A Suprising Seed

thin splashes of red and gold leaves against a charcoal sky, showers of large heavy snowflakes fall between bursts of calm

Winter seems early this year. Driving home from Holy Cross Monastery yesterday, rain turned to snow for a while hitting the windshield in round splats of soft ice. The monks said they expected an inch of snow last night on the west side of the Hudson.

The annuals which can often last into November already burned and crumpled from frost. Bill put a layer of manure and compost onto the kitchen garden and I dug and turned it into the soil. I planted over 100 bulbs and now the garden I care for sleeps under a layer of warm composting wood chips.

Yesterday during Bible Study we read the parable of the yeast and mustard seed. The sister who bakes bread talked about the mysterious properties of yeast. The farm’s master-planning sister talked about the marvel of this year’s showiest annual – Mexican Sunflowers. A flat, slight, weightless seed triangle a quarter of a centimeter in length, with two little hair-feathers, grows into 10-11′ bushes 2-3′ wide. The plant offers hundreds of bright orange blossoms attracting birds and bees and butterflies – a mound of splashing color among the vegetables. Sister described using her full weight to pull out the remains of the sunflowers after the frost – solid trunks the size of a strong man’s arm. I myself used a hatchet to chop them out of the kitchen garden.

It doesn’t take much does it? said one of the sisters. If you want faith, it’s free. And all you need is that tiny feathery seed-worth. And the more you want the more grace you can have and having more and more doesn’t diminish grace for anyone else. On the contrary – the more your want the more you have the more there is.

It’s easy to get frustrated by the minutia of the farm – the aphids eating the brocolli, the voles eating the mangles, bean beetles eating the beans, and forget to stand on the porch by the greenhouse and look out upon the fecundity and beauty of the produce and let yourself marvel. Put in a mustard seed’s worth of faith and you see a profoundly mesmorizing miracle. It is good that the life we try to live together is one of awe. Daily, we call each other’s attention to marvelous things. And daily prayer opens our souls to speechless wonder.

Over the weekend I drove to Bethlehem Pennsylvania to do a program for children at the Cathedral of the Nativity. I stayed with the former formation director and her family, a young woman who now works for the diocese helping parishes to build and enliven their children’s programs. Anne Kitch also writes books for children and families. I admire her work tremendously. One evening she turned to me and said, “you know, you were instrumental in my career path. I was preparing for interim training and we were sitting on the floor looking at children’s books and you said, ‘This is your real passion, isn’t it?’ And from then on, I knew what I had to do.”

I don’t remember this at all. I don’t try to say pointed or inspiring things. I’m paralyzingly bad at advice. I tend to look at my own life as a series of failures. Ministry has been a difficult and sometimes bitter way of life for my children, my family, and for myself. On the other hand, if somehow amidst my failures, the Holy Spirit works through me sowing a seed-like sliver of faith upon some path or other – well, that’s some good.

And then, there’s those 100 bulbs sleeping in the ground.

One Response to “A Suprising Seed”

  1. Nia Says:

    You’re bad at advice? Oh, please. You are a walking, talking, loving word of advice 🙂

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