A Softer Rain

The ground had grown hard from the drought. There had been a few passing rains with less than ¼” falling, but nothing had penetrated the soil enough to reach the roots of withering plants. The lawn was the color of yellow ocher.

The spiritual drought I’d been experiencing had also been prolonged, like the rainfall that was minimal; there were moments of the Holy passing by, but nothing to saturate my roots.

Though my prayers felt hollow, I was encouraged to continue each time I read the quote from St. Teresa of Avila that is taped to the mirror—“Take no notice of the temptation to give up prayer.”

Spiritual droughts are nothing new to most of us; we all experience them now and again. It’s the prolonged ones that test the endurance of our faith—the soundness of our roots, to persist and grow with and beyond the struggle.

I looked at the small ornamental crab in the front yard. For the most part it was fairing well enough. A few of the smaller interior branches showed signs of dying-off with leaves yellowed and fallen. I too know of that small dying to self.

The weather station predicted a thunderstorm for later in the day. It came, but with such force that small limbs of trees and shrubs were broken, and flowers were laid flat with many stripped of petals. It was the complete opposite of a drought; a storm with such force that most of the rain ran in rivulets down the street, it had barely penetrated an inch into the hardened soil.

I recognized a similar thirst in my parched soul; waiting to be refreshed and instead encountering a different storm. I was swinging between extremes—the hardness of depression and the reality of being blessed.

I sought the equilibrium of a steady rain. An all day rain that would reach my roots, cleans my dusty leaves, and swell the shriveling fruit.

Image: Drought, Pixabay.com, CCO, Creative Commons

A Needed Darkness, Rain Moving In

Curtains Rain file0001774425054Before sunrise the intense heat and humidity of the past few days was broken by the cooling air that preceded a storm.

Gathering myself into the morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I opened all the windows. When I lifted the sash in the oratory, the breeze drew the sheers delicately against the screens and then, just as softly, floated them back and up into the room.

I breathed deeply the fresh unconditioned air.

The rain started with a drizzle. The thunder rumbled long and distant, then near, then rolled past and away.

I didn’t know what to expect of the storm. The wind was picking up, making the tree limbs sway, and the thunder had become more frequent. I looked at the southwest sky, saw it was evenly gray and lacked the blackish-green mottling of danger. The birds continued their morning songs—a good indication of a regular rain—and so I was unconcerned as I sat down and picked up the breviary.

With windows opened wide the breeze moved easily through the upstairs hermitage. I listened to the rain drops plink on the aluminum window sills; it steadily grew into a persistent thrumming.

It was a needed darkness, a good storm, a refreshing rain. Sipping my coffee I prayed:

Dear Lord,

I thank you for the storms that move through life. Though there is darkness, there is assurance of its passing. You send the rain to cleanse, the thunder to make us attentive, and the wind to remind us that all things move according to your plan.

Although I do not like the darkness, I know your storms draw me down and away from the often consuming blaze of this world. And for every storm that moves across my heart, I will embrace it as a time to patiently wait for your return.

I pray to be strong enough to hold fast when storms become intense. And if I grow weary, to know I am not alone and to call out to angels, saints, and friends to shore me up.

I praise you Lord for dark nights and stormy days that deepen my desire for you.

Amen

(June 30, 2013)

 

(Image by cgiraldez at morgefile.com.)

 

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 morguefile.com)

 

 

Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

On the feast day of St. Juan Diego this prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, found on EWTN, has been slightly tweaked as an intercession for our women religious.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mystical Rose,
make intercession for holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all our Sisters and Nuns who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for them from your most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life,
of burning charity, and the precious gift
of final perseverance. Amen.

 

Seeds of Wisdom from Saints and Curious Sinners

thumbnailIt’s one of my procrastination techniques.

I need to get blog posts written before I get a project back from my editor that’ll need all my attention.

Instead, I’m rummaging.

It began innocently enough. The little cubbies of my desk were stuffed, layered with dust and tiny paper tabs from spiral notebooks that looked like cookie crumbs.

I tossed the old notes and greeting cards, and cardstock bookmarks, but there was a good sized handful of quotes, written on scraps of paper, that I wanted to keep. Which took me to the files…too many files. And then I wanted to find the envelope with all the little sweet comments written from friends.

I sifted through boxes and drawer after drawer—picking at this, reading that, pulling starters for columns—and not coming up for air until three hours later. What was I thinking?

Indeed, what was I thinking? When rummaging we look with an intent of finding something. Often going back to the same place a couple of times, certain that “it” is there, somewhere, we are sure of it.grouping

It was a surprise to find multiple folders—in two drawers—tabbed as something spiritual. And to find within the folders hundreds of prayers, sayings, Bible quotes, insights, pages torn from Magnificat, tiny brochures, instructional booklets—some in triplicate in different locations—and handwritten 3×5 cards dated some twenty-five years ago. A Holy accumulation of impressive size!

I was searching, yes, and avoiding what I had to do, but why…for what?

A few days ago I had driven along farm lanes to the country church for morning Mass. There are only the four of us regulars. Walking in the nave was dark, altar candles unlit, and my three compatriots were absent. It wouldn’t be the first time that only Father and I shared communion. I waited and prayed as I watched the sunlight move across the stained glass of Jesus depicted kneeling against a rock, the Agony in the Garden.

As the tower bells rang out, and still no priest, I knew Mass would not be celebrated. I was caught off guard by my tears—no communion, no Jesus. I hungered for the Eucharist. It was too late to go into town and receive at another church. Reluctantly I stepped out of the pew and stood looking to the crucifix a few moments longer. Driving home I prayed the priest was okay…and felt sad.

Not so many years ago, before my reversion, it never occurred to me that people could hunger for Mass. This day I discovered that during those years of coming home I was rummaging for God.

In my seeking I gathered words and thoughts that guided. Incremental scraps tucked in a dozen different places, seeds of wisdom gleaned from saints and curious sinners. I stored them away for anticipated days of winter, those times of darkness when my soul would be adrift.

grouping 2My decades long rummaging was not a wide eyed scanning of places “it” could be found. But more like the hand in the drawer feeling about back in the corners, shoving things aside, a little frantic at the not-finding-the-sought.

And about my procrastination day? Well, I think I am still searching for a few lost keys.

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