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Seeds of faith: Gardening with children for spiritual growth

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Daniel Esparza - published on 05/01/24

Through the shared experience of tending a garden, we beautify our surroundings and cultivate a deeper connection with our children and with God’s creation.

Have you ever thought about how gardening can help children grow spiritually? Being a practice that’s been around since at least the very early Neolithic, it is only natural that gardening offers a wealth of metaphors for spiritual growth. Just as in the parable of the sower, where seeds fall on different types of soil, our lives provide fertile ground for cultivating virtues.

In the Catholic tradition, figures like St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, explored the concept of potency and act, often using the metaphor of the potential held within a seed to become a flourishing plant. Gardening with children becomes not just a fun activity, but a powerful way to nurture young hearts.

Cultivating a respect for creation

Just as a seed holds the potential for a magnificent bloom, children possess an inherent capacity for virtue. Patience, care, and a respect for creation are all seeds we can help our children cultivate. As we till the soil and plant our seeds with them, we show them the importance of perseverance.

The slow and steady process of growth mirrors the development of good character. We explain the cycle of life: the dependence on sunlight and rain, of tender care, and maybe even the delicate dance between predator and prey – if any bugs decide to eat our plants. This fosters a sense of wonder for God’s creation and a responsibility to care for it — in line with Laudato Si’s message of environmental stewardship.

Row of colorful tulips

A tiny sprout pushing through the earth is a tangible lesson in hope and the power of nurturing. As kids water the plants and watch them flourish, they learn the importance of responsibility and the joy of tending to something precious. The harvest (be it plump tomatoes, sunflowers, or just your regular indoor plant that managed to grow new leaves) becomes a celebration of their efforts — and a reward for their patience. Thus, gardening provides opportunities to discuss Catholic values.

The Parable of the Sower

The cycle of planting and harvest seamlessly connects with the Parable of the Sower, where Jesus emphasizes the importance of receiving God’s word with an open heart. You can even tell your children the parable over and over, as they often love listening to the same story time and again. Furthermore, the delicate nature of seedlings can lead to some great discussions about gentleness and compassion. Even the act of weeding can be a metaphor for removing negativity from our lives.

Through the shared experience of tending a garden, we not only beautify our surroundings but also cultivate a deeper connection with our children and with God’s creation. As Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’, “tilling the soil, sowing seeds, and reaping the harvest are activities imbued with a special grace” (Laudato Si’, 9).

Gardening with children is a wonderful way to live out this grace, planting seeds not just in the earth, but also in the hearts and minds of the next generation.

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Catholic LifestyleChildrenParenting
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