Roots and Weeds

Angela Merici was a radical. Radical here doesn’t have to do with how far to the right or left of centre you are. Radical has to do with depth. Radical comes from roots. Angela was rooted. Where was she rooted? In love, of course. She was blessed, as we all are blessed by the words shared with the early Christians:

May your lives be rooted in love. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep is Christ’s love. Keep your roots deep in Christ. Build your lives on him and become stronger in your faith as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.

There are many different kinds of root: fibrous, adventitious, rhizomes, prop roots – but Angela can best be described as a tap root – those long conical roots that sink deep into the earth. Carrots and parsnips are tap roots. And many forms of weeds and wildflowers have tap roots. Weed is a rather subjective term. What some call weeds, others call glories. As one person said – a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except learning to grow in rows. What a fitting description of Angela, and of the many women who followed her!

Weeds are more important and more valuable than we might think. Dandelions, goldenrod, milkweed, purslane, clover and chicory to name a few, have many important functions. Many so called weeds have healing properties. Those long taproots break up hard soil and bring nutrients from deep down benefiting plants with weaker or shallower roots without competing with them. They fix nitrogen in the soil which enriches it for other plants. And they are companion plants making it easier for many edible plants to flourish.

Perhaps it is a good time to reflect on how ‘rooted’ we are, how like weeds we are. How did Angela get to be so rooted? Angela paid attention to her world. She looked at her surroundings with a loving gaze. In her daily life she was touched by the beauty and suffering all around her. Her experiences brought her to a deep sense of gratitude and a passionate sense of mission. It is a challenge sometimes for us to slow down enough to notice the blessings and needs that surround us. Just as she observed and responded to the needs of her time, we are challenged to do the same.

"Live in harmony, united together in one heart and one will."