Monday, 16 February 2009

First Thoughts on Leutgeb's allotment.

Dear Leutgeb,

Sure you've probably thought of all the following but in case not, here goes.

1. Have you done a soil test on your dug bit. Or do you know what the soil is like already?

2. How long has the ground been fallow? If several years and the soil is reasonable you shouldn't have to spend much on fertiliser this year.

3. Are you going to be 'oraganic'? If so I recommend getting hold of a 'GardenOrganic' catalogue. They have a website I think. Will try to find link after supper.

4. Compost heap. GO do a good booklet called 'Backyard Composting' and on several other subjects eg. Green Manures and WEEDs!

5. What are your worst ones? However meticulous you are, and that's certainly an essential approach, the weeds will come up in May unless you're fortunate and all the seed from last year's 'crop' blew away rather than settling in the ground!

6. Potatoes can't be recommended highly enough for a first crop and a thorough cleaning of the ground.

7. Clearing the plot widthwise means that by the Easter holiday you should have enough ground ready to plant 2 o 3 rows of seed postatoes (new earlies) for eating during the long summer holidays. (Your Mum won't be glazing over when she sees some of those coming into her kitchen and yours! Once again you can order excellent quality seed from GO. There's a great variety available and each type is thoroughly described. You can join the organisation and then get a discount on your orders

8. I suspect from the way you have written about the 'project' so far, that we share similar attitudes to gardening. I don't like pushing my books but I think you would enjoy them from a practical and spiritual point of view. Mark Miles very kindly put a link to Amazon on our joint blog ITSO Angels. (scroll on sidebar) All three are available ranging from £1.34 to £5.42 new and from 01p to 59p used. My little 'theology and spirituality of gardening' is given in the intro of the first book, but they all include a great deal of practical stuff as well as folk lore and history of plants, with fairly frequent reference to Literature and Music. They retail at between £9.99 and £15.99 in the Christian bookshops.

Will find some gardening poems for you and put them either here or on the Oasis. Do keep on posting about your plot on 'Bara Brith', so that I can enjoy reading about it.

Time to think about getting supper,

Sure there's something glaring I've forgotten to say...........

All the best

Monday, 8 December 2008

December 8: A Bouquet of Roses for the Blessed Virgin Mary

My entry for December 8 in 'Gardening with God' begins with A SELECTION OF OLD GARDEN ROSES, chosen especially for Our Lady. There are 15. Here they are with their date of introduction and some of their characteristics:

1. 'Apothecary' (var. officinalis) pre-1300; fragrant, pale crimson; 3 feet; bushy, tidy; small round hips.
2. 'Charles de Mills': origin unknown; fragrant; wine-red; small pink and white flecks; 5 feet; beautiful pettern of petals.
3. 'Rosa Mundi': Before 1500, slightly fragrant; pale pink, striped crimson; 3 feet.
4. 'Tuscany Superb': 1848; fragrant; dark burgundy turning to damson; 4 feet; does not have as many thorns as most roses.

5. 'Celestial' before 1800; very fragrant; almond pink; 6 feet; upright; robust; good for hedging.
6. 'Maiden's Blush': 1400; very fragrant; pale pink; 5 feet'; upright and vigorous.
7. 'Queen of Denmark': 1826; very fragrant; pink (dianthus)scented; rose madder; siver-green foliage; 5 feet.

8. 'Isaphan': pre-1832; fragrant; pink; upright; R.H.S. award winner 5 feet.

9. 'Fantin-Latour': (Provence or Cabbage rose): 1900; fragrant; delicate blush pink; 5 feet; upright; R.H.S. award winner.
10. 'Cristata': 1826 fragramt; deep pink; 5 feet.

11. 'Souvenir de la Malmaison': 1843; very fragrant; white flushed pink; 6 feet; climbing form available as well as true bush type; unlike Gallicas and albas is a repeat flowerer.
12. 'Louise Odier': 1851; fragrant; rose-pink; 4 feet; repeat flowerer; may need support.
13. 'Madame Isaac Pereire': 1881; deep pink; very fragrant; huge flowers; 6 to 7 feet; repeat flowerer.
14. 'Zephrine Drouhin' (thornless rose) 1868; very fragrant; carmine-pink; climber or bush; dead-head to ensure repeat flowering.***

15. 'Rosarie de l'Hay': 1901; fragrant; wine red; bushy, repeat flowerer; 6-7 feet; will grow in poor soil and exposed conditions."

