Staying on the Narrow Road in Gardening Our Souls

Julie Davis comments on the Parable of the Sower:

Listening to the Gospel reading last Sunday with the parable of the sowers, this was the very thought that ran through my head. Yes the soil may be packed down hard from people walking on it, but if someone hoes it up, adds some compost, and the soft rain falls? Then it too may be fertile.

To which I’d like to add a thought.

Years ago, when our then-pastor preached on the idea of mulching and composting in order to improve the fertility of one’s garden, I was very relieved.  I didn’t need to worry I would some how just turn out to be the wrong sort of dirt, too bad, no eternal life growing here.

As Julie puts it:

In my own life, I can see that the more often I examine my conscience, cultivate the virtues, repent of my sins in confession, and so forth, then the more God’s grace can enrich my life.

All this is a tremendous consolation . . . some of the time.

The difficulty being that life is like gardening.  By which I mean, and let’s just smash that sentimental soundtrack you’re tempted to play in the background as I say it: Gardens go through seasons.  Even in the tropics.

You aren’t always mulching, or always plowing, or always sowing.  There’s a time to let the chickens in, and a time to keep the chickens out.  Like they lived it in Farmer Boy, there’s a time for getting up before dawn to salvage the crop, and there’s a time for leaving the farm to the kids while Mom and Dad head off on vacation for a week.  Even though you know there’s not going to be any sugar left in the barrel when you get back.

It’s easy to err in both directions. In our laziness we can be inclined to leave the garden to mind itself, and just assume a great crop is growing in the abandoned soil of our souls.  It won’t.  The soul needs to be worked.  It needs regular attention.  But we can also scruple, and those of us who swing through states in life are particularly prone to this type of scrupling.

We know that Mr. Laborer can’t spend the same number of hours at prayer as Brother Contemplative.  They both pray and work, but the one does relatively more work, and the other relatively more prayer.  Both, responding to their respective vocations, grow in holiness through their efforts.  The trick is in knowing which man we are right now, today.

We can’t say, “Oh, doing ________ is my calling, I don’t need the sacraments!” or “My work is my prayer!” Nonsense.   But we can abandon ourselves entirely to the will of God in unusual or chaotic seasons.  We can acknowledge the frosts, freezes, droughts and floods that come our way.  We can acknowledge that just now we have less time for composting the garden of the soul, knowing full well that there is a day coming soon when, result of the relatively less attention we’ve lavished on purely spiritual things, weeding and smashing bugs are going to be the order of the day.

File:Brown marmorated stink bug feeding on apple.jpg

Gardening is a helpful metaphor, but man I hope the state of my garden is not a reflection of the state of my soul.

 

 Updated with a Related Link: Everything ever written by Margaret Rose Realy.  Who has a new book in the works, hurray!

 

About Jennifer Fitz

Jennifer Fitz is the author of Classroom Management for Catechists, and vice president of the Catholic Writers Guild. In addition to her pile of Catholic writing for Patheos, you can find her at CatholicMom.com, New Evangelizers, and Amazing Catechists. When she isn't blogging, teaching, or complaining about something, she likes to play outside.


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