Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lord, visit this vine

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

Lord, visit this vine your right hand has planted.  (Psalm 80)

Not long ago I took up the art of cultivating, inspired toward this end by a giant spikey vine that was growing out of a yam I hadn’t eaten.  A friend had suggested I could cut it away from its parent vegetable, grow its roots in water, and replant it to build a healthy ornamental vine.  I followed her advice and through the cultivation of several other yams, grew a very lovely set of vines which are perched attractively on the windowsill where I live.  After a few months in a small pot, I transplanted the vines into good soil in a big empty plastic spinach box.
And then……

….my vine just didn’t do anything. 

It did not die, a fact for which I was grateful.  But it also didn’t exactly go “on mission” if you get my meaning.  When I questioned its lack of effort, it seemed to say – “we’re hangin’ out, stop complaining!”

So since I had become disillusioned with those yam vines, I threw my energy into basil seedlings, and also into an ivy plant purchased at the grocery store.  The basil exploded from that grace-filled product called Miracle-Gro, and I’ve since learned how to grow new basil from an original plant (completely easy to do and makes great gifts).  The ivy grows two inches every day through some mysterious interior felicity.  My greedy need for results was satisfied by these two plants.

But about those yams I was sad.

Then one day I was speaking with my novice director who has an impressive green thumb.  I explained how disappointing that not-to-be missioned plant was.  She asked about how it was situated, to which I responded, “you know I even moved it from a small pot to a nice big one thinking it would appreciate more room – and then it just sits there – even after I give it Miracle-Gro.  What an ingrate!”  To this she answered that it probably needed to spread its roots out within the larger container. 

Never underestimate the wisdom of the novice director.
The yam vines, as it turned out, were not at rest, but were spreading their roots, seeking to fill the interior space within limits they could not breach without my help.  When the roots had reached those limits, assured my now mentor and friend, the vine would start to grow outwardly, and visibly.

Many theological questions can be raised from watching the “logic” implied in such a plant’s “results”.  On Thanksgiving, a communal feast in which we celebrate the abundance God has given our nation, we might consider the kingdom God is building through the consecrated life for which we were chosen.
God has planted each of us, and all of us, as a special cutting meant to contribute to a larger cultivation.  He has circled each one, as well as the whole, with a limit within which we set down roots through the help of grace, and from which we grow fruitfully outward.  My sense is that women religious remain eager to thrive and even to grow beyond the limits now constraining us.  But we must wait for the eternal vinedresser to accomplish this last feat for us.  In the meantime, may our interior lives be strongly rooted in the Lord, may we seek to fill the space in our hearts with love for Him and for one another, and may we sing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the God who loves us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Joke of the Day:

What did God say to the sweet potato?

I Yam Who I Yam. 

The plant of charity in Boston (Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill)
Sister Yiyeon and myself with recent visitors, Sisters Louise Grundish and Barbara Einloth.

And the larger plant of lay and consecrated life – multi-charism, multi-cultural, collaborative…
A pre-Thanksgiving meal at my professor’s house.  Sister Meg Guider (Franciscan) teaches a class at Boston College on Consecrated Life in the 21st century.  She is pictured third from left.  The students surrounding her are both lay and religious.  They are from the U.S., Uganda, Lithuania, and Nigeria.  

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