Monday, June 18, 2012

What lies beneath affects the later blossoms in life

I have never been a person with what avid gardeners call ‘green thumbs’, even though I do have a penchant for plants and flowers.  Back home in Singapore, I had very little time to care for plants in the parish setting.  Some kind parishioners having been generous, once gave me a few pots of Gloxinia when I mentioned that I loved their vibrant hues, but I could never quite make them bloom a second time after their first flowering. 

Having lived in Washington DC for almost a year now, I have come to appreciate how the seasons affect the flora in a way that I have only read about in books and seen in the movies.  Spring has been a most spectacular time, where I have seen the magnificent blossoming Cherry trees ushering in the start of a whole cascade of vibrant colours from the multitudinous plants that can be found in gardens and parks.  If at all there is an upside to my time away from the familiarity and comforts of home, it would be the experience of the joys and breathtaking beauty that Spring presents, almost surreptitiously, to a soul that had been hitherto chilled by the utterly pallid and charmless character of Winter. 

A few doors down from my residence here in DC, along the same street, I have made an acquaintance with Mr Brown, a kindly gentleman whose garden has been a most delightful distraction for my daily walk to school.  Ewan, as he insists I address him, is a retired journalist with the local Washington Post, a fellow Catholic, who lives alone in a very charming and elegantly refurbished late 19th century house.  At the back of his house stands a plot of land, in which Ewan uses to cultivate vegetables and fruit bearing plants.  In the front of the house is a very well tended to garden in which I saw, for the first time in my life, a pink Peony bush in full bloom.  These fleeting beauties have since passed their prime, and it is Hydrangea season now.  I passed Ewan’s cottage-like house recently and stopped to chat with him about this plants, with me in the sidewalk and him in his garden.  A low white wooden fence separated us.  The setting was as idyllic as could be. 

The topic of conversation turned to his stunning Hydrangeas in the prime of their blossoming.  I noticed that some of them were pink and some were violet, almost blue-ish, and asked Ewan if they were different strains or breeds.  It’s rather amazing what interesting nuggets of information one can be a recipient of in chance meetings like these across garden fences.  I found out that if one desires violet or blue-hued Hydrangeas instead of pink ones, one needs only put a handful of copper coins in the ground where the Hydrangeas are, and in the following year, the desired-for colour would appear.  Apparently, the copper leaches into the soil, and affects the colour of the blooms.  The Hydrangea flowers, apparently, are nature’s litmus.

Thankful for this piece of garden-trivia, I bade Ewan a good day, and headed back to the castle down the street, which I call home.  It slowly dawned on me in the days following our conversation, that our spiritual life, and indeed, almost every other aspect of our lives behaves much like Hydrangea plants.

Spiritual Masters have always been quick to point out that our lives are very much influenced by what we expose them to.  A mind and heart that is exposed to mainly wholesome stories, good examples and godliness in its multifarious forms will end up with a much greater chance of being an image or even a replica of what it was exposed to than if it were to be exposed instead to examples of selfishness, evil, anger, lust and greed.  But here is where the paradigm of the copper coins affecting the Hydrangea finds its limits.

What has been planted in our hearts are not copper coins that turns our later blooms blue or violet, but is the Holy Spirit through baptism.  It is not magic, though.  God requires very much our cooperation so that our lives will bear the fruit that glorifies Him through the lives that we will lead.  Like what I mentioned a few weeks ago, every parent becomes a great influence for the soul he or she is a caretaker of.  But this is never an easy task because the human heart is hardly ever easily conditioned and guided.  The gift of the free-will is that proverbial double-edged sword which can become the cause of a soul’s sanctification or its downfall and eventual fall from grace.  It is a great gift to know that this freedom is a precious gift that comes from God. 

And it is a greater gift and grace to want to cooperate with this gift for an outcome that glorifies the giver of the gifts, rather than to bite the hand that has given the gift.  Or the ‘green-thumb’ that gives life to the blooming lives that are ours.


  1. Dearest Fr Luke,

    Coincidently, I too, discovered Hydrangea this year, during the CNY season, as I was at a plant nursery looking for a pot of plant for the festival. I was drawn to the color of the bloom – not often do we get blue flowers, and upon closer inspection, I saw a mixture of blue and pinkish blooms in the same pot. I was intrigued, to the point I made an impulse buy, attempting to try my “fingers” at rearing this new pet.
    Unfortunately, I too, do not have a green thumb as the pot now sits along my corridor, without another bloom despite daily watering. My father, who has “greener thumbs” also helped in futile attempts at fertilizing and changing its location for shade and sunshine as indicated at online gardeners’ forum. (sigh…)

    Reflecting and using my own experience as a struggling gardener as an analogy, if my plant will cooperate with my nurturing, and bloom, giving its glory to our creator, this will be the ideal desirous outcome. However, even if my plant do not cooperate in blooming, as long as it is alive, I will not give up, and will continue to look for new ways, research more into hydrangea and with undying hope for the plant to bloom again one day.

    God mayhap allowed me a small glimpse of the love He has for us. No matter how recalcitrant our behavior is in rejecting him, how corruptly influenced we become by sins, how often we bite into his patient, loving hand that fed us; He will continue to love, care, and hope in us. He will never give up on us simply because His spirit is in us, we belong to Him. And if we lack grace to see that, and the grace to use our free will to cooperate with His tender nurturing, may we pray for the much needed grace – so we can bloom into beautiful blossoms for God.

    Quoting from the lyrics of a song I heard –
    I am a flower, quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow… still you hear me when I am calling, Lord you catch me when I am falling and You told me who I am…

    Thank You Fr Luke,
    God be with you always.

    PS: Enjoy the sight, scents and sounds of spring. =)

  2. The pictures of the hydrangeas in the prime of their blooming are truly stunning and your deft description of neighbours lingering awhile, chatting over a white wooden fencing on a summer’s day is so very reminiscent of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn adventures –so much so that I’m assailed by waves of nostalgia of our literature sessions in school. And I was struck by the thought that each cluster be it blue or red or violet- is so lovely in itself that it would be most difficult to choose the most beautiful or perfect bloom among them. Likewise, it does not matter whether we are a blue or pink hydrangea but if we remember that we have ‘’planted in our hearts – the Holy Spirit at baptism’’ and as long as we cooperate to grow and bloom as we are meant to, we are glorifying Him who begets us.

    Incidentally, Fr R Rohr in his Daily Meditation, seems to be echoing what you said about this. “..........the assumption of philosophers is that you have no way to understand another thing, even minimally, unless there is a little bit of it already in you. Like knows like............................So God planted a little bit of God inside us ( Holy Spirit ?) and all things. It seduces us into even more universal love and life.”
    God bless you Fr.
    Once again – congratulations on your anniversary of your priesthood and thank you!


  3. Blessed Anniversary Fr Luke,thank you for the soul-hugging description of God's gift of nature:reminds me of His gift of Love-His son,who is with us.through the Holy Spirit,always and everywhere.
    God Bless.