By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
When I was serving as parochial vicar at St. Joseph parish in Richardson, I observed something about the trees in the courtyard that amazed me. If you’re familiar with the layout at St. Joseph, you know that between the church and the rectory is a courtyard. From my room I could look through the window and enjoy the beauty of the courtyard, which is adorned with beautiful seasonal flowers. Within this courtyard are some mature trees. One year when we experienced a severe drought in Dallas, these trees dried up and the leaves fell off. They were looking terribly naked.
One day I looked through the window of my room and saw a four-liter jug that appeared to have some liquid in it tied to the trunk of one of the trees. Something like a tiny hose ran from the jug to a syringe that was injected into the tree. I didn’t pay much attention to it at that point, and I didn’t bother to check what it was. But after a few days I observed that this particular tree was becoming fresher compared to the others, which had no jug attached. And the leaves started to grow again. I became curious, so I went to check. I saw that the jug had a label with names of nutrients listed. I found out that the tree was actually being injected with nutrients containing various types of vitamins. These nutrients gave nourishment to the dried tree and brought life back to it. A few days later, the jug was removed and another jug of nutrients was placed on another dry tree. The same thing happened to that tree; it started to blossom while the others remained dry. This experience informed my decision to begin taking some over-the-counter nutritional supplements, believing that they will freshen me up. (Whether they have the same effect on me or not is a question for another day.)
However, my observations and experience of what happened to the trees in the courtyard made me think. It made me reflect more deeply on the effects of prayer on our spiritual life. Like these trees, from time to time we experience some dryness in our lives, sort of a spiritual drought. Those times when things don’t seem to go the way we intend them to go, when sickness strikes, when resources become tight, when we feel alone and abandoned, when things are just falling apart around us are times of a kind of drought. Such moments can introduce a sense of spiritual dryness in us. At times like these, prayer can serve as the nutrients that will provide spiritual nourishment to our lives. Like the jugs on the trees in my story, prayer provides the essential nutrients that we need to recharge ourselves and bounce back to life again. The more we pray and enter into a deeper relationship with God, the more our spiritual lives grow and blossom. But the more we stay away from prayer, the more we deny ourselves the essential vitamins our spiritual lives need to flourish. Consequently, we remain spiritually dry and spiritually malnourished.
As we observe the season of Lent, we are once again presented with the opportunity to supplement our spiritual lives, to remedy our spiritual drought, by a renewed life of prayer. Lent is a reminder that God’s supernatural grace to withstand all circumstances is always available for those who walk with Him. We need our spiritual vitamins all the time. Prayer provides the nutrients that keep our spiritual lives alive and active.
We bloom when we pray.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano.