Dear Readers,
      How I enjoy my garden! Once spring arrives you’re likely to find me there digging, weeding, pruning, planting, and watering. I pray while I work and this week it set me thinking about the gardens in Scripture: the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus was buried and where Mary Magdalen mistook Him for the gardener. I have different gardens too: my "Mary Garden" with Our Lady’s statue (blessed by a dear priest who beautifully sang the Salve Regina in Mary’s honor.), an "Angel Garden," a "Daisy Garden," an "Azalea Garden." We keep adding more to make our little yard as much like paradise as possible.

There’s something almost mystical about gardening, with rich symbols for parenting and the spiritual life. Every gardener knows the easiest things to grow are weeds. Many, like dandelions, have deep taproots almost impossible to get out. If even a small bit is left it grows back, like habitual sins deep-rooted in us. No matter how often we apply the weedkiller of Penance we find them flourishing again and must be eternally vigilant or they’ll take over our souls.

Then there are the applications to parenting. Plants are unique, like children. Some like sun, some shade, some need well-drained soil, some grow well in boggy ground. We need to think about our kids’ individual personalities and temperaments and nurture each soul accordingly. Roses need more TLC than daisies do. Sunflowers and impatiens won’t thrive in the same spot. Better treat the prickly pears with care. But inside they’re soft and mushy.

Did you ever notice the best time to pull weeds is after a storm when the soil is soft? Often God allows turmoil in our lives to soften our hard hearts. As parents, my husband and I find our children most teachable after a big mistake or crisis when Mom and Dad are there loving them through it, watering them with our tears and prayers. A kid in trouble is often a kid who’s ready to listen. I never give up on one of my plants unless it’s dead. Amazing what miracle-gro, patience, and persistence can accomplish, or maybe transplanting to another spot. The same with our children. We may not see any progress for a long time. I thought of that while I waited for weeks to see my golden hosta and sword ferns sprout. Was anything happening? Why was it taking so long? Don’t give up, particularly with young adults. Be there when needed, but don’t stir up the soil too much. Sometimes a little benign neglect is helpful. Above all be patient. Believe that Jesus, the gardener, loves your precious flowers more than you do, and things are germinating even though you don’t see it.

One last piece of gardening advice — sometimes you need a little outside help, whether it’s going to the library with a diseased twig to talk to the County Extension Agent, or pulling out the gardening encyclopedia to find out how to handle slugs and scale. Knowing when to get help in the family is practicing the virtue of prudence. We live in difficult and challenging times. You can’t do much gardening in a hurricane or a tornado, but for most of us those situations are rare. Occasional thunderstorms are more common and they are usually intense for a short time followed by clearing and sunshine.

May your gardens bloom abundantly! Come visit mine. The blue hydrangeas are in their glory. We’ll sit in the Mary Garden and pray the rosary.

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