4 down, 21 to go: a review of A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac

I just finished the fourth book in my ambitious plan to read 25 books this year (for pleasure — I have other reading to do, too). It gives me such joy to say I’ve read a book by a friend!

I first met Margaret Rose Realy through an email introduction from a mutual friend. We exchanged some conversations about writing, and a little bit about gardening, and here we are several years later, and I’m reviewing her latest book!

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I love this month by month guide that weaves scripture, church history and traditions, with gardening advice into an easy to read and easy to follow manual for growing a beautiful garden. And the garden isn’t the only thing growing, as I find myself reading closely so I can create a space in my yard that complements my faith!

I first read Margaret’s gardening advice in her first book, A Garden of Visible Prayer, and fell in love with the idea that working with my hands in a garden could bring me closer to Jesus and Mary by fostering the work of my hands into the work of my heart. The Almanac takes it to the next logical place for me — a yearlong companion on my faith journey.

One of the quotes in the book captures the unexpected result of my growing interest in gardening:

He who cultivates a garden and brings to perfection flowers and fruits, cultivates and advances at the same time his own nature. ~ Ezra Weston

This is a special work by a very special woman. You’ll want this book if you’re a master gardener, or just like to play in the dirt, like me.

Read more of Margaret’s insights at Morning Rose Prayer Gardens. You’ll be glad you did.

Catholic Photo Challenge: Seeing God in the Works of Creation

Please check out this new project by my friend Steve over at everythingesteban blog.

Show us a photo that represents to you God’s presence in the natural world.


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Click to make bigger

My husband and I have settled into middle age and the empty nest by picking up a new hobby: gardening. I recently posted on Facebook that it’s a wonder I managed to raise three kids when I killed every houseplant I ever came into contact with, so this gardening thing is, well, comical.

And yet, we have great success. We’ve managed to grow fruits and vegetables in spite of ourselves, and we’re delighting in the beauty of flowers whose names I’ve only just recently learned.

The garden attracks butterflies and birds, and little creatures who help themselves too much to my berries.

We enjoy sitting in the backyard in the early evening waiting for the sun to go down, lulled into a quiet repose. Our silence is broken only by the occasional suggestion to look at a bird feeding, and we quickly return to our quiet state.

I should point out that we’re the ones who are quiet; the backyard is full of life and all the noises and sounds that come with that — but it’s through our interior silence that we’re able to take in all the activity around us. The different kinds of birdcalls, for instance. One of these days I hope to differentiate between the cardinals and the bluejays. I can identify my enemy, the mockingbird, and I’ve even seen some bluebirds venturing into the trees, too.

My husband has worked hard at making this little getaway for us and filling it with a variety of things to both entertain us and beautify the area, but it is the Master Gardener who ultimately put the finishing touches on this, His masterpiece. His loving touch embraced me suddenly and unexpectedly — aren’t His gifts always an amazing surprise?

Last evening, in the dwindling light, a soft breeze came up, carrying with it the scent of honesuckles. It filled the patio with the sweet scent, and it carried me back a million years (or maybe forty) to my childhood. Funny how something like a scent or a sound can do that.

I followed my nose to the source, a wild and messy blanket of honeysuckles covering a little corner of the yard that I’ve remarked is unsightly and in need of attention. God, it would seem, had me covered.

He always does.