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Enclosed Garden

A baby flower
Yellow grass.
Abundant weeds.
Dying flowers.

For the past seven years, I have tried getting use to this sight as I looked at our convent grounds.
None of us had any skills or time for the garden and have let things be.

Which meant we had more weeds than grass in our yard.
Which meant the hardy mini-roses survived and the other flowers shriveled in the Texas heat.
Which meant we chopped down three trees as they slowly went to their death.

I wondered how my dad maintained our green yard back home in Sacramento.
I wondered how he planted 9 varieties of vegetables and 4 different kinds of fruit trees.
I wondered how he found the time to pluck weeds, change oil for three cars, and finish books cover-to-cover.

After seven years, I could not get use to the sight of yellow grass, luxuriant weeds, and dying flowers.
I decided to head out.

Into the garden.
Which is "geard" in Old English.
Meaning enclosure.

Gardens, by definition, are enclosed and bounded space.
The first gardens could be traced back to 10,000 BC.

I didn't like pulling up the weeds that always seemed to come back.
I didn't like nagging my sisters to save the "rice water"* for my plants.
I didn't like not knowing if my care would result in any real results.

Yet, something kept calling me back.
To be still as the tiny leaves pushed through the dirt.
To be patient as frost and tornadoes threatened to kill my work.

To let this unusual verse settle into my heart:
A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed! (Song of Songs 4:12)

I had learned that this Scripture passage referred to Mary, the Enclosed Garden.
Hortus Conclusus.

She was the rich soil in which the flowers of virtues grew and flourished.
She was the chosen land that bore the promised fruit, Jesus our Savior.
She was the secret garden in which the Trinity found their delight and rest.

There are secrets the soil keeps hidden from the bystander.
Secrets of life and beauty.
Life which springs from mud and beauty from daily consistent efforts.

There are secrets that God keeps from those who do not enter his Enclosed Garden.
Secrets of life and beauty.
Life that conquers this world's meaninglessness and beauty that doesn't depend on us mere creatures.

Perhaps this is why most of us kids can find my dad in the garden.

* Photo:  Me holding one of the first baby flower plants of the season.
* Rice water:  To cook rice, one has to wash and rinse it through 2-3 times.  This rinse rice water makes for a wonderful organic fertilizer.  The key is to remember to pour it in a bucket instead of dumping it down the drain!
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First Amaryllis of this May!
"What is it?" Dao asked me.
"It's an amaryllis," I answered.

She gazed doubtfully upon the slender plain stems poking out of the pot.
"It's a flower?" she asked slowly.
"Yes.  I know you don't see any leaves on it and the bud is quite flat, but it's a flower." I reassured her.

I had just come home from Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish and my arms were full of gifts.
Candy, snacks, fried shrimp, lotion, with knick knacks.  And the amaryllis.
All from catechists who wanted to spoil me and my community for Christmas.

The amaryllis peeked out from the tall gift bag.

According to Greek mythology, Amaryllis was a shy shepherdess who fell deeply in love with Alteo, a shepherd with the strength of Hercules and the beauty of Apollo.  Her affections were not returned and she hoped to win his heart by giving him what held his attention:  flowers.  Following the instructions of the oracle of Delphi, Amaryllis dressed in maiden's white and appeared at Alteo's door for 30 nights, each time piercing her heart with a golden arrow.  At last Alteo opened his door and he found a striking crimson flower, sprung from the blood of Amaryllis's heart.

"Amaryllis" means sparkling in Greek.
Its brilliant showy flowers has become popular Christmas centerpieces and favorite gifts because it can re-bloom year after year.

In fact, up to 75 years.
No wonder it symbolizes pride and determination. 

Determination is the flip side of endurance.
And what produces endurance?

Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3 - 5)

No wonder the flower can bloom up to 75 years.
It sprung from a bleeding heart.

What kind of flowers are you planting?

Dedicated to Mary in this month of May.

ps.  This blog is late in coming as I meant it to be a thank-you note to those who gave me these Christmas gifts.  I know I have their forgiveness.

ps2.  http://www.ehow.com/facts_5836495_history-amaryllis-flower.html
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"Fr. Alex was here today," Sr. Jacinta Ngân said.
"Oh?  Is he back from his sabbatical already?" Sr. Terry Thủy asked.
"Yes.  He came with gifts, little Jerusalem crosses for each of us," Sr. Jacinta Ngân continued.

Last year, Fr. Alex had come to say Mass twice for our convent because the priests nearby at St. Luke's was tied up with First Reconciliation for over 900 kids.  He had wanted to come more often, yet we feared for his safety.  He was over 80 years of age and his home was a good 20 minutes from our convent.

"He asked me what was the name of the sister that worked at the hospital, the one he worked with," Sr. Jacinta Ngân elaborated with a twinkling smile.  "I told him, Sr. Janine, Father, Sr. Janine."

We giggled at Fr. Alex's lapse in memory.  It was amazing that he served as a chaplain at Parkland Hospital to over 1000 Catholic patients and still remembered the location of our convent.

"Oh yes, oh yes, Father said.  Then he let opened it up.  Let me go get it."  Sr. Jacinta Ngân got up from the dinner table.

"For Sr. Geanina!" Sr. Jacinta Ngân crowed with delight as she handed me the parchment.


To Sr. Geanina and Mary Queen Sister.

An apostolic blessing from the Pope to our community.
And myself.

I told the sisters "Geanina" is my new name.
Because that is how the pope knows me.

Actually, I don't mind being called Sr. Geanina.

To be named is to become real.
To be remembered is to be gifted.
To be remembered by a priest who has served our Lord faithfully for 60 years is indeed a blessing.

In honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the one who "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."  (Lk 2:19)

More on papal apostolic blessing:

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"What is a saint?" Fr. Jaime asked.

Hands shot up in the church.
"Some one who is holy," a little girl replied.

One can spy miniatures St. Patrick, St. Rose, St. Jean of Arc, and others wiggling in the pews.
It was the Feast of All Saints and the children from St. Luke's School had come to Mass.

"What is a saint?" Father asked again.
"Some one you can pray to."
"Some one who loves God a lot."

"Last night, I saw a lot of trick-or-treaters.  Some of them were dressed like superhero characters like Batman and Wolverine.  But their powers aren't real.  It's fake because these are just stories.  But the saints, their power is real!" Father paused.

"What is a saint?"
"Some one who doesn't watch TV!" 

Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Mt 18:2-3)

 ps.  Angelo, posing in front of my "failed banana bread" the past summer.  He thought it was awesome that he got to help out!  I had forgotten to put sugar in!
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"She had just lost her baby.  It's been three hours.  And she was still holding on to it."

I looked at Carlos carefully.
He was the head of the Women and Infants Department at the hospital, 15+ years a chaplain, and a nurse.

"I told her it was time to let go.  Time to let God take control.  Time to take control of myself.  Blah, blah, blah, you know what I mean," Carlos continued in a playful tone.  A smile was beginning to break on his face.

It was not usual for Carlos to view death as someone else's loss.
He was a man of deep sensitivity.

"She looked at me after I was yakking my mouth for almost 30 minutes... Then I smelled it... Gas!"  He stopped as giggles began to engulf his sentences.

"Then she looked at me and said, 'Some things you can't control!'"

ps.  Memories of my days as a chaplain at the hospital.
Photo Credit:  http://www.xda-developers.com/android/get-more-control-of-your-htc-sensation-with-takecontrol/

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