Saint Ciaran, Garden Saints

Image by  Jack Hynes (originally posted to Flickr as Stook in Guangxi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Jack Hynes (originally posted to Flickr as Stook in Guangxi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You may remember that Pope Francis instituted within the Church September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Vatican Radio reported the event, in which Pope Francis noted that…

…the initiative follows in the footsteps of the Orthodox Church which, for the past 25 years, has dedicated September 1st, the beginning of a new year in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, to care for the environment. Since that time, the World Council of Churches has also marked a month-long ‘Time for Creation’ stretching from September 1st to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4th.

Continuing on through this third week in the spirit of this time for creation, here is a beloved saint of Ireland.

St. Ciaran the Younger (St. Kieran of Clonmacnoise), ca. 512–545, September 9, Patron of Oat Growers

At an early age St. Ciaran showed a love for learning. He came by this naturally through his maternal grandfather who was an historian and a poet. As a boy, while studying his lessons, he worked as a herdsman watching over the family cattle. Within this pastoral setting he developed a deep sense of kindness and wisdom well beyond his years. Eventually, as an adult, he established several monasteries and a school.

When he was of age he entered the monastery at Clonard where his miraculous gifts become known. His first miracle occurred while he traveled to Clonard. He asked his family for a cow to take with him as a gift to the monks, but they refused. At this he went to the herd he had tended to for so long and blessed it. As he departed for the monastery, a cow and her calf followed not far behind. When he discovered his bovine companions, he was delighted at the cow’s loyalty but dismayed that two animals had left his family’s herd. While offering a prayer for the cow’s safe return home, he drew a line in the ground instructing the cow that she should travel no further. The cow refused to cross the line and turned back, but the calf continued her pursuit of Ciaran. This calf, when mature, miraculously provided enough milk for all of the monastery and its guests.

There are many recorded miracles performed by St. Ciaran, one being that of the holy oats. Ireland has seen its share of famines, and one recorded in the Gaelic Irish annals took place from 536 to 539 when unusually cold temperatures caused widespread crop failures.

One day Ciaran was carrying a small sack of recently harvested oats to be milled in order to provide a little food for the monks. He prayed in gratitude for the oats that managed to grow when the fine wheat for bread had failed. As he prayed and sang the Psalms, the single sack of oats became much heavier and was miraculously transformed into the equivalent of four sacks of purest wheat. After the wheat was milled, Ciaran returned home and baked many loaves of bread with this holy flour. The older monks said the bread was the best they had ever tasted. These loaves not only satisfied their hunger but also were said to heal every sick person in the monastery who ate them.

This excerpt is from my recent book, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, published through Ave Maria Press. In it you can read more about garden saints and find liturgical garden plans.

 

 

Feed the Poor from Your Garden, Its Not too Late to Share.

TomatoesOur harvesting has slowed, but not ended. There is still a lot of produce on the vine and the fruit trees are loaded!

We can share our food with neighbors and friends, but how about adding shelters and food kitchens to your list of recipients? Learn about St. Fiacre and reverse tithing from your vegetable garden from an article I wrote for Catholic Digest.

You may be part of a community garden that shares food with your less fortunate neighbors. If not you can still serve the poor with your own garden. Do you remember the campaign “Plant a Row for the Hungry”? Back in 1995 the Garden Writers Association of America developed a campaign to encourage individuals to donate garden produce to local food banks, soup kitchens, and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry. The campaign is still ongoing, and the idea is still a good one! To learn more check their website.Apples file000855956523

Its not too late to share. Call agencies in your area, group homes, churches, and the 211 phone number for information about places that will accept fresh produce. Talk to your friends and farmers you know about gathering what remains to donate. Consider starting a group for next year to harvest throughout the growing season and not just at the end.

Imagine the delight of the disadvantaged person when tasting the fullness of fresh vegetables and fruits.

We can all make a difference in someone’s life, one tomato at a time.

Tomatoes image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

Garden Saints; St. Dorothy of Caesarea

Franz_Ittenbach_Hl_Dorothea

September 1 was a big day for us gardeners and, well, all naturalists, when Pope Francis instituted within the Church that date as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

Vatican Radio reported the event, in which Pope Francis noted that…

…the initiative follows in the footsteps of the Orthodox Church which, for the past 25 years, has dedicated September 1st, the beginning of a new year in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, to care for the environment. Since that time, the World Council of Churches has also marked a month-long ‘Time for Creation’ stretching from September 1st to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4th.

In the spirit of this time for creation I will share with you until October 4 a few gardening saints who knew the value of nature.

St. Dorothy of Caesarea, c.a. 311, Turkey

Former Memorial, February 6, Patron of Florists and Gardeners, Roses and Fruits

This saint’s history has been told with varying bits of the literary license often used by storytellers. The central theme of these stories is that she chose to remain a virgin, refusing to marry or compromise her Christian faith. For this she was to be martyred.

As she was led to be killed, a young lawyer, whom it is said she refused to marry, jeered and mocked her. He haughtily told her when she arrived in heaven to send him the celestial flowers and fruit that she claimed grew there. Dorothy said she would indeed send him flowers and fruit from paradise. During that winter shortly after her death, and some storytellers say the very same winter’s day, an angel disguised as a young boy brought the lawyer these gifts in a basket wrapped in linen. The basket the angel carried contained the most exquisite roses, some still in bud, and beautiful and unblemished fruits.

The young lawyer was astonished, because it was impossible to find these fresh plants at that time of year. He recognized the miracle of the virgin Dorothy and became a Christian and too was martyred…he is St. Theophylus.

