Peony and the saint

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 17, 2023

St. Francis statue in Mary Anna’s garden admires beauty of a peony. Photos by Warren & Mary Anna Harbeck

The beautiful gardens around town have sure been speaking to me. In fact, they’ve invited me to revisit sacred moments in Mary Anna’s garden.

I was walking through my wife’s garden, and what should I see? Why, her statue of St. Francis of Assisi looking fondly at something just a pace or two from his feet! Last year it was an iris; this year, a peony. If, as he said, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows,” then clearly, this blossom was enough to drive away gloom!

And of course, that’s just what Mary Anna’s backyard garden is all about: replacing winter’s gloom with the glory of summer’s bloom.

“Spending time on my knees, whether digging, planting, or weeding, keeps me close to God's earth as His partner in creation,” Mary Anna says. “I put in my effort, and He takes over, causing the plants to germinate, grow and bloom.”

From the kitchen window, I’m treated to an amazing view of the whole garden.

St. Francis, legendary for his love of God's creation, watches over the whole garden, too. “I always surround him with pansies or violas,” she says, but last year, she added the purple iris; this year, it was a Semi-double Japanese Peony.

This peony’s raspberry-pink petals around a pink and creamy-white centre seemed to be really holding St. Francis’ attention. And the inspiration for much of his wisdom? In the spirit of St. Francis, the moment brought to mind two timely quotes by his namesake, Pope Francis:

“Nurturing and cherishing creation … means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.” And “as stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family.”


© 2023 Warren Harbeck

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