Copyright material. Jane Mossendew 2002.

For meditation and spiritual raasons for these choices and the history and lore of the rose, please see my 'Thoughts from an Oasis ....' blog, today and during the coming week. Link in sidebar.

*** This rose is definitely Our Lady's rose this year. Explanation on the Oasis blog.

Friday, 5 December 2008

December 6 St. Nicholas: Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia)

Gardening with God: Extract III

St. Nicholas, Bishop (fourth century)

"Moneywort: (folk names - roving sailor; meadow runagates; herb twopence; creeping Jenny; l'herbe aux ecus) Runagates is a corruption of 'renegade' and has also come to mean vagabond or fugitive. An ecu was an old silver coin roughly equal in value to the pre-decimal English half-crown. Gold ecus were much heavier. Occasionally one still hears the now defunct five-franc piece referred to as an ecu.)"

(I chose the plant for St Nicholas because several of its names remind me of the various legends about him.)

"History and Lore:

Little is known about the life of St Nicholas except that he was Bishop of Myra, in south-west Turkey, now named Mugla. His cult was strong in the East from the sixth century and by the tenth was also known in the West. After the shrine at Myra was taken by the Muslims in 1087, the relics were removed to Bari, and a new church built there to accommodate them. From then on Nicholas became universally revered in the West. Legends of him abound throughout Europe and he is supposed to have saved three unjustly condemned men from the death penalty; to have rescued three drowning sailors on a voyage to the Holy Land; and to have secretly thrown three bags of gold for marriage dowries into the house of a destitute family, thus saving its three daughters from the degradation of prostitution. (This is thought to be the origin of the traditional three golden balls ourside pawnbrokers' shops.) From his shrine at Bari, there exuded a sweet-smelling manna-like substance, making the place a great centre of pilgrimage. These stories explain St. Nicholas' patronage of sailors, unmarried girls, pawnbrokers, and perfumers, but he is of course best known as Santa Claus, the protector of children, and this patronage probably has its basis in the story that he raised from the dead three boys who had been murdered in a vat of brine by a butcher........

"Towards Meditation:
Yesterday (in the 'new' calendar) we were thanking God that John Damascene did not hide his light under a bushel. Today we consider a saint whose life is shrouded in mystery. If Nicholas did throw the gold through the sisters' window, he did it unostentatiously. But even if the legend is complete fabrication, when it is set against the achievement of St John Damascene, it draws our attention, not to a contradiction within the teaching of Jesus Christ, but to its perfect balance. As far as the Word is concerned, we must proclaim it from the housetops and let the world see our good deeds, but to God's glory, not ours. These two saints together demonstrate that scholarship and charity in the service of the Kingdom must be characterised by humility and discretion.............

"A bishop is a shepherd, and in the legends of St. Nicholas we see the misty outline of a very good one. Moneywort suits him, not only becuase of its association with gold ecus, but because of its humility and secretiveness in hiding, yet spreading strongly, under the shadow of other plants. Today will be a day of prayer for bishops, and for reflection on my stewardship of the talents God has given me."

JM copyright

Update comment:
Earlier this week, I learned from Damian Thompson's 'Holy Smoke' that Pope Benedict will meet Cardinal Murphy O'Connor. not long after December 7th, in order to discuss the latter's successor at Westminster. These are the two Bishops on whom my prayers will concentrate!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Gardening with God: Introductory note to the Solemnity and Saints' days in Advent

Extract I:

"During Advent the Church is preoccupied with the first great stage of her annual journey, namely the dark road that leads to the true light of Christmas. Keeping our eyes focused on that goal, she leads us slowly but surely forward under the lamp of Old Testament prophecy. This she has kept trimmed over the centuries, and each year it comes unfailingly to her aid. Occasionally she halts on the march in order to show us some of the treasures in her pilgrim scrip. These are the Saints of Advent and its one great Solemnity, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.....

Holy Mother Church encourages us to pay attention to them, not only because of the countless numbers of souls they have already brought to the kingdom of Christ, but because by the example, teaching and prayers of our Blessed Mother and the Saints, we are continually helped to attain it ourselves."

