March 30, 2009 11:58 AM

Last year, I spent a little time musing on Springtime as a metaphor for the Church. It's a common metaphor: since springtime is a time of growth and renewal, the idea of a springtime in Catholicism is appealing.

But as we become more and more isolated from the outside world, I think we lose touch with what's actually happening in the grass and flower beds outside.

When Mrs. WRC and I bought our house nearly 3 years ago, we planted a bunch of daffodil bulbs in the flower bed right in front of the house. They were sort of an impulse purchase at the time; we were walking through Sam's Club in early Autumn and I saw a small gunnysack with a photo of bright yellow Narcissus blooms on the front. Thinking that I'd like to kind of pretty-up our house, I picked it up. Our front door has a little area next to the driveway for having a little flower bed or something, we've also got some holly plants and some dead chrysanthemums from last year in that area. That area used to have some of those big red paving bricks in it; some previous residents kept a large chiminea out there with some lawn chairs. They'd sit there and watch their kid play in the street. When we moved in, I got rid of the pavers and tried to turn that area into a planter--but the dirt was so full of sand that the soil isn't the best growing-material ever. I've supplemented that area with compost to enrich it a little--but it's still a bit anemic. The compost thing; that's another whole deal altogether. I like composting because it has direct benefits for our gardens; I also like the idea of keeping perfectly acceptable natural waste out of the landfill or sewer systems. But a compost bin isn't magical, you've got to turn it, be mindful of composition (and decomposition!), moisture and temperature levels... it's definitely something that comes at a price. But I digress.

If you're a grower like me, we're coming up on our busy time. We've already put down one nitrogen application in the yard, as well as a late re-seeding of some thin areas in the grass. Some of my neighbors have already mowed their lawn once or twice, I'm due but holding off a little longer until the re-seeded areas get a little stronger. It's time to go around with the trimmer and tidy up the edges. We're a few weeks away from a broadleaf treatment to keep the dandelions from overrunning the yard. I also fight a pretty constant battle with the clover that consumes my backyard.

Oh, and I'm running behind on the vegetable garden. We just had a one-day blizzard move through over the weekend, so I guess it's good that I didn't have too much in the ground already--but it's time to get the peas in the ground and whatever lettuce/leafy crops we're going to plant. But the soil is too wet to work very thoroughly--when the ground is muddy, you just tear up the structure of the soil and make clay mudclods instead of loosely tilled soil. So I've got to wait a little bit for the earth to dry out--and hope that it happens in time to get the early crops started! Such is the dance of springtime.

Such as it is with Lent. The word "Lent" is actually the Old English word for "spring". Fun fact: people who speak languages other than English call this season by its Latin name "quadragesima" (or a local variation of that word) that means "the forty days". But I like the English term better. (does this make me a fan of vernacularization in the Church? Hmm...) I like the reference to spring better because springtime isn't just automatic: it's a darned lot of work! Yes, the trees bloom on their own and the grass wakes up from its dormition with every lengthening day--but with those rites of spring comes springtime's natural enemies. Late snows or an unexpected frost will lay waste to the purple blooms on your redbud trees; that crabgrass that is taking hold right now will choke out your yard; the chickweed is going to get under your roses here before you know it. Springtime is a time of work. It's a time of plowing, a time of digging and planting, a time of racing against the rains and the snows and the still-too-short days.

Such as it is with Lent. Here we are, 5 weeks in--and I'm getting kind of sick of this season of Lent. Which is the point, actually. Lent is a time for tearing down and losing our little comforts. It's about doing things that we don't ordinarily do and giving up things of which we'd ordinarily indulge. It's a time of spiritual weeding and theological plowing and ethereal cultivating. Sanctification, like springtime, doesn't happen on its own. It's hard work and long hours; it makes your heart ache and your back hurt. I'm totally ready for a bacon cheeseburger. I walked by the sample-guy in the grocery store yesterday--the very same place where I broke my Lenten resolution on the first week. He was back again with little sausages skewered on little toothpicks looking all delicious and awesome and free for the taking. Oh temptation! I love little sausages. But it is not time yet and man cannot live on sausages alone (though this man would like to try for a while). For a fruitful garden, we can't just give up when the weeds seem too thick--such it is with Lent.

Our daffodils are doing fine, by the way. They're still the same bulbs that we planted two and a half years ago, I've never dug them up for transplant or anything. I've even cut a couple dozen blooms this year--and they brighten our living room with their big proud yellow trumpets. A dozen or so other blooms seem to have survived that blast of snow and winter that came and went over the weekend. They've even grown up through the chrysanthemum corpses that line the front edge of the flower bed. It's nice. They are my small encouragements to get outside and clean up the rest of the yard. They remind me that springtime is coming whether I like it or not, so get to work before it's too late. Get the ground ready for the bright petunias and the vegetable garden and that the grass needs to have the winter leaves pulled out of the corners of the fence. There's work to be done.

This new springtime isn't going to happen on its own.

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Wholly Roamin' Catholic

Dear St. Anthony