Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Planting Hamamelis intermedia "Jelena"

I planted a Witch Hazel tree today with the pretty name Jelena. Here's how the  catalog describes this February-March bloomer:
This is a favorite of ours for bringing color to winter gardens. The large ribbon-like petals gleam copper orange, and in autumn, the shrub lights up again as its green leaves turn fiery shades of red and yellow.
Winters can be hard here. One long time resident told me that her family had a large Mother's Day barbecue-picnic where they kept the beer and soda cold in the snow under a tree.  

Digging a suitable hole for any tree is a many-houred task. The old saying about the soil in these parts is: For every piece of dirt there's three rocks. I used a car jack once to dislodge a boulder from the ground.

When the hole is dug and the augmented and de-rocked soil pulled back around the roots, it's time for a short prayer. Bless you, little tree. May you be safe and happy here. May you flourish according to God's design. That's a nice prayer to pray for people as well.

~ ~ ~ 

But I'm also prompted to ask myself and the readers of this post: We all plant ourselves in something. What are you planted in?

A Christian ought to be firmly planted and rooted in the Gospels. Many Christians, including clergy, are more planted in churchman-ship which is not the same as the Gospels. Churchman-ship means being busy about parochial things: church committee meetings, church finances, dogma-fighting bloggers, church connections, inside church information. For the clergy: power, recognition, clerical maneuvering and ladder climbing. 

It would require a tremendous self-awareness and honesty before Christ to acknowledge being rooted in nationalism. Nation before Christ. And it's not just politicians who are nationalists more than they are Christians. People who are plugged into certain TV and radio stations can have a bad case. Militarism often goes hand in hand with nationalism. Scary how many Christians there are who are itching to send young people to war. They distance themselves from the horror of it by the use of the casually tossed off phrase: Boots on the ground.

Or to be rooted in consumerism. Our country is all over the planet and it's not all about wanting everyone to share in our freedoms and form of government. Are wars being fought so we can secure or protect the precious metals needed for us to maintain and advance our computer and media centered life-style?

I mentioned in a sermon once that many Christians know their bank books better than their bibles. One honest fellow stopped me afterwards, nearly in tears, that he had never thought about his life that way before. 

We never have to leave our homes to spend the entire day shopping as the products sold on commercial television seem to be getting more and more ridiculous. Are diseases being invented just so we can buy the remedy? Thomas Merton wrote in the 1960's of the foolish trap even a monastery can fall into being known more for the beer, wine, cheese, jelly and vestments it produces than for the depth-holiness of its monks.

Or I can be planted in resentment, anger, addictions, projecting anxieties. I expect Jelena will flourish - blooming prettily in February-March because she's been carefully and well-planted. But how about it?


  1. I try to stay rooted in thoughts of "What would Jesus do?". I think about how He would react to situations And try to rid myself of prejudices and bias. I take your words to heart Father and wish you good thoughts as your plantings continue to grow and blossom.

  2. Yes, but I must also ask, "What would Jesus do?" even means. I'm not a first century Palestinian Jew under Roman rule. I can't "ape Jesus' stigmata" Jung says. What would Jesus do means that"I would live my own unique self as authentically and as beautifully as Jesus lived his" Jung goes on to say. Isn't that freeing!?

    1. Yes, to live authentically is most important. We should embrace the true meanings of the teachings of Jesus and not be turned around by the misguided human interpretations.

    2. We might begin with just Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7) Many Christians have never read it.

  3. Father Stephen, you are the kind of priest every parish should be blessed with at least once. I can tell that you must challenge and motivate your parishioners to be better Christians from within themselves to their family, friends, neighbors, etc. Challenge is not always easy, but is necessary to grow. Thank you for sharing your spirituality with the rest of us who may be far in distance but close in heart.

    1. "Close in the heart." That's all that matters.

  4. ironic i was thinking of where to plant the small christmas tree that i have been trying to keep alive till spring. i think i will plant it where a large elm tree once stood and hope it takes.
    it hasn't been doing the best indoors and maybe this is what it needs. i will say the above prayer in memory of my dear mother that passed in feb. this was our last christmas tree together.
    -greg h.

  5. This was great. Thank you, Father.