September 8, MSU Master Gardener Association of Jackson County.

Rose of Sharron

Rose of Sharron

Ora et labora, Gardening and the Spirit (tentative topic)

Jackson District Library, Jackson, MI.


October 10, St. Benedict Monastery’s Oblates Retreat

Benedictines: Getting all the Dirt on the Soulful Gardener

St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI


October 14, Kalamazoo Diocese Council of Catholic Women

Marian Gardens: They Didn’t Begin with that Bathtub!

St. Catherine Catholic Church, Kalamazoo, MI


Mary's GardenOctober 25-29, Catholic Writers Retreat

I will be hosting the Catholic Writers Guild’s five day retreat on a beautiful 95 acre site just outside of Lansing, MI. There will be a lot of time to write while enjoying the company of other Catholic writers and presenters. Of course, it includes the sacraments.

To register call 866-669-8321.

St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI

Gifts from Mother Mary, the Morning Rose

'Lasting Love' rose, in full bloom perfumes the back yard.

‘Lasting Love’ rose, in full bloom perfumes all of the back yard.

The Marian rose garden was completed a little over three weeks ago. With my arthritis, I thought the days of kneeling on soil were over.  The plan was to be prayerful and attentive to whatever lessons were presented along the way, but at times I fell into an ego centered and willful urgency to complete the garden quickly.

At the beginning of May I blogged about starting a process that was filled with trepidation.

Standing on the drive looking at the outlined garden I am overwhelmed. Part of me does not want to reawaken what I’ve loved and laid to rest—a life of working among gardens. I doubt my ability, stamina, strength. I want to take the roses back to the garden center.

I look to the small statue of Mother Mary at the back of the yard, and whisper “Hail Mary” and know she is near—she always is when we call. I tell her my heart’s still in it even though my spine is not. While waiting for peace to return, I realized that that was exactly what I needed to do—wait.

The first lesson was patience. In learning to be patient with myself in this new-normal way of life, I found an ease in waiting for others—able bodied or not—to accomplish tasks or services that before would have had me clasping my pocket rosary to offer up frustration.

The next lesson was trusting providence. It seemed like a small thing, wanting to use bricks for the border, and ended as a lesson in blessed serendipity. I still smile at the thought that twenty-some years ago bricks had become hidden and, in the economy of God, resurfaced as a gift for his mother.

Working my way through the garden installation was slow and at the same time encouraging in that my experiences as a gardener had come full circle; how to work wisely using less physical effort. In the past few years I had come to see myself with limitations and the lesson that came in the third week was gentleness and letting go of expectations.

And then I faltered, and lost sight of ora et labora, and the offering of myself made in April to an appropriate pace. Instead, and foolishly, one morning…

 …I prayed to persevere and work steady at putting down the ground cloth, bricks, and the next day all of the mulch. Even though it is a small garden, I was laid low for days. That prayer has been acknowledged as pure pridefulness and lack of humility. Like patience, one should pray carefully and specifically about fortitude. The lesson of ignoring moderation cost me time in bed… I encourage others with physical limitations to not be as rash. The gaining of patience is learned through trials. Gaining the grace to persevere is learned by a steady pace through difficulty, not by a bull-headed charge to the other side!

I don’t want to say it was a hard lesson—for there had been others more difficult—but rather an emphatic one. We often practice humility in the acts of knowing what we can do. Humility is also learned in accepting gracefully what cannot be done.

When the location for the garden was selected it was because that was the only place in the yard where it could be situated, and it would be lovely too look at from the back porch. In the past few weeks I’ve discovered the comforting view of the statue from the oratory windows, the kitchen, and even through the stockade fence when I pull in the drive.

I’ve enjoyed how reassuring it is to see the little statue in the sunlight and be reminded that Our Holy Mother is always that close. At times when I’ve walked past I’ve brushed my hand over the top of its head and leaned against it, as if being sweet with a small child.

I had not anticipated the joy I would find after having moved the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the shaded back of the yard into the light. So it seems that is the final lesson in creating the Marian garden.

Keep our Holy Mother ever before us and the comfort of her nearness will always bring peace. Lean into her love and the love of her Son will unfold us with no less beauty than the blossom of a rose, and we will become the fragrance of heaven on earth.

Thanks mom.




Golden Splendour and a Collapsing Porch

Lamb of God and boots

Lamb of God Supporting Working Man’s Boots

Well, the porch broke.

I had been trying to muddle along in my own way  for the past ten years with repairs. Things like using cement filler to fix the splits in the cement slab, caulking the windows, and using paint to fill cracks. You know, little stuff.

While I was working on the Marian garden I noticed—and tried to ignore—the ever increasing crack in the porch floor. And then I couldn’t. The central section dropped nearly a half inch within a week. A glass block cracked, a storm window popped a tab, and the paneling under the windows bowed out.

“This is going to cost a lot.” Was all I could think.

Contractors came and went. Bids were beyond reason and beyond my budget, but the porch HAD to be replaced…there were no other options. Except of course prayers, and that I did often.

Then Tim came along. He only works by referrals and alone. His specialty according to a trusted friend is structure and foundations—a skilled tradesman, honest, fair, works only one job to completion, and takes pride in his work hidden from most peoples’ view.

His hourly rate was more than fair. Not much of a talker, a down to business sort of guy, arrived exactly on time and began demolition to assess the issue. It was worse than I had thought.

Porch collapsingContractor Tim

Animals had lived in the outside wall and eaten away the structure. The cement slab, well, wasn’t that at all. It was a slip of cement poured over who-knows-what that had eroded, and the whole of it had pushed out a fieldstone step-wall.



Tim was optimistic that he could do the repairs at a reasonable cost and talked me down as I escalated into financial panic.

You can see by the pictures work has begun.

Pray for contractor Tim, will you. He has a very nervous hermit to contend with—one who is overly anxious about saving her ‘Golden Splendour’ lilies!

Endangered Trumpet Lilies

(All images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.)


I Remain Catholic for the Love of a God I Hated

shutterstock_214081222 chive flowers

These days being asked why remain Catholic is more a challenge than a question. Friends and peers on Patheos Catholic Channel, over the past few weeks, have responded with personal stories of commitment rooted in the theology and beauty of our Church (here is a compilation of their amazing work). Their speed of thought and brilliance in writing is astounding!

I’m a bit slower, and struggled in prayer to find words to fit the depth of my love for all our Church offers. My story for why I remain Catholic began with rage.

At ten I stormed through a darkened church, past the communion rail and, standing in the sanctuary, yelled at the crucifix “I hate you!” Four years later lost and hopeless, I became an emancipated child.

My only remaining connection with the Catholic Church was my maternal grandmother. Because of my love for her, I did whatever she asked. As a teenager, that included accompanying her to Mass. I would often stop at the narthex’s massive doors and glare at the crucifix as Grandmother dipped calloused fingers into the holy water font.

“I’m not here for you,” was the snark I offered the Trinity. “I’m here for her.”

Standing up straight, I would proudly walk the length of the nave beside my grandmother to a pew near the front—she was under five feet tall—and sing with her from a shared cardboard hymnal. I still have that sheet, yellowed and permanently imbued with incense.

My wedding was to be a Catholic affair; the matriarchs would have nothing less. I wanted a garden wedding with a crown of flowers and veil of ribbons, a small reception with tea and cake. At age eighteen, with fourteen attendants, a priest-cousin flown in, hundreds of strangers filling the church, and several thousand dollars later, the wedding was had. It was a beautiful ceremony but not what I wanted—in a Catholic church.

The marriage ended three years later when my husband ran off with my brother’s wife.

Overly social and profoundly isolated, I found nothing to fill the massive gaping wounds to my heart. There was no family, no spouse, no children. I continued my solitary rage at God—a gnat flinging spit—and planned for a doctorate, financial independence, to be a feminist in full control. Then one day it all stopped. My rage, and my desires and drive to continue stopped, never, I intended, to begin again. I fully disconnected from the life I had constructed.

