The Green Window – Living Into Sabbath

The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.

The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”

These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year. Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”

Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.

So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way! Word of God, guide us!

In the world of vegetable production, purveyors of GM seeds promised great things for the global community, trumpeting there would be greater food production and reduced pesticide use in a relatively short time. GM seeds were the answer for a starving world. This was in the late 80’s -90’s. Canada and United States bought into that message. Western Europe did not.

The twofold promise of genetically modified seeds was first, to make crops immune to the effects of weed killers and inherently resistant to many pests, and second, because the plants form these seeds would grow so robustly that GMO seeds would be heralded as indispensable in feeding the population of a growing world. This would also require less spraying of crops with pesticides.

It is a failed promise.

In the past twenty years the analysis of yields from both the U.S. and Western Europe reveals little difference between crops of non-GMO seeds in Western Europe and crops using GMO seeds in the U.S. and Canada. Overall pesticide use has increased in the U.S. while in France there have been major reductions in overall pesticide use. The vaunted abundance of crop yields has failed to materialize. One would assume similar statistics in Canada. This increase occurs despite GMO being the seed of choice planted for the major crops of corn and soybeans in North America. The reality is that herbicide use on corn & soybeans has soared. Making more profits for Monsanto. Farmers cannot save their own seed and are tied contractually to purchase GMO seeds. Although Western Europe is closed to GMO, Monsanto boasts of surging markets in other places of the globe

One is reminded of the story of David & Goliath. Yet, resistance to corporate greed is not without effect. Although some markets are certainly soaring for Monsanto, there is resistance, notably in Africa, India and South America. And they are statistically significant. Just not reported as such. There are pieces of light in the darkness of corporate deceit.

One is also reminded of a vulnerable child born in a stable, in a time of deep darkness. A light that could not be quenched. A promise that was and is fulfilled. It is to believe in the light that is stronger than any darkness of heart. We are part of those pieces of light that pierce the darkness of corporate greed every time we pray for organic farmers, buy organic food and wherever we can plant heritage seeds, whether it be on a balcony or in a field. Sometimes these seeds will be planted in our home gardens, sometime they will be the seeds of hope planted in our prayers. We all are part of bringing to birth the promise of God’s kin-dom. All are needed to quench the darkness and bring the light of God’s love to birth in our world and in our time. One seed at a time.

By Sr. Linda Gregg csj


Mar 18, 2004 to Feb 27, 2014

Our Villa Retreat Centre had always been enriched by the presence and companionship of a dog: first Chips, then Joey, and now a beautiful golden retriever, with the Biblical name of Noah, the first ecologist. Noah’s loving disposition brought healing and comfort to many who came here.

On Feb 27th, 2014,  Noah went home to God.

Last summer he contracted Lyme disease and made a fairly good recovery, although his kidneys were compromised.  He went into acute kidney failure last week – it was time for him to go home to God.

His joy of life, generous affection and unconditional love are all gifts we can treasure in our heart – and share with others, as would he.

Please feel free to share your memories of Noah

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Autumn Happenings

Harvest Barbecue!

We had a lovely harvest barbecue for the Community Garden in September with about 30 of our gardeners bringing many dishes made from their harvest – including lots of tomato & zucchini recipes, yummy desserts and some very, very hot tamale sauce! As you can imagine there was lots to eat and happy chatting all round. We all knew the garden had been blessed with God’s abundance. We also had a special chef for the barbecue Donna Smith (left) who grilled up burgers, hot dogs and got lots of smoke in her eyes!

Candidates in on the Harvest too!

We still had more harvesting to do in early October. The potatoes were in but the squash and pumpkins still needed to be brought in. So we called in the candidates! (Candidates are women living with the Sisters of St. Joseph who engage in a time of discernment with the community before taking the next step toward becoming a Sister)

A Visit From Notre Dame Catholic School On the Feast of St. Francis

 While we were planning the Retreat brochure in June it seemed a wonderful idea to invite a class from Notre Dame Elementary School (the former St. Mary’s) on the Feast of St. Francis. While we were anticipating the arrival of 33 Grade 3s  on Oct. 4th it seemed a little risky! They walked down Burnham Street with their teachers and arrived en masse at our front gate.We divided them up into 3 groups with Sisters Kathy, Helen & Linda each taking a group to three activities: visiting St. Francis and saying a prayer for animals, then our St. Joseph’s Community Garden to see how vegetables grow and then to see the lake and pick up a special rock for painting.

So they saw all this and found Noah.  Then discovered the labyrinth on the way back- and found it to be a great race track.

Then they had an activity with paper & rocks, were treated to lemonade and Nettie’s fresh baked cookies.

Before we knew it they were lining up to go back to school. When we asked what were  their favourite things from their visit here………

Noah & the cookies won hands down!