Working at ‘la Solitude’

Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived by the work of their hands for the love of the Father and in the service of their brothers and sisters.  They are and example to us of a humble and hard-working family. At Nazareth we see the dignity of work. (Constitutions, Art. 203)

Our contemplative life has a rhythm of prayer and work.  Each Sister has a task through which she serves the community for the common good and in order to have a balanced life.  When I entered the novitiate I received the task of working in the garden.  At that time it consisted mainly of weeding around the house.  While I was waiting for the weeds to grow Sr. Griet taught me how to sew and Sr. Teresa taught me how to look after the sacristy.  One day we went to the market to buy flowers for the chapel.  They were very beautiful but very expensive.  I began to grow flowers close to the house.  They grew well but there weren’t enough for the whole year. Then I asked for a piece of ground in the garden so that we could have flowers all year round.   Among the flowers,  I grew vegetables that we eat in Africa.  We ate them and they were delicious.  The following year I grew some vegetables for the community.  Visitors admired them and I gave them some to taste.

In 2018, I sowed a few different kinds of vegetables.  Visitors to the garden suggested that I should sell them.  Since I had no intentions of selling them, I gave them whatever they wanted and they paid me whatever they liked.  They told their friends about it.  They consulted French law to see if we would have to declare the garden or if we were liable for tax.  We found out that we were not taxable and did not have to declare anything.

 In 2019, those who wanted to buy the “Contemplatives’ vegetables” – as they called them – suggested that we leave them at the chapel entrance and mark the price on them. I decided on €2 per kilo no matter what the vegetable was.  When they had tasted the vegetables they bought between €2 and €50 worth of them because they said they had never eaten real organic vegetables before.  We made €1300.   This year they ordered what they wanted – tomatoes, aubergines, lettuce, peppers, courgettes, corn, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, radishes, cucumber etc.  The list will get longer depending on who visits the garden.

I work for two hours in the morning depending on the weather. During the Winter when the earth is resting I collect  manure.  In the Summer when it is very hot I do the watering in the evening because the days are longer.  Sometimes the young Sisters help me in whatever way they can.  In silence and solitude I work while I pray and pray while I work.  The idea of praying always then makes sense and helps me to be in solidarity with  both those who work and those who are unemployed.  It helps me also as I struggle not to forget God as our Constitutions invite us to do.

Every task, however simple, unites us to the creative and redemptive work of God.    (Constitutions,  Art. 204)


The Prayer of the Gardener of La Solitude

Lord, I thank you that you have created everything in wisdom and love.  Thank you for the earth that produces so much fruit, vegetables and flowers to feed people and animals.  I give thanks for Pierre Bienvenu Noailles, our Good Father, whom you inspired to choose Martillac for his future daughters. Thank you for all our Mothers who protected this treasure.  Thank you for calling me to live on this holy ground as a Contemplative Sister of the Holy Family of Bordeaux and for giving me a love for working on the land. 

Lord, you know that the earth cannot produce fruit if it is not well nourished.  I ask you to bless Stéphane and his family;  he works in the Domaine of La Solitude and keeps his donkey and horses at the bottom of the vineyard.  Bless the animals who generously give me abundant manure to nourish the garden.  That is why we will have a good harvest this year.

May you be blessed, Lord, for all the different sorts of grain but especially for all I am going to plant in the garden which you have also blessed. I thank you for the sense of sharing and the expertise of all the people who prepare seeds for the gardeners, not forgetting the men and women who share their experience and advice so that we can have a good harvest.

May you be blessed, Lord, for the water that helps us during the hot weather.  Bless all the people who come to admire and encourage the plants. You know that plants are like people and need affection. Finally, Lord, bless the men and women who will eat the produce of this garden. All for your greater glory. Amen.

Sr.  Odette UWIMANA - Contemplative

              La Solitude, Martillac