Trials of a Mary Garden

We’re creating a Mary Garden in our monastery garden these days and at the same time we’re reading the parable of the sower in our liturgy. (Matthew 13, 18-23) Today Jesus explains why the seed doesn’t produce fruit. Our world is like hard rocky soil where the seed gets chocked by thorns, where birds or the Evil One take it away. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is responding to the opposition he faces in his ministry as he promises God’s mercy.

Even so, the Sower keeps sowing seed.

Sowing the seed isn’t easy, the parable says. Creating our Mary Garden won’t be easy either. The weather these days isn’t cooperating, for one thing. Hot humid weather and sudden rainstorms are like our parable’s rocky soil and swooping birds. Some of the flowers and plants we were hoping to plant have suddenly become unavailable. But we hope the garden will be ready by the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15th.

The Mary Garden is not a little summer day project. Like the parable, it’s meant to teach us.. Mary Gardens appeared in 14th century Europe following the Black Death, a pandemic that caused millions to die in that part of the world. The gardens, usually found in monasteries and religious shrines, were meant to bring hope to people who feared the earth was bringing them death.

The Mary Garden is a reminder of the garden described in the Book of Genesis that God created for Adam and Eve. The garden brought beauty and healing and nourishment to the representatives of humanity. As we face climate change, a changing, challenging earth, we need to reminded of what the earth gives us– a sense of beauty, medicines that heal us, food that feeds us. We need to care for it.

Mary, “mother of the living,” reminds us of the promises of Jesus Christ, who brings us life.
Honoring her, we’re creating a Mary Garden, which we hope to dedicate on August 15th.

My mother told me as a boy years ago in Bayonne, New Jersey, there was a blessing in the water that day, and so we would go for a swim in the Newark Bay– hardly a place to go for a blessing today. I discovered later that August 15 was the day for blessing medicinal herbs in Europe. People would bring medicinal herbs from their gardens to the water of the sea, to holy wells, to the baptistery of the church for blessing. Afterwards, they would place a sprig of the blessed herb over the bed of the last born child.

God brings life to us through the earth.

A good custom to revive? I think so, but keep away from the Newark Bay.


3 thoughts on “Trials of a Mary Garden

  1. Gloria

    Thanks for this lovely reflection, Fr. Victor.
    Years ago a friend of mine told me that she went to the ocean every August 15 for a healing swim. That was the first time I ever heard of the custom. I never heard about the blessing of
    medicinal herbs on August 15. I wonder if St. Hildegarde might have started that custom.


  2. vhoagland Post author

    Hope to have a blessing, maybe after the 11 PM Mass. But stay tuned.

    Now looks like September for the blessing of the Mary Garden. Too hot to plant anything these days.
    Stay tuned.



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