By Bertilla Watanabe
First it was the rust and crimson colours of fall and now the twinkly lights of Christmas which are beckoning parishioners and passersby alike, to stop and stay a while at the newly landscaped garden of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.
Ever since the grotto was installed for the 150th Anniversary of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the garden has become a focal point for parish celebrations. The parish’s Advent season began with a beautiful concert by parish choirs with the theme of light. The congregation processed to the nativity scene on the lawn for an official light-up of the church and garden after the music. Children and adults were thrilled. Hot chocolate with marshmallows warmed up cold hands. It was a lovely way to begin the preparations for Christmas.
Situated on the north lawn of the church and graced by a Marian shrine, the sacred garden around the OLPH grotto is becoming a quiet attraction for adults and an irresistible place for children to run around and play. Perhaps, it’s the way the graceful figure of Our Lady gently draws all the beauty of the natural setting towards herself. The Japanese maple, so appealing all-year round but simply stunning when it turns bright crimson in the Fall, is a beautiful backdrop for the grey stone of the grotto and the white sculpture of Mary.
OLPH Pastor Fr. Babu Mathew has had a hands-on approach in creating this space. He and his confreres spent several hours digging trenches for the lighting cables over the summer.
“The idea was to create a space which would help people glorify God by simply enjoying nature…the plants, the trees, the water…all in the presence of our Blessed Mother. The idea of using hewn and polished rock is also part of the whole experience of being part of nature,” said Fr. Mathew.
“This garden is part of caring for our common home, Laudato Si! It is very appropriate that we should be working on it not very long after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical.”
The search for rocks, shrubs and trees began in Squamish. The ground in front of the shrine was leveled and paved for easy wheelchair access. Bluestone was cut and shaped to lead the casual wanderer to the Blessed Virgin’s feet and under her gentle gaze. A variety of unusual dogwoods were planted to create a natural grove that would complement the vista of the grotto. The choice of shrubs and trees were designed to kindle the senses with colour and fragrance. The Katsura tree releases a delicate scent in the fall. One of the Japanese maples with lovely fall foliage is called Koto no Ito which translates to “harp strings”. A perfect setting for angels.
Gardener and landscaper Deborah Trudel oversaw the planning and planting of trees and shrubs to complement the grotto. Integral to the concept was the creation of a space intimate for private prayer but not closed off to the public. Small rhododendrons, shrubs, ferns and ground cover, contribute to the sense of peace around the gurgling water from the rock waterfall.
Said Fr. Babu Mathew, “One of the things which moves me is that this spiritual space is created by people who don’t necessarily share the same faith background we do yet they contribute in a very profound way, connecting us all at a deeper level. That alone means we are speaking to a larger community.”
What a wonderful way to bring joy to the world this Christmas season!