When my mother passed away just before Christmas of 1995 I brought her Christmas cactus, which she’d had for a number of years, home with me. I cared for it as best I could, because I knew she loved it. Over the years I changed it from room to room, watching it dwindle then pick up, dwindle then pick up. And dwindle. Once, in the early 2000s, I really thought there was no use keeping it anymore. It truly looked dead, despite all my efforts. But a woman at our parish who was a master gardener had coincidently offered to host an evening where we could bring in a plant from home we needed help with, so I thought I’d give it one last try.
When it was my turn, I showed her my poor little Christmas cactus, and she looked totally shocked and appalled. She grabbed it out of my arms and to my horror, started ripping it apart. In less than five minutes it was pretty much in shreds, then she started poking bits of it back into the earth (into which she ground some of her own potting soil), instructed me on how to break off the tips of the leaves when they looked dead and how often to give it vitamins. Vitamins? Oh. Oh, oh.
Well, it picked up again and stayed healthy, but never bloomed. Not once in the fifteen years since my mother died did it bloom. Until this year. Just after Christmas, I noticed it had five little blossoms starting to come out on it. I brought it downstairs to show everyone, telling them it was our little Christmas/New Year’s miracle. Hubby and I watched in amazement as day after day, the blooms became larger and larger, and so very vibrant. It’s difficult to describe the joy, wonder and gratitude this little Christmas cactus has stirred up in me.
And what has all this to do with an abbot and another mother, you may be wondering. Well, shortly before Christmas I received a package in the mail. When I saw it was from Fr. (Abbot) Joseph of Making All Things New (formerly, Word Incarnate) I knew exactly what it must be, and I opened it excitedly without giving any attention to the outer wrappings.
After I had spent some moments looking at the front and back covers, the chapter headings and just leafing through it, enjoying the feel of it in my hands, I noticed the package itself. The manilla envelope had been torn in several places, and it had been inserted into a larger plastic envelope on which Canada Post had stuck a little note, saying they were very sorry that it had been damaged in transit (somewhere between California and Ontario) but that they had taped it up for me and hoped all was well with the contents. Well, the contents were perfect. Mother Mary was inside.
So I’ve been thinking about my cactus and my package, about me and about you; about all of us. Sometimes, like the cactus, we’re ripped apart, shredded to bits, by the loving, expert, skilful hands of the Master Gardener who knows exactly what we need to thrive. We may not bloom right away; seemingly infinite patience might be necessary, but a thousand days is as one day to God. Can you even begin to imagine the joy in heaven when one of us blossoms? At other times, like the package, it may be the journey that gets us; being thrown and tossed about, passing through a multitude of hands and pieces of technology, being torn apart as we travel towards our ultimate destination. But I think God is as excited to receive us as I was to get that package in the mail, torn, tattered, taped-up. I think He blesses our brothers and sisters who have taped us up along the way, but really, He just can’t wait to see what’s inside.
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There will be more on Father Joseph’s new book in upcoming posts here and at Consecrated to Mary.