Fr. Peter Daly
April 25, 2006
ďThe kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer Godís heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth.Ē
††††††††††† That little verse is on a little sign that used to stand in my motherís garden in Baltimore. Ma lives on the 12th floor of a high-rise now, so she doesnít do much gardening these days. But I saved the sign and put it in the flower bed behind my rectory.
††††††††††† In these days just after Easter, a lot of people celebrate new life by getting their hands dirty in a garden. Even I got out in the dirt a little Easter week and did a little digging.
††††††††††† My mother used to love to garden. But she didnít have much time for gardening when she was busy raising 8 children. As the eldest boy, I was often delegated to do the yard work, mostly weeding and grass cutting.
††††††††††† Those duties werenít too bad in the house I grew up in. We lived in a row house on the South Side of Chicago. The front lawn was a postage stamp of grass. The back yard was just barely big enough for bad mitten. My dad bought us one of those old rotary push mowers in the days before power mowers. The blades were always jamming up.
††††††††††† Through my teenage years, I made money doing yard work for neighbors. †I forced that old push mower through tall grass and pulled tons of weeds and clipped miles of hedges.
††††††††††† Every now and then I carried out bigger plan for planting a garden devised by the lady of the house. Even though the work aggravated my allergies, I loved it.
††††††††††† It was better than working inside. (My other job was stock boy at a local department store.)
††††††††††† Yard work before power tools was peaceful and quiet. It was also solitary. I could talk to myself or to God. I liked the time alone. For a teenager who didnít have a lot of friends, it was a kind of refuge.
††††††††††† Later, after college, when I lived in rural Virginia, I expanded my garden beyond flowers, bushes and grass. I had a vegetable garden. From spring to fall it gave me something to do. There is no greater satisfaction than eating your own produce. It gives the sense that you have cooperated with God in making something.
††††††††††† The scripture is full of gardens and vineyards. Genesis depicts God as the great gardener who gave us the perfect garden.
††††††††††† Psalm 80 talks about how God transplanted Israel, His vine, from Egypt to the garden in Zion, which he cleared and tilled for his vineyard...
††††††††††† Isaiah talks about gardening. When God turns away from Israel, Isaiah compares the plight of the nation to an abandoned garden.
††††††††††† Jesus prayed in gardens. He told parables of God as the great farmer who calls us to work in his vineyard.
††††††††††† I wish I could do more work outside. Volunteer parishioners tend our parish† grounds, which include a little church cemetery. It is done beautifully out of love.
††††††††††† Last year one man named Sal worked right up to the week he died in our flower beds. It was his final gift to his parish.
††††††††††† All I do is putter around the rectory flower beds. I like feeling the sun on my neck. I like scratching at the dirt. It is a nice diversion from listening to peopleís troubles or sitting at a desk.
††††††††††† At the end of a day of gardening I feel tired but I sleep well. I feel like my whole day has been in Godís presence and in His peace.