3 December: St. Francis Xavier, Pastor (1506-1552), Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum

"Gardening with God" extract II

"History and Lore:

Francis Xavier was a Spanish Basque and an early Jesuit missionary who worked in Goa and Sri Lanka. Ignatius of Loyola had only recently formed the Society of Jesus. in support of Counter-Reformation ideals, and Francis, as well as evangelising, did much to reduce the scandal of bad Catholic example wherever he found it. He met with some success during a short spell in Japan.....Remarkably for a man who had difficulty in learning foreign languages, he translated a simplified Christian creed into Japanese, and it is estimated that by the time he returned to Goa in 1552, there were some 200 Christians in Japan. After a short while he setn out again, this time for China......He was never to set foot on the mainland. During the journey he contracted the illness that would eventually lead to his death on an offshore island, in sight of his goal. His body is in Goa. Until recently it was incorrupt, but it is no w showing signs of deterioration. His right arm is in the Gusu, in Rome. Bute's 1906 translation of the Roman Breviary reports amazing miracles, even while Francis was still alive. It claims the gift of prophecy for him but does not elaborate. He was canonised by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 and in 1927 was made Patron of the Foreign Missions by Pope Pius XI."

Towards Meditation:
"The harvest is rich but the labourers are few." (Lk. 10:2)

In my garden a curry plant and annual chillies represent Francis Xavier's Goan years and in the courtyard a Japanese Maple in a large pot commemorates his Japanese legacy. Francis was a prolific correspondent, and today in the second Office reading (new Breviary), the Church invites us to ponder a passage from his letter to St. Ignatius. In it, he describes an actual village and how the spiritual poverty of its people prevented him from eating, sleeping, or saying his Office, until he had taught them the essentials of the Faith. He goes on to bemoan the lack of other missionaries and criticises those who spend their time arguing theological points when they could be out and about helping Christ to save souls. Francis Xavier's conversion methods have been criticised, as have those of many missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant*. My answer is that Christ can only come to us as we are, namely, as creatures of our own times. The efficacy of our response to the needs of those times will depend on how open we are to His Holy Spirit, and upon how much we really desire him to move us forward and bring us closer to the doing of His will. The fact that we are sinful and unworthy to preach the word does not diminish the word itself. Through the Divine Office the Church enables St. Francis Xavier to continue preaching it almost half a millennium after his death. And 265 Xaverian Brothers also preach it in the places worldwide to which God still calls them. Truly the saint after whom they are named is the first illuminating halt on the Advent road.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

*Seven years on from the writing of this, it is probably unnecessary to explain the asterisk added at today's typing.
coyright Jane Mossendew

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Proposed links between "Gardening with God" and "In the Sight of Angels"

Early in the preparatory work for the launch of "In the Sight of Angels", the joint blog of Mark Miles and myself, he suggested that there might, be occasions when it would be relevant to include material from my "Gardening with God" books. I will shortly be publishing a post on ITSOA which will explain why and how this will work.

The "Gardening with God" series of books: an introduction

The first book in the series, with the subtitle Light in Darkness' was published in Advent 2002. By way of brief introduction to its inspiration and format I quote from the book's back 'blurb'.

" 'For as long as I can remember,' Jane Mossendew writes, 'prayer and gardening have been mutually supportive.' Her experience in both, matured over the years in gardens in Devon and France and was tested in a time of 'exile' whilst living in London....
There is a long association between the joy of gardening and the spiritual life. Tthis relationship is explored here with a meditation on one - occasionally more - plants per day, from Advent to Shrove Tuesday and the Solemnities and Saints' days of this period.....
Each day's plant is presented with cultivation notes and a fascinating glimpse into its history and lore, followed by a 'towards meditation' section, the themes of which are deepened by suggested readings from the liturgy of the day. Lastly there are intercessions, and to help busy modern Christians keep in touch with God at the workplace, a biblical 'place of spiritual retreat' is recommended."

My liturgical sources were mainly the 'new' Mass and Office. Had I chosen to work from the 1962 liturgical books, it would have been even more difficult, if not impossible, to find a publisher! That said, I trust readers will find the spirit of my work 'Benedictine' in both the historical and currently Papal senses of that word.

Throughout Advent and Christmastide I hope to reproduce daily extracts on this blog and to welcome visitors from my other blogs including the one I share with Mark Miles, the recently launched 'In the Sight of Angels'. In the meantime my prayers and best wishes for a fruitful and holy Advent to all my readers.