This is an excerpt from Tending the Garden: A Guide to Spiritual Formation and Community Gardens, about nurturing Christian spirituality using the garden as metaphor, written by Marshall Welch, director of Saint Mary’s Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action, and Julia Welch, steward of SMC’s Legacy Garden.

Many of us go to church to pick up some “soul” food much in the same way we go to the store to pick up a plastic bag of prepared salad. That works, of course, but only to a degree. The depth of our understanding and appreciation is limited. It leads us to wonder what is being harvested from our lives? What am I getting from my job? My relationships? The way I spend my time? These questions are deep and, at times, frightening to ponder. They are the barometers of meaning and purpose.

The garden mirrors our spirituality. It requires tending by devoting time, attention, thought and action that produce something that can be harvested to sustain us. We gain insight and derive the underlying meaning of what goes into something when we are intimately engaged and involved in the process. We have a deeper appreciation because we were a part of it, and it became a part of us. Each of us has experienced this revelation upon completion of a new and challenging activity.

Scholar Elizabeth Tisdale defined spirituality as "a way of life that affects and includes every moment of existence. It is at once a contemplative attitude, a disposition to a life of depth, and the search for ultimate meaning, direction and belonging. The spiritual person is committed to growth as an essential ongoing life goal." Growth—a key word that resonates with the gardener.

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