by Lesle Knop
As the season of Thanksgiving approaches, and leaves pile beneath nowbarren branches in our yard, I admire the pruning that my husband gave our trees.
A clip here, a chop there, and they became healthier, stronger, and more beautiful.
My eldest sister and her husband have coaxed a pear tree to grow up the side of their California home. This “espaliered” tree has been trained to grow its branches in strict horizontal rows, parallel to the ground or in perpendicular vertical shoots as straight as the sides of their house.
The tree, in its cultured checkerboard form, has grown as tall as their upper balcony, shading their bedroom with lush green privacy during their everlasting summers.
My brother-in-law has disciplined wayward shoots, fastening stronger limbs to wires to guide their growth. Every year, their pear tree grows taller, the branches thicker, and the blossoms and fruit appear as if on cue.
While the tree grew, so, too, did their children, who now have spouses and children of their own.
The Book of Proverbs says: “Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it” (22:6).
I am reminded of their pear tree and this proverb when I think about the productive, mature and giving nature I observe in their children. Years of dedicated parenting are evident in both son and daughter.
If we want our children to be studious, generous, grateful and kind, will they learn these traits without gentle guidance?
At Mass, I observe young parents teaching their children to practice their faith and learn the traditions that make us a community. They help their little ones to make the sign of the cross, to genuflect, to kneel, to listen and sing, to cross their arms properly if they are not yet ready to receive the holy Eucharist.
Parents with children set examples of grateful stewardship every time they deliver meals to shut-ins, take donations to TurnStyles, or volunteer for their parish ministries or at school. We influence our children by the values we demonstrate in daily living.
Our Year of Faith helps us to focus our attention on the part of our lives that we often neglect — our spirituality. As adults, are we ever finished growing? Do we ever reach a stage where we no longer need guidance?
I’ve decided that I need pruning, too. During this Year of Faith, I need to clip away my selfishness, chop off my pride, and cultivate compassion and generosity.
Lord, help me to recognize that all I have is a gift. Help me grow to be the person you made me to be, and to love, to learn and to live my faith.