STEWARDSHIP | Mow, rake, shovel — and pray

The monotony of yard work is a fine time for prayerful contemplation

I’m the yard guy of our family. I cut the grass, trim the bushes, rake the leaves, shovel the snow and whatever else needs to be done in the yard.

If I moan and groan about it, my wife, Sharon, reminds me of how much I like it. I like being outside and like the way the yard looks when the work is done.

One of my favorite Scripture verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” I understand the rejoicing and in all circumstances give thanks parts, but struggle in practice with the “pray without ceasing” part. I mean, I pray every day, several times throughout the day, but pray without ceasing?

In our front yard, we have a statue of Mary and in the backyard, we have more statues of Mary and of St. Francis of Assisi. On one extremely hot and humid summer day, the Holy Spirit gave me some inspiration to pray without ceasing.

As I was cutting the grass, I stopped and looked at the statue of Mary by our front porch. Instead of my normal prayer of complaint, “Lord, can you make it any hotter today?” and then the mindless back and forth across the grass with the lawnmower, I began to think about Mary: about her faithfulness, about her holiness, about her obedience, about her compassion for others. Then, I prayed the Hail Mary, without ceasing. I prayed for my wife, our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, our neighbors, our friends, people that drove by that I didn’t know, and so on.

The next week, when the grass-cutting day was even hotter, I thought about purgatory and hell. If it gets this hot on earth, I can’t imagine how hot purgatory is, or worse, how hot it gets in hell. I began to pray for my dear mother, my grandparents, and other family and friends that have died — praying that their time in purgatory would be brief. Yard work has been transformed into prayer time.

As summer turned to fall, my grass cutting combined with leaf-raking. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of big, mature trees and our yard is a leaf magnet. More time to pray without ceasing — I imagine all the leaves as souls in purgatory waiting for our prayers so they can go to heaven. It does make raking the leaves less painful and helps me pray without ceasing.

With winter around the corner, I’m looking forward to some snow and spending more time outside doing yard work — shoveling snow and more prayer without ceasing.

Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected]

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