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Too much of a good thing? A reflection-examen on balance

holding flower gift beauty nature

Simon Bozic | Shutterstock

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB - published on 03/18/24

One good thing out of balance can inhibit the benefit of another good thing. Learning the lessons of beauty and flowers.

St. Fiacre, whose feast day is August 31, is the patron saint of gardeners. He is known for his curative miracles, hospice for travelers, and the remarkable abundance of food shared with those in need (giving away 90% and keeping only 10% for himself).  

In the spiritual garden of his soul, he strove to keep all good things in balance; in his ministry as a contemplative monk he balanced seeking solitude with his priestly duties ministering to those who came to his little monastery.  

An awareness I recently came to while gardening is how one good thing out of balance can inhibit the benefit of another good thing. We (hopefully) all know there is good in us; especially during Lent, we should see this goodness growing through our daily corporal and spiritual acts of mercy.

A zealous Hydrangea

The Annabelle hydrangea I grow is a lovely addition to the garden, and in a prayer garden, its visual characteristics offer many opportunities for spiritual reflection: the way its root system spreads without overpowering (a symbol of how we evangelize), the reliability of its abundant blooms (our fruitfulness), and its endurance through difficult seasons and ability to adapt to most any environment (the way we can persevere in our faith).

It offers nearly four seasons of beauty, as we can do in all the seasons of our own life.

Yet despite all these many virtues of the Annabelle hydrangea, one must also consider that as it grows, it takes up more and more space in the gardens, even hiding and displacing other desirable plants.

It’s a low-growing shrub that spreads slowly, but persistently, through a shallow root system incrementally expanding into the garden, disregarding any means of confinement.

This zealous hydrangea is not bad in itself — but it may deter or hide something else needing to develop.

white flower hydrangea

What takes the most space in my life?

In Lent, a time of reflection and spiritual growth, perhaps the zealous hydrangea brings us to a few questions:

What spiritual discipline takes up the most space in my life?
How and why has it gained central importance?
How does it fill up my time and attention?
Could its outgrowth in my faith be deterring other spiritual awarenesses or practices?
What other virtues are minimized?

In this season of Lent, let us offer a prayer to St. Fiacre — not only for the growth of our food and flowers, but also for the balance of our spiritual garden as well.


Heavenly Father we offer you our thanksgiving for your son Jesus, for the mercy you shower on us, and for all you’ve manifested in the earth. You cause the spring to come, rain to water and grow our plantings, and fulfill the hope of nourishing crops.
Through the intercession of St. Fiacre please bless our fields and gardens, and encourage our spiritual growth as we joyously tend to the needs of those things in our care.
In due season may we bring an abundant harvest of both faith and food, offered to you in praise.

NaturePrayerSpiritual Life
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