Just in time for Lent, I interviewed Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB author of a beautiful book of Lenten devotions, Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent. As an Advanced Master Gardener, Margaret knows how to grow just about anything and shares her spiritual insights received while working with nature. During Lent, JoyAlive.net will feature short quotes from her book for meditation, inspiration and encouragement in your faith walk toward Easter.
Nancy: How did you develop this book with nature and spirituality woven together so beautifully?
Margaret: The book is a collection of columns from my original blog. I now write columns for the Catholic channel on Patheos. In the book’s introduction I mention that as a child I always felt God was close at hand, especially when I was outdoors playing in nature. As an adult (who still likes to play outdoors!) I try to be attentive to God’s presence in the present, in the ordinary things of my day.
Nancy: Your introduction to the Third Week of Lent readings and reflections, “Illumination” is about fear and spiritual blindness, about our nature rather than God’s gifts. What do you find as the deepest spiritual connection between nature and human nature?
Margaret: That many of the seeds God has planted in our souls germinate out of darkness, when we must seek The Light to grow.
Nancy: How does your prayer life relate to your writing and your gardening?
Margaret: They are inseparable. I am privileged to be able to spend the first hour of my morning in prayer before my home altar. Here, while praying for others and reading Magnificat, I try to be open to cooperating with God’s will. Sometimes I get an insight about an experience in nature from the day before, or I may read scripture and later find it fits with a gardening activity. I usually make note of a prompting in a small notebook that I always carry with me. Many of my readers know that I often write in the Adoration chapel. It is there, as well as at my desk, that I take these promptings and develop them.
Nancy: One of my favorite reflections in the book is “Fallen and Flowering” about the split tree that flowers even when split in two. Did you get the insight on the spot or did it come to you later when reflecting on the scene?
Margaret: The initial reaction was on the spot, and rather startling. When I went back to my car I pulled out my notebook and wrote pieces of the experience. It was a long drive back home and all the while I kept reflecting on being broken and fruitful.
Nancy: Which reflections bring you the most joy?
Margaret: I had the greatest laugh watching the little brown birds being resourceful!
Nancy: How can we become more aware of the joy of God’s creation all around us?
Margaret: I believe that joy is a thing of Heaven, and happiness is a thing of earth. We get glimpses of heaven on earth—moments of pure joy—when we quiet ourselves enough to be fully present to what is before us. Jesus calls us, and we hear it at every Mass, that we are to be free from all anxiety. The only times I have experienced that freedom, which for me is heaven’s joy, are those instances when I am truly in the moment and moved by the subtlety of God’s gifts…and all is gift. When I realized that I was entitled to nothing I became grateful for everything. Gratitude eventuates joy.
Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, is a lay hermit, Garden Society Coordinator emeritus for St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI, speaker, columnist, retreat presenter and author of A Garden of Visible Prayer, also from Patheos Press, and A Catholic Gardener's Spiritual Almanac, Ave Maria Press. She posts on The Catholic Channel on Patheos.com
(© 2013, 2016 Nancy H C Ward)