Christina Mayeux reveals how she and her daughter realized that growing in holiness and virtue is a slow, gradual process like cultivating a garden.
“Ponder the fact that God has made you a gardener, to root out vice and plant virtue.” (St. Catherine of Siena)
We harvested tomatoes from our modest garden a few days ago. They are plump and rosy, perched on my windowsill, waiting to be savored just the way we like them, with a little vinegar and some salt and pepper. Our resident novice gardener, our youngest daughter, is learning some life lessons through the gradual but rewarding process of growing vegetables.
One of these lessons is that in gardening, like in life, things take time and patience to grow and develop. We don’t always see the fruits of our labors right away. In fact, good things often take a long time but are worth the effort. When you set out to grow a garden, you plant the seed, tend it, water it, fertilize it, and patiently wait for it to produce. The same can be said for our growth in holiness and virtue. God plants the seeds of love in our hearts, and with diligence and perseverance on our part, and through the action of the Holy Spirit and grace, the seeds mature, often over a very long time. If we devoutly nourish the soil of our souls with the Word of God, daily prayer, and frequent reception of the sacraments, we will experience growth and, eventually, will bear fruit.
Growth is slow and silent, not loud or showy. We must be still and reflective to be aware of it. Are we attentive to the actions of the Holy Spirit in our souls, or are we too distracted with the clamor and noise of the world to hear His voice? Are we allowing God to do His work in our hearts, or are we getting in the way? When transplanting young seedlings, we handle them gently and carefully so they are not harmed and can develop properly. Similarly, as God works in our souls, we should submissively allow Him to guide and instruct us without undue interference with His work and His plans.
The Blessed Mother humbly and receptively became the Spouse of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation when she uttered the words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” We should try to imitate her example of humble submission to God’s work in our lives. As the events of Jesus’ life on earth unfolded, we hear that “Mary kept these things in her heart.” She pondered and meditated on what her Son was revealing through his life and death on the Cross. We, too, should imitate her reflective consideration of all that God is doing in the world and in our lives through prayer and contemplation.
For the garden of our soul to grow, we need to plant our seeds in good soil. Remembering the Parable of the Sower, we begin with ensuring the soil of our souls is rich and fertile rather than the rocky, shallow, and thorny soil that Jesus warned His followers about. In the parable, the sower saw some of his seed was eaten up by birds, scorched to death, and choked off by weeds because it was planted on poor soil. “But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:8). Jesus goes on to explain to the crowds that “the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it” (Matthew 13:23). While the good soil is those who strive daily to follow Christ, the unproductive soil stands for those who allow the evil one to steal the seed or who fall away due to tribulations, worldly anxiety, and the lure of riches.
Thankfully, God is patient and merciful with us in times when our soil is not so perfect and we are slow to grow and understand what He wants us to know. He made us and knows that we are always a work in progress, and He loves us in spite of our weaknesses and faults. When we make mistakes and fall off the path He has set out for us, He always gently corrects us and sets us back on our way. He is the Master Gardener, tending the field of humanity, always caring for His children and preparing them for the harvest.
Copyright 2020 Christina Mayeux
Images copyright 2020 Christina Mayeux