The Life of a Gardener: Prayer and St. Teresa of Avila

At the e-publication CATHOLIC STAND, Father Nicholas Blackwell, O.Carm. shares this reflection…

This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Of its own accord, the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.Mark 4: 26-29

The Garden: Grain, Ground and Growth

In this parable from the Gospel of Mark, the reader is taught two important aspects of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom has both a natural and a supernatural element.  These aspects intertwine with each other so that the seed of faith sown in love may grow to its fullness.  The gardener spreads the seeds in the garden (the natural element).  Once the seeds have been sown, the planting grows of its own accord, something unknowable to the gardener (the supernatural element).  The gardener’s work tells us that we are called to act in a relationship with the Kingdom of God, i.e. a person needs to “do” work.  However, the gardener’s effort alone is insufficient because the seed simply needs to “be” in order for it to grow. The gardener thus needs to rest with the “being-ness” of the seed as it grows, even though the gardener knows not how it grows.

An Insight from St. Teresa of Avila

It is in this context that I want to introduce a thought from St. Teresa of Avila.  In her Spiritual Autobiography (SA), she offers up an important image that aids her listener in their movement from “doing” to “being” within the spiritual life.  Her focus for this movement is centered on the idea of prayer.  Within chapters 11 to 18 of her work she details four ways to water a garden.  Each way helps the garden to grow and thrive, but as one moves to the different stages of watering, they rely less on their own labors and more on the “being-ness” of who God is, the Lord of the garden.  Recall that St. Teresa defines prayer as “[…] nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends” (SA Book 8, Ch. 5).  Her four ways of watering the garden explain how one moves from doing for God to finally just being with God, as her definition implies…

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markus-spiske-502390-unsplashPhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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