Okemo Valley Catholic Parishes
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     Father Tom's Notes

While pulling ever more weeds in the garden this week, I made two interesting discoveries: the presence of a fledgling grape vine, and an even smaller plant of ivy. Both of these unexpected and soon-to-be rid-of plants (only because they were in the wrong spot and can’t be transplanted well) brought memories of the home where I grew up in Ohio.

My Father kept a grape arbor out in the back yard, behind the garage where they would get plenty of sun. His harvest of grapes was small, but he enjoyed maintaining and pruning the vines. The grapes were usually somewhere between tart and sour, good for making jelly if you added tons of sugar. My Mother loved ivy, and planted vines near the front of our house, which faced east, as well as the northern side, which ivies prefer. Our house was a brick, colonial-style, which ivies enjoy climbing. In no time at all, both sides of the house were completely covered, so that every summer Dad had to trim them away from the windows, just to maintain some natural light coming into the house. My niece once said she thought the house looked like a big bush with eyes.

In addition to the above I found the remnant of a holly bush that we removed two Summers ago, since the deer ate it right down to the center branch. Some part of it remained underground and has pushed itself back up through the soil, so I’m going to let it continue to grow and see what becomes of it. I’m reminded of the Christmas Carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” which gives short shrift to the ivy, but describes the holly as bearing the crown of all the plants of the wood. The Carol essentially connects holly symbolically with the suffering of the Blessed Mother. Ivy, in its own right, brings images of the ivy-covered, ivory towers of academia.

The Shrine of Our Blessed Mother out in the back lawn enjoyed a marvelous Spring, with various Irises blooming in different shades of blue, purple and white. This summer, though, some serious work had to be done. The two stone benches had begun to sink into the gourd, So we pulled them out, strengthened the ground beneath them and replaced them along with the bricks that had broken in the process. One morning I spent two hours weeding and cutting back plants out there that had become too voluminous. I filled two large trash cans with the unwanted flora. I had hoped to plant a few Annuals there, but got to the Nursery too late for them, so I bought a few Perennials to fill in some of the empty spaces. The recent rain has made for good gardening.

All this talk of gardening calls to mind the perpetual activity of spiritual growth. One can only rarely lean back and enjoy it; some activity is always needed. Along with this, a certain number of “weeds” need to be pulled: those attitudes from which we would best be ridden. Trimming other un-charities will bring some spiritual growth. Replanting in the Spring (read: Lent) might also be required. Watering with prayer and its Grace will bring us to blossom. Man was created in the Garden of Eden, and it is our hope to eventually make it to the Garden of Paradise, so it makes sense to use gardening metaphors for our life’s journey, don’t you think?