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The Garden of God

June 7th, 2012by Sue Sack

Dirt. Icky bugs. Sweat. Broken, dirty fingernails.  Makes you wonder why anyone would want to spend six months of the year in a garden, doesn’t it?  Much less a garden that isn’t of direct benefit to yourself, but only adds to the work you have elsewhere.

Still, God’s Garden of Eatin’ of which I am founder and a director, is a special and sacred place for any number of people in the community.  It took twenty sometimes very discouraging years, but this regional parish food pantry community garden is featured in the summer 2012 issue of Catholic Rural Life’s Food and Faith.   We are thrilled to get the message out nationally.

Why do we keep with it?  I’ve been asked that question many times over the years! (And asked it of myself!)  Certainly there is the delight of harvesting those gorgeous tomatoes, glossy cucumbers and perfectly snappy green beans, knowing they are going to the people who need them the most.  Even more than that, though, it is the Joy of working in the garden with companions who ALSO – despite heat, mud, creaky knees, and disgusting squash bugs – experience this kind of joy.  Joy shared in a charitable effort is joy multiplied a hundred times over.  God is found in that joy!

The garden is about the joy of putting the plants into the bounty of God.   It’s about the excitement of understanding that in gardening somehow you participate in very concrete ways with the grace of creation; it’s about knowing that you are a co-creator of the earth.

And yeah, it’s about sacrifice –about that greatest commandment to love one another – not just our friends, but complete strangers who are in need.  Strangers who will never know that we gave up our easy summer evenings at home floating in a pool, or sitting on the back deck with a glass of wine, so that they could eat good, healthy food.

It’s about willingly living Catholic Social Teaching, the themes of providing for the dignity of others through fresh organic produce; about working communally for the common good; about our duty to use our talents and time as God calls us to; and of course about being in solidarity not only with our less well off neighbors, but with the earth itself.  This is about caring for creation as we should.

Finally, this effort is prayer. It is the hope that one day the unity created by the peace of Christ will be a reality, that the greatest commandment will be lived by all who profess themselves to be Christian (and even those who do not!).  It is a prayer of hope that we will be willing to look beyond our own immediate wants and needs to truly care for the body of Christ in its broadest sense.

Yep, lovely dirt and beautiful bugs and honest sweat… and God.  And I’ll stick with it, thank you!  Need me this summer? I’ll be in God’s Garden.  Come join me!

Sue Sack

Sue Sack is Director of Adult Faith Formation for Precious Blood, St. Rita and St. Paul, Englewood