A Word From the Fellows

September 13 |

Journal Excerpt: “The Beauty of…

The Secret Garden is a critique of a modernist worldview that denies the truth that, as Fr. Harrison Ayre puts it, “God is able to communicate with creation through his creation.” The story reveals how God’s creation (the beauty of the earth and the communion of his creatures) can mediate his message of love to the human soul. One such moment comes when, still far away from home and drowning in depression, Mr. Craven sees a blue flower and cries, “I also feel as if—I were alive!” As with the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the mountains and hills bursting into song and the trees of the field clapping their hands (Isa. 55:12), creation calls to Mr. Craven, reminding him of who he is called to be and pushing him toward home and his son.

This lovely tale is a story of redemption. A woman’s literal fall in a garden leads to death, the severing of relationships, isolation, and an inability to see the reality of God’s enchanted world. But the site of tragedy becomes the site of grace and rebirth. The garden is where the children awaken to a much truer story than what they once believed. At first, Mary and Colin’s narrative was set in a cold world of monotony, where they were alone and unwanted. In the garden, they discover that they are precious, beloved, and walk on an earth full to bursting with the Love that gives life to all things. Mary and Colin learn to see the world sacramentally, as the Sowerbys see it, as a love letter from the God of the universe calling them to awaken to abundant life—a song that beckons us also to turn with grateful hearts to the Creator of tulips, roses, friendly robins, and even ornery children. If we are to walk like children of the light then, along with Colin when he first hears “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” we, too, should cry out, “I want to sing it, too. It’s my song. How does it begin?”

As Pope Francis reminds us in his encyclical Laudato Si,’ “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” The Sowerbys, Colin, and Mary show us how to live out this mystery. In The Secret Garden, we see the powerful effect of a human being fully alive. What kind of story could be more valuable, whether we are ten years old or one hundred?

“The Beauty of Creation Beckons: The Secret Garden & the Awakening to Abundant Life was originally published in the Summer 2022 Childhood issue of Evangelization & Culture.