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!


Saint Ciaran, Garden Saints

Image by  Jack Hynes (originally posted to Flickr as Stook in Guangxi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Jack Hynes (originally posted to Flickr as Stook in Guangxi) [CC 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.



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 ( )], 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

St. Catherine of Siena, Hear our Prayers for Sisters and Nuns

Catherine of Siena WritingAs we approach St. Catherine’s memorial, April 29, let us offer our prayers for her intercession to our Lord.

O God, you are beauty and wisdom, mystery and love. Touch the hearts of your Sisters and Nuns to flame for you and for your Church through the prayer and example of St. Catherine of Siena. We ask this grace through Jesus the Christ, our Lord. Amen

(Public domain image by artist Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti (1571–1639), St. Catherine of Siena Writing. Prayer adapted from Magnificat, v16, n2, p339)

Gardeners Love These 16 Flowers for the 8 Beatitudes

Herbaceous plants and hardwoods hold meaning in Christian art. Throughout history flowers have been used to signify personal affections. In the language of flowers there can be more than one connotation for a plant, though usually it holds the same sentiment.

In my new book, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, I share with readers how plant symbolisms relate to our Catholic heritage. I also guide you in how to create spiritually centered gardens.

During Lent we look to the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-11) to guide our journey to a personal resurrection at Easter. There are many plants that can be grown in your garden that relate to the sentiments of the Beatitudes, here are just a few. You can create a garden themed to a specific Beatitude—using trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs symbolizing, let’s say, meekness—or incorporate into an exiting garden just a few plants representing those Bible versus.

You can find out more about plant symbolisms in my book, online, or at the library.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: those who recognize their need for God and his loving grace. They may be economically poor and rich in faith. Unattached to the things of this world, they seek the kingdom of heaven.

file0001405663451 carnationCarnation, poor heart


file4731340648180 parsley or corianderCoriander, hidden worth





 Blessed are those who mourn: those who lament their present state and weep for their sins, and for the souls in purgatory. They will be comforted by God.

file0001186517680 zinnia and Divine MercyZinnia, thoughts of absent friends

file6971301019924 PansyPansy, clarity of thoughts





 Blessed are the meek: those who are far from being week, they possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the face of adversity. They will inherit the world to come.

file0001673080711 sweet woodruffSweet woodruff, humility

_MG_6856 fernsFerns, sincerity





Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: those who choose, as their first priority, to live rightly according to God’s will. They will be satisfied by God with eternal rest.

file7651243141762 black eye susanBlack-eye Susan, justice

file7181279389027 poppyRed Poppy, consolation





 Blessed are the merciful: they imitate God’s mercy by extending forgiveness to others. They are patient and understanding in bearing others’ faults, in being charitable and compassionate. They will receive God’s mercy in their final judgment.

file0001965829310 chamomileChamomile, patience

file0001389942275 ladys mantleLady’s Mantle, comforting





Blessed are the pure in heart: those who act with integrity in their thoughts, words, and deeds. They intentionally act to keep themselves undefiled by evil and lustful thoughts. They will be united with God, will see the Beatific Vision in eternity as the angels see him now.

file1011261996332 dillDill, powerful against evil

file0001484766303 lavenderLavender, devotion and virtue



Blessed are the peacemakers: those who strive to live in peace with others, and attempt to sow peace in their world through sharing the Gospels. And to share the Word is to be a child, a son of God.

PICT2587 irisIris, a message

DSCN1378 yarrowYarrow, everlasting love





 Blessed are those who are persecuted: those who are abused, slandered, and oppressed for being a public witness to Christianity. They are a target for hatred. Persecuted Christians will receive great rewards in heaven.

IMG_0752 bayBay Laurel, glory

file3021341154406 mossMoss, enduring devotion






(All images courtesy of