Somewhere from the recesses of a mind gone insane were the words of a catechism Nun—and I believed what she taught—that my eternity would be much worse than my miserable life. And I hated God for leaving me without an option, hated His plan of free will, knew that, as a good parent will want to do, He’d tough-loved me until I turned around.

I did the only thing I knew to do and went to a Catholic church. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the holy water and don’t recall genuflecting or from where the rosary in my hand had come. I was on my knees in a pew, silent, angry, hurt, adrift and hopeless. Tears ran down the back of the pew in front of me. For an hour or more, without words, I emptied myself.

In that time, alone in the dark with only the glow from the dimly lit crucifix, I asked and owned the phrase from John’s Gospel. “Lord, to whom shall [I] go?”  And in asking realized how personal hate can be; I could not hate something that didn’t exist.

The conflict since childhood had always been between the brutality of men and the joy of nature, both God’s creation. Nature was the only place where I consistently found peace, where my longing to be loved—by whom I hated—escaped my control. When I experienced the beauty of mountains, wilderness, gardens and oceans my soul would soar.  Now my soul soars in that same way—in a way that I now find in Adoration, with Jesus.

The intimacy with which I had hated God, has in time as intensely become love. And it has taken time—as water unto rock to wear away the edges.

My coming home to the Catholic Church has been incremental. With guidance, I began to grasp the beauty of our signs and symbols, the freeing nature of our catechism, the liberation of surrendering to God. And all in all, I found in our Church the lessons of fortitude in forgiveness and with that an intimacy with God beyond human expression.

Why do I remain a Catholic? When you find true love, when you find a truth and a joy ever present and easily held, there is a greater insanity in turning away.

(Image “Chives and Dew” by  Jitka Volfova, shutterstock .com)

The Holy Spirit is a Fearsome Guest

DSC01026 Holy SpiritA few weeks ago we had a visiting priest who had been the associate at a neighboring parish. His homilies often sparked me to take notes, usually on the back of a bulletin during Mass. (Yes, I’ve become one of the little gray-haired ladies rummaging through her purse during the sermon, trying to find a pen.)

Father’s homily on that Sunday was about the Holy Spirit, the Third Person—big emphasis on “Person”—indwelling in us. I was a bit unsure how I felt about the idea of someone, holy or not, inside me. I watched too many scary movies in my younger days in which a creature consumes a character from the inside out—bursting forth from the victim’s chest or skull.

The message the priest offered was more a question. Did I truly believe that God is fully in me, diffused throughout my whole being, and in believing this, was I all-in? Uh, maybe.

His question and my “maybe” were both disconcerting.

Sure, I believe Jesus walked this earth, and no doubts about him being both God and human. I’m pretty confident too about the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the Virgin Mary. You know, the whole Creed thing.

I’m all-in, except for this one little toe hold (as I hang on the side of a spiritual cliff): Fear of being fully alive with love. It’s a terrifying responsibility to accept caritas.

There’s an other-worldliness that accompanies abandonment to the fire of friendship and love with the Holy. It compresses the ability to live in the world. That intensity for God used to be called “zeal”—and today, if it’s too far beyond what might be considered acceptable, it’s often called “delusion” at best, with “psychosis” a close second.

Some of us lack the ability to contain ourselves when the Holy overwhelms our emotions. Again I was reduced to sobbing at Mass after communion. It’s happened before, and I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. It’s the moment when the Person of the Holy Spirit within fully connects with the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus when consumed; a supernatural communion in a frail human being.

The woman beside me understood. She saw the need to protect the joyous and encircled me in her arms as a befuddled priest, deacon, and seminarian—along with most of the congregation—looked on.

The overwhelming passion of God’s love exaggerates our awareness of the smallness of our hearts.  It’s the sensation of the Holy that has bound itself to our flesh and blood, the reality that I am now His hands, His eyes, and His spoken Word in a world obsessed with itself.

I am pleading with Our God: Don’t let me go crazy, don’t let me be so consumed by you that the Holy Spirit bursts through my chest at every encounter with others.

As if I can place a condition on being all-in.

(Image by beatrizlobo, morguefile.com)