Easter

Mary Gardens

on Monday, 15 May 2017. Posted in Easter, Seasons

Mary Gardens

As the weather turns warm with the coming of spring, many people are beginning to make plans for the coming gardening season. Most avid gardeners will tell you that they feel closer to God while working in their gardens than they do anywhere else. Planting, weeding, pruning, weeding, mulching, weeding, harvesting, and weeding are all opportunities to reconnect to God’s ongoing work of creation. Gardens are places to work the soil, but they can also be places to pray and seek a few moments of solitude.

 

From the earliest centuries of the Christian faith, people have seen in various plants echoes of religious and spiritual themes. Many of these are reflected in gardening folklore and even in the names of the flowers and herbs themselves: Mary’s Bedstraw, Ladder-to-Heaven, Penitent’s Rose, or Crown of Thorns. Like living stained glass, these flower and herbs became symbols of faith. And cultivating them became a means of prayer and contemplation.  Today, many gardeners plant whole gardens dedicated to religious and biblical themes.

 

Among Catholics, “Mary’s Gardens” are popular and are filled with plants whose names and folklore mention the Virgin Mary. In Washington, DC, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a large Mary’s Garden, given to the Shrine by the National Council of Catholic Women.  (Rev. Larry Rice, CSP*)

If you’d like to start a Mary’s Garden at your church or in your own yard, there are lots of resources available on the internet. You can find lists of plants, references for folklore, photos, design suggestions, and information on plants and their symbolism. 

For example:

Living Easter as a Parish

on Tuesday, 02 May 2017. Fr. Herb Weber Posted in For Parish Leaders, Easter

Living Easter as a Parish

Shortly after I was ordained, I was asked to give a tour of our parish church to an interdenominational group.  A woman stopped me and asked, “Don’t Catholics believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” I assured that we not only believed, but that that doctrine is central to our understanding of salvation. 

At that, the woman pointed to the crucifix and added, “Then why do you still depict Jesus dying instead of having an empty cross?”

I admit that I was surprised by the woman’s assumption, but since then I have become grateful for her questioning. Having grown up Catholic and having looked at a lifetime of crucifixes, I had never found any contradiction in seeing Jesus on the Cross and believing that Jesus rose from the dead.

The Easter Bunny: Pagan Symbol or Christian Metaphor?

on Tuesday, 28 March 2017. Josh Noem Posted in For Parents, Easter, Seasons

Cultural Symbols of Important Christian Holidays

The Easter Bunny: Pagan Symbol or Christian Metaphor?

Someone at work recently asked me if the Easter bunny still visits our house (our youngest is in third grade). I replied, “Our kids are pretty smart. They know when they have a good thing going, so they don’t ask unnecessary questions.”

In other words, we have an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. While we don’t go over the top to encourage the fiction (such as the elf on a shelf nonsense), we also preserve it by hiding gifts and baskets.

We do our utmost to ensure that the most important realities of the Christian holidays are not overshadowed by these symbolic characters—our kids are crystal clear about what these Christian feasts mean for our faith and religious practice. The Easter bunny and Santa are obvious side-shows to our observance of Jesus’ birth, Death, and Resurrection.

We invest a lot of time and energy into Advent and Lent, so when Christmas and Easter come around, we are prepared to celebrate them properly and whole-heartedly. Those preparation seasons include more intensive moments of family prayer (10-15 minutes of quiet prayer individually each night before our normal night prayers), and intentional acts of almsgiving and fasting.  In comparison, visits by the Easter bunny and Santa Claus end up feeling like a nice metaphor.

Recently, I was caught writing clues for the scavenger hunt created by the Easter bunny to lead each child to their basket. The kids simply noted that they saw me writing clues, and left it at that. I was contemplating this and came to an important conclusion.

Why Do We Celebrate Easter for 50 Days?

on Monday, 13 April 2015. Posted in Easter, Seasons

Why Do We Celebrate Easter for 50 Days?

Most people think of Easter as a single day. It’s never had the commercial appeal of Christmas, and because it always falls on Sunday, most people don’t get an additional day off from work. But for Catholics, Easter isn’t just a day, it’s a whole season. The Easter season stretches all the way to the feast of Pentecost. Lent, which sometimes feels like it’s stretching on forever, is actually forty days long. Easter, on the other hand, is all of fifty days long. About these fifty days theologian Nathan Mitchell writes:

‘The great fifty days of Pentecost are not an unwelcome, unrealistic obligation to “party on,” even if we don’t feel like it, but an invitation to explore more deeply “the weather of the heart,” to awaken our memory of God’s presence and power in our lives, to look more closely at all the rich and varied textures of creation.’

One way the church pursues this goal of seeing God present in the world is through the reading of the Acts of the Apostles. At Masses all through the Easter season, our usual practice of reading from the Old Testament is replaced be reading from the Acts of the Apostles. These readings tell the story of the church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith’s spreading throughout the ancient world. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.

All of this should be an encouragement and a sign of hope for us today. Despite war, violence, personal struggles, and an under-performing economy, God has not abandoned us, nor left us to our own devices. The risen savior is still with us. These 50 days of Easter ask us to reflect on his presence, and—even in the face of danger or fear—to live with joy.


by Rev. Lawrence Rice, CSP.  Originally published on ForYourMarriage.org. Copyright 2015 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Used with permission.

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