Spending time in nature, whether in the mountains, at the beach or in a garden, frequently stirs the soul and often brings one closer to God. God is manifested in nature, and in his creation, we feel his presence. Gardening as a family activity is a way to bring both the individual members of the family closer to our Lord, as well as binding the family as a unit.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange grow their own organic garden and share the fruits of that garden with their community. They are passionate about the joys of gardening, and how it correlates to growth in faith. “Faith is believing in what we cannot see,” says Sister Mary Beth Ingham. “The first part of gardening involves faith. We work the soil, plant the seeds, water the land and believe that something beautiful will come. You’re not able to see what you’re growing, but you’re optimistic that something is coming. Faith is like that. We pray to God, ask him to work in our lives, and the fruit comes later.”
We’re partnering in God’s creation when we nurture our gardens. “A garden is not just for us. The fruits of the garden are to be shared,” says Sister Patricia Hayhurst.
Growing a garden is a wonderful opportunity for discussions with children about sharing the bounty harvested from their efforts. Deciding who will receive the fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers is not as important as the act of sharing itself and what it teaches a child.
It may take days, weeks or months before your efforts in the garden are visible. The same may be true of our prayer life. The transformation of a person who immerses himself or herself in prayer also takes time. “In my experience, no matter how well I’ve weeded in my garden, there are always more weeds under the ones I see,” says Ingham. “That’s a metaphor for our spiritual life. We all have things that trip us up, that interrupt the beauty of our lives. Every time I think I’ve gotten the weeds out, I find more. I have to always remain attentive to the garden within me, which is my life.”
Sister Mary Rogers is very engaged in the preparation of soil before she plants her seeds. “When we’re digging into the soil, and it’s moist and wet, working with creation in your hands, it’s impossible not to see God,” she says.
Children also sense the presence of God when they are surrounded by nature. Planting items that grow quickly, like radishes, helps them stay intrigued with the gardening process. Special spaces for a specific child, such as a vegetable box or a fruit tree, create excitement and a sense of responsibility for their own little plot of land.
Even a small area can be transformed into a magical oasis when flowers abound, and butterflies and birds are hovering about. For families who do not have the space to create their own garden, the sisters suggested participation in a community garden, and planter boxes on a windowsill to grow herbs such as basil, cilantro, rosemary and oregano. Homegrown herbs can add delicious flavor and zest to any meal.
There are a number of community gardens in Orange County. You can find a list of public gardens here: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/top-lists/the-community-gardens-of-orange-county