By Barb Arland-Fye
Weeds invaded the garden and took captives: green beans, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries among them. The work schedule of the garden’s master (my husband Steve) kept him away from weed patrol. Someone had to set the captives free, so I gingerly entered the enclosed garden with a still-mending leg, carrying a hand spade and dressed to work in the dirt. This mission would provide the physical exertion I needed and an opportunity to surprise Steve.
Not able to squat yet, I confronted the weeds from a sitting position. Bewilderment set in. Some of the alleged “weeds” looked like plants to me. How could I distinguish the difference? In that moment’s hesitation, I thought back to a summer three years ago when my son Patrick, 16 at the time, volunteered at diocesan headquarters. He and another individual, a seminarian who shall remain nameless, inadvertently pulled some plants instead of weeds from Msgr. Marvin Mottet’s prized garden. Father’s garden survived, and so would ours.
The previous night’s rain eased the weed-pulling effort, a bit. Some of the weeds clung to the soil with Herculean strength and a tenacious root system. Determined to make inroads I spent two hours pulling and prodding weeds out of the garden, inadvertently sacrificing a few cucumber and bean plants in the process. My hands ached, so I had to stop before all the weeds had been cleared, but the garden’s valued inhabitants had breathing room in which to grow.
Despite being sweaty and caked with dirt, I reveled in the midst of God’s creation with a childlike awe at seeing fruits and vegetables beginning to emerge from the protective cover of leaves, of purple cabbages forming like perfect balls in the middle of their leafy nests. This little garden is a microcosm of stewardship of the earth. When I get this close to the soil, how can I possibly take God’s creation for granted? But, admittedly, I do.
Pope Francis reminds us of our obligation to present and future generations to be good stewards of God’s creation, an obligation that moves beyond weeding a garden to sharing our abundance and ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met.
In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis writes:
“God intended this land for us, his special creatures, but not so that we might destroy it and turn it into a wasteland … Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples (215-216).”
teve didn’t notice the weeding I’d done in the garden because he arrived home in the dark, but he appreciated my efforts when the sun rose. Then he went out and tackled what weeding I hadn’t been able to finish. When I arrived home from work, he had a gallon-size bag full of green peppers and another one of green beans. Now it’s time to share the bounty.