Harold, of the Trappists in Vina, California told me that their yield last year was about four and a half tons per acre. I was impressed. Think of all the wine they could sell!
When I made retreat there in March, some of the community were pruning the branches from last year in advance of this year’s new growth. I was able to join them in this work. Pruning is an art, getting the branch trimmed at just the right spot to insure good growth. Then, we raked the trimmed branches to the end of each vine row. I’ve thought since of how God prunes us…by the insight of a friend or spiritual director, by an insight in prayer. Usually, this pruning is gentle, yet sometimes it might be difficult, like staying with an exercise/diet program. Jesus tells us to remain in Him as branches on the vine…branches that are pruned daily by prayer, eucharist, family and community life.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul, Barnabas and all of the early church had to deal with the issue of some wanting to insist on circumcision for the new members of the church. They had to discern God’s will through prayer and discussion…what was absolutely necessary to be a member of the church and what was not. Paul would later say in Acts that this burden was not necessary for new converts.
Today is the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. Mary told the young shepherds to offer their prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for world peace. This is a gospel way of realizing that we are all branches connected to the vine.
Fr. Bob Bovenzi, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community stationed in Chicago, Illinois.