Fruit trees were often blessed on her feast day of February 6 because of her connection with blooming and fruitful miracles. The following prayer is often used and found in the Book of Blessings[i].

Blessings of all kinds of Fruit Trees and Vines

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

R. Who has made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with your spirit.

V. Let us pray.

We beg You in Your goodness, almighty God, to pour the showers of Your blessing upon these newly budding trees and vines which You have made, and which You have been so kind as to nourish with temperate weather and sufficient rain. Bring the fruits of Your earth to full ripeness. Grant, too, that Your people may always give You thanks for Your gifts, so that You may fill them that are hungry with the fruits of a fertile land and that the poor and the needy may praise the glory of Your name, through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

Her feast day was removed from the revised Roman calendar in 1969. It was decided that what was perceived as religiously motivated fiction had taken a cultic turn for factual history by her followers.

For more garden saints, my book, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, has them listed by month!

Image Franz Ittenbach [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

[i] Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Liturgical Office Publication Service. A Book of Blessings. Ottawa, Canada; John Deyell Company, 1981.

 

Tree Hugging Saints who Preceded Tree Hugging Pope Francis; St. Oengus

Spideog, Erithacus rubecula“Now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you; Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this? In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mankind.” Job 12: 7-10

Yesterday was a big day for us gardeners and, well, all naturalists, when Pope Francis instituted within the Church September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

Vatican Radio reported the event, in which Pope Francis noted that,

…the initiative follows in the footsteps of the Orthodox Church which, for the past 25 years, has dedicated September 1st, the beginning of a new year in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, to care for the environment. Since that time, the World Council of Churches has also marked a month-long ‘Time for Creation’ stretching from September 1st to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4th.

In the spirit of this time for creation I will weekly until October 4 share with you a few gardening saints who knew the value of nature.

St. Óengus the Culdee (Angus, Ængus, Dengus, of Tallaght, of Clonenagh, Servant of God)

ca. 824, Ireland, Memorial March 11

Patron of Kitchen (Cellarer’s) Gardens

The term Culdee, Servant of God, refers to St. Óengus’ love of solitude. Célé Dé or Céili Dé (Culdee) was a name given to the hermits of that time; Céili Dé means the intimates or companions of God. There is considerable conflicting information (each source indicating of course that it is the most accurate) whether he became a lay brother of the Culdees, if the order developed because of him or if this was a general term for monks in solitude.[1] In any case, this order of monks took a more austere form of fasting, penance, and prayer. He eventually became a bishop in Ireland.

As a young man St. Óengus is said to have conversed with angels who enhanced his love of prayer and solitude. During that time he researched and wrote extensively about the saints and later wrote his own Féilire or Festilogium, a calendar of saints that became one of the sources of information for the early Irish saints. He found nature supplied him with a good deal of insight about those holy men and women:

The birds…sang to him songs of the saints; the green grass of the Emerald Isle told him of their hopefulness; the white daisy blossoms of their purity; the red roses of their martyrdom. The mighty oak trees spoke of their strength; all nature seemed to him to be singing the praises of the saints. He, thinking upon the saints so much encouraged others to take the sweetness of these holy lives and make it their own, even as the bee gathers honey from the flower.[2]

This beloved saint in all humility hid the fact for years that he was highly educated, choosing manual labor. He pursued the practice of deep durational prayer, more easily admired than imitated.

When St. Óengus entered the monastery he labored in the cellarer’s gardens. The cellarer was one of the leading monastic officials in charge of maintaining provisions, responsible for feeding the entire monastic community. This including lay-workers and peasants in need, as well as a steady stream of guests who visited the monastery on a journey or pilgrimage. And royalty guests could include a large retinue! The cellarer’s provisioning included a supply of vegetables and fruit, dairy, fowl and fish, medicinal plants and utilitarian herbs including hay and flax, as well as bees for candle wax and honey. There were many types of cellarer’s gardens with the main one being the kitchen garden or, in French, the le jardin potager.

While working the many provisional gardens St. Óengus usually had birds perching on his shoulders and singing to him as he worked. These birds and especially the robins were his constant companions. One day he severely cut his hand while chopping wood and the robins were so distressed they flew near to his hand frantically beating their wings and “…uttered loud cries because their friend was hurt.”

The Robin of Ireland, Erithacus rubecula, often called a Ploughman’s Bird or Spideog, is a small little bird of only about three inches. It is mostly gray with a portion of its face and breast being red, and the remaining underside mottled white. It is a friendly bird rarely disturbed by the hubbub of people and often trails behind gardeners looking for freshly unearthed worms…and now you know why its so named, the Ploughman’s Bird.

For more gardening saints, my book, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, has them listed by month!

(Image of Erithacus rubecula by Juan Emilio from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, España [CC BY-SA 2.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons) 

 

[1] My bias is that of St. Óengus being a hermit in service to God and that the term culdee simply indicated that solitary activity; see the 1868 writings about the life of this saint by Rev. John O’Hanlon.

[2] Hilton, Agnes Aubrey, Legends of Saints and Birds, p. 37

Grounding when Panicked

Chaos roots file0001504854140I don’t know who originated this excellent tool–and may God bless them–but I’m sharing it again for those who live with Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or any number of psychological challenges that can stop us cold in our tracks and halt even prayer.

This five point count down to grounding is powerful in its simplicity:

Find…

5 things you can see,
4 things you can touch,
3 things you can hear,
2 things you can smell,
1 thing you can taste.

There now. Take a deep breath, and thank the Good Lord that in all things may He be glorified.

Image Chaos Roots by Sebastian Santar, courtesy morguefile.com.