farm time

May 10, 2024


Both of my parents grew up on farms. Their parents farmed and all of my great-grandparents were farmers for most of their lives.

I was fortunate to spend a lot of time on the farm of my paternal grandparents throughout my childhood and teenage years, weekends and weeks and more during school holidays including one three-month summer job on a seminary-break.

So last week when I had dinner at the home of friends here in mid-west USA I felt at home.

While I have spent ten years of my priestly ministry in farming communities, in recent years this has not been the case. I’ve missed that. There is often something more grounded and practical about people who live close to the land, subject to the daily and seasonal rhythms of nature.

That’s part of my intention for these sabbatical months: to take time to notice the dawn and the dusk of each day, to live in the changing seasons which are especially noticeable in these Iowa spring days. Kath reminded me of this during our recording of the Homily Studio on Tuesday when she quoted Gerard Manley Hopkins’: The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

While I’m certainly noticing the grandeur of God in the abundance of springtime, it was three weeks after my arrival that the first sign of spring appeared. For those first days it was very winter, but still in the midst of the bleakness I was noticing the divine presence everywhere – especially in the stark branches as I keenly watched and patiently waited for the first shoots of new life.

There has been a lot of rain here in recent weeks which is a bit of a challenge for farmers eager to sow their corn and bean crops. Now the sowing is mostly complete in this area and farmers wait patiently for the autumn harvest.

Now there’s a sabbatical (Sabbath) inspiration: learning to wait. Yes I might plant seeds, but God brings the harvest.

And every day as I take time to notice the sun rise and set, and to walk in rain and sun and wind, I learn to be patient.

I have quoted before the story of my (paternal) grandparents’ 1927 wedding when the priest encouraged them with these words: “Do your best, and leave the rest, to God.”





  1. Thank you Father John., I love to hear of your new experiences. As I lie in my bed waiting for the sun to rise these last few weeks I’ve noticed the season change, with the leaves slowly turning from green through to red and yellow and now there are only a few left on the tree. I do my morning readings and think how in these coming autumn and winter days I seem to have more time to spend with Jesus. The rush of summer activities slow down and I enjoy the growing closeness I feel as I make more time to spend with him. It reminds me that Jesus is always with me, it is I who must make the time to be with him!

  2. I think in the country you see the rhythms of God’s good creation and the majestic magnificence of space, beauty, unlimited sky expanse and the changing colors of the seasons. God seems very close. Enjoy.

  3. Yes I’m sitting here on our window seat, my place for morning prayer and reflection seeing the bay and township to the South and our Mountains to the North now with the first real snow of the Winter.
    Our trees with their Autumn colours and your inspirational words to reflect on I can feel Jesus present.
    I’m really enjoying you Sabbatical writings Fr John, thank you.

  4. I have been looking for inspiration for a short period of formation for a school board meeting next week so these few words – “Do your best and leave the rest to God” are perfect along with “we might plant seeds but God brings the harvest.” God’s blessings for you Fr John on your sabbatical.

  5. “Yes I might plant seeds, but God brings the harvest.”…

    I have received the news that my role is to be disestablished. So I will madly rush around to find a new one – sending CV’s, contacting old friends, scouring recruitment websites …. planting as many seeds as possible … And I now need to have faith that God will help create some “Harvest”.

    Thanks for these inspirational words John !

  6. Thank you John, Lynn, Rosemary, Margie, Lee & Michael – each of you shared something that resonated with me also – generations of farming, connecting with the land, seasons, taking time to watch, noticing the divine presence, waiting patiently, job losses, change, trusting…
    God has indeed sown many seeds here and the harvest is already beginning to sprout in our hearts & minds this morning.
    Inspiring & comforting.
    God is good – all the time!


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