Last spring the weeds in the island around the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue out in front of the monastery got badly out of hand. Not only did it look bad, but the weeds were impeding the growth of the mondo grass. It took four hours in the blazing sun to clear the circle of all the unwanted grasses and such. I swore to myself not to allow it to get that bad again. Thus, began my almost-daily “weed walk” to go “check on Jesus.”
Most days I head out of the monastery’s front door and survey the relatively new liriope beds along the sidewalk heading to the road first. I remove any foreign plant-life trying to get established and pinch off encroaching runners from the lawn. Then I cross the road to the island around the Sacred Heart statue. If the weather is tolerable and time permits, walk over to the monastery parking lot island or to the circle near the infirmary entrance. Lastly, I return to the office via the handicap-accessible route leading to the back door of the monastery. Initially, these walks took a while to complete because the unwanted plant-life was quick to recover, sending up new shoots within a day or two from remnant roots. However, in the last month or so, the weeds have become fewer and stay away longer. I might find a couple of sprouts or runners to remove with a gentle pinch, but the hard labor of digging and tugging is long past.
During one of my “weed walks” last week, I recalled St. Benedict’s words in the Rule about uprooting temptations and evils thoughts while they are still young and dashing them against the Rock, who is Christ (Prol 28; 4:50). My very practical activity had now become a spiritual discipline of sorts! I reflected on the benefits of both vigilance and diligence not only in gardening but also in monastic spirituality.
Each day we are called to be awake, alert, and ready to serve or witness to Christ. The “who” and the “how” may be known or unknown as the day begins; nevertheless, our inner disposition is to be willing to show up with our best self when occasions present themselves to us.
This high level of spiritual wakefulness is difficult to sustain all of the time. We get tired, distracted, or bored. Diligence to the rhythm of prayer and work and well-practiced obedience to the norms and practices of the community are monastic practices that support our efforts to remain spiritually vigilant. All monastic practices in one way or another serve to keep the “weeds” of laziness, apathy, neglect, etc. from taking hold within us and choking out the good we intend to do.
If we make efforts to correct little disturbances in our relationships with God, others, and self, then the fruits of our labors will be all the more enjoyable. St. Benedict states that the road leading to life is bound to be narrow at the outset, but, with the Gospel as our guide, eventually we will “run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB Prol. 48-49).
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB