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Helen Syski observes that like plants, each soul needs pruning true to its unique nature if it will produce fruit. 

On the outside we looked like perfectly trimmed boxwoods. Thick, green, neatly trimmed. The mold and dead sticks on the inside had yet to be exposed. This is how all bushes look after years of being treated by the uniform authority of the hedge trimmer. When you adopt a spirituality that provides a recipe of pious activities for sainthood, you can be sure to rot from the inside. 


Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature; the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush, not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully. (Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, Peace of Soul, 186) 


Every gardener knows that each bush, depending on its type, is pruned differently.   

A yew will sprout new growth even if you do a severe pruning below the existing greenery. A juniper will not; the dead wood will never sprout new growth and the bush will die. Are you a soul that does well with severe pruning, or do you need a gentler approach?   

Forsythia is at its base a collection of shoots. You need to cut off the old ones so the new ones can rejuvenate the bush by growing alongside. Rhododendrons grow well from single trunks, but need the little shoots trimmed off the base to direct its energy to the blooms. Do you thrive juggling smaller, changing activities, or are you more fruitful with a single mission? 




Some bushes you prune in winter because the flower buds form in spring on new growth. Others, you must trim after the blooming because the buds were formed last summer and amazingly sleep through the winter waiting to come to life. Prune these in winter and you will have few blooms. Do you need a long period of warmth and rain to grow and flower after a time of hardship? Or does your growth come as soon as the ice thaws and then burst into bloom?  

When bushes are repeatedly trimmed with hedge trimmers, the sunlight and fresh air can no longer penetrate the thick outer shell. The inside of the bush becomes brittle, full of dead twigs and growing mold. The structure becomes weak because it is not trained properly. In being forced to conform to the outside form, the inside is left a mess. Healthy pruning means selecting branches and cutting them within the plant, in the right place at the right time. This keeps sun and air flowing through the plant and keeps its structure strong, and then allows the plant to grow into its correct shape.  

The hedge trimmers are the pressures from without to assume rigorous pious acts. The loving gardener is our Father in heaven, who prunes from the inside, with precision and insight. When we live under the gaze of our loving Father, we will learn to love ourselves as unique, beloved creations. He will prune us from the inside, making us healthy and holy and strong.   

Embrace the unique soul that God made you. Allow the Son and the Holy Wind inside of your soul and keep God alone as your gardener! 

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Copyright 2024 Helen Syski
Images: Canva