Sustainable Joy

Written by Barbara O’Brien; CEC Educator and Clare Gardens Farmer

June has swiftly turned to July and we find ourselves enjoying the fullness of summer life here at the Catholic Ecology Center (CEC). Butterflies, frogs, beavers, blossoming bergamot and yarrow, robber flies, and bluebirds – to name only a small portion of the wildlife abounding on the grounds of the CEC.

But there are other, less wild, kinds of life abounding as well – Clare Gardens is well underway with its first season at its new location at the CEC. Surrounded by prairie grass and woods, the gardens are flourishing with a plethora of fresh, delicious vegetables — and there’s plenty more to come as the season continues!

Last Thursday brought a visit from a group of residents from Trinity Woods, one of the several senior living homes to which we provide our harvests each week. Tom the driver along with other staff members joined the residents for a lunch in JPII Hall followed by a brief welcome from CEC’s Executive Director, Joe Meyer, and Clare Garden’s Farm Manager, Anna Metscher. With sun-hats on, we then set off on a tour of the Clare Garden fields, greenhouses and flower beds — and the Holy Hen House. The day was a fun occasion for both the residents and for us on the farm crew.

Farming is intrinsically connected to sustainability and calls us back to the command God gave our first parents in that first garden on earth. To be a good steward does not only mean growing and maintaining the fruit of your hands, but also sharing that fruit with our neighbors. Seeing these men and women who eat the food we labor to grow and harvest was a great gift. And, speaking for myself, it also gave new meaning and purpose to the sore muscles and long days in the sun. There truly is a special joy to be had in laboring for other’s benefit.

One aspect I love most about farming is how conducive it can be towards thoughtful reflection in the midst of work. Since starting here over a month ago, I have had many such moments for reflection. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the CEC and the ordered space of Clare Gardens, I have especially dwelled upon the wonder of creation and all the riches a farmer can cull from its storehouse of gifts. While there is a great deal of ingenuity, planning, and wisdom needed for any successful farm, there is also a certain trust and humility required in reckoning with forces greater than us. The same wonder I have in seeing the transformation of a caterpillar into a monarch butterfly follows me as I marvel at a tiny seed putting forth a bountiful harvest.

As summer carries on, let us pray that we have a successful season and that we are able to share the fruit of our labors with humility and trust. St. Isidore, patron of farmers, pray for us!

Litany in honor of St. Isidore the Farmer, patron of farmers & workers

Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
St. Isidore, pray for us.
St. Isidore, patron of farmers, pray for us.
St. Isidore, illustrious tiller of the soul, pray for us.
St. Isidore, model of laborers, pray for us.
St. Isidore, devoted to duty, pray for us.
St. Isidore, loaded down with the labors of the field, pray for us.
St. Isidore, model of filial piety, pray for us.
St. Isidore, support of family life, pray for us.
St. Isidore, confessor of the faith, pray for us.
St. Isidore, example of mortification, pray for us.
St. Isidore, assisted by angels, pray for us.
St. Isidore, possessor of the gift of miracles, pray for us.
St. Isidore, burning with lively faith, pray for us.
St. Isidore, zealous in prayer, pray for us.
St. Isidore, ardent lover of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.
St. Isidore, lover of God’s earth, pray for us.
St. Isidore, lover of poverty, pray for us.
St. Isidore, lover of fellowmen, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most patient, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most humble, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most pure, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most just, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most obedient, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most faithful, pray for us.
St. Isidore, most grateful, pray for us.

Jesus, Our Lord: we beseech You, hear us.
That You would grant to protect all tillers of the soil: we beseech You, hear us.
That You would grant to bring to all a true knowledge of the stewardship of the land…
That You would grant to preserve and increase our fields and flocks…
That You would grant to give and preserve the fruits of the earth…
That You would grant to bless our fields…
That You would grant to preserve all rural pastors…
That You would grant peace and harmony in our homes…
That You would grant to lift up our hearts to You…

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.

From lightning and tempest: deliver us, O Lord.
From pestilence and floods…
From winds and drought…
From hail and storm…
From the scourge of insects…
From the spirit of selfishness…

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us, O Lord.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

Grant, O Lord, that through the intercession of Saint Isidore, the farmer, we may follow his example of patience and humility, and so walk faithfully in his footsteps so that, in the evening of life, we may be able to present to You an abundant harvest of good fruits, You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

To learn more about Clare Gardens or to volunteer, Click Here

Barbara O’Brien is the newest staff member at the Catholic Ecology Center. Barbara comes to the CEC from the east coast where she taught catechism in the South Bronx and most recently as a resident director at Thomas Aquinas College. She grew up in the driftless area of WI where she also worked on an organic farm. Barbara graduated from Thomas Aquinas College on the west coast with a degree in Liberal Arts. In addition to being an educator at the CEC, Barbara works at Clare Gardens, the organic farm on-site. She is excited to share her robust faith and love for God’s creation.