The Hermitage Farm

While dirt farming might not immediately spring to mind as a category of spiritual pursuit, we call our minds back to the Lord Jesus, Who continually drew on agricultural metaphors for the spiritual life — the mustard seed that moves a mountain; the Enemy who plants tares among the wheat; the seed that falls on thorny ground, on rocky ground, or on good soil; the vineyard; the seed growing secretly; the threshing floor; the harvest; ....

Beholding William Holman Hunt's painting "The Light of the World," our eyes are fastened upon the light shining from the King's lantern and then upon His kindly visage. But then we look more closely to see that He stands in the midst of a ruined garden and that he knocks upon the door of a tomb. So much is called to mind here. Yes, the Lord knocks at the door of our hearts, but until we let Him in, we live in a never-ending spiritual death. Yes, our lives had begun in the garden of innocent youth, but so many adults find that the wrong decisions of their past have encouraged weeds into the garden and that now it is strewn with rotting fruit. He knocks, but He is not knocking from within. He is outside, standing in the debris of our mistakes and errors.

Our life began in a garden, and it will return to a garden. This painting, cherished by Anglo-Catholics and hanging in a side chapel of Keble Chapel (Keble College, Oxford), depicts the state of human affairs, Two members of our Franciscan Community, a Roman Catholic Franciscan sister and an Anglo-Catholic Franciscan priest who met in Haiti, discovered that both of them had carried this painting (postcard size) all over the world with them. No question, it is a painting that touches upon every life.

We suppose that every farmer sees the connection between a well-ordered farm or orchard and a life that is cleared of debris. Tilling the soil, pruning, freeing trees of disease and rot and returning them to health, all of this is a form of prayer — one that brings praying hands into the constant emergence of new life. It is vital, alive, surprising, and in Hawai'i, bountiful. Who does not look forward to strolling out into the garden each morning to see what new blooms have appeared? And should we ever become discouraged, thinking of the wide world around us as a hopelessly overgrown ruin of a once-pristine garden, then we soothe our souls by setting our little acres at the Hermitage into good order reminding ourselves that this is what God has given us to do. We practice this vocation of orderliness in several broad areas.