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  • Sarah Raad

Mulberries

The greatest paradox of Our Living God is that in praying for the salvation of others, it is my own soul that will be saved…

Blessed Lucia, Saint Jacinta and Saint Francisco of Fatima to whom Our Lady appeared. These children who made many sacrifices to atone for sin...

I remember one topic upon which my maternal grandmother and my late maternal grandfather (may God rest his soul) would argue. And that was mulberries.


You see – we are Lebanese-Australians and there are really only two things that migrant families seem to hold on to over the years following their migration to another country. One is our faith and the other is our food – even generations after the migration…


And so it is in our family too… For though my mother was born in Australia, we have retained our Lebanese heritage, which was brought to us by my grandparents, in the practice of our Maronite Faith and also in the food that we eat.


In Lebanon – since the ancient Roman times, when the silk trade flourished and so silkworms were fed on their leaves – mulberry trees have been propagated…


When I was a little girl, my maternal grandfather kept a gigantic mulberry tree in his backyard and every Sunday during the spring when we would go to visit him and he would invite all of us to go down with a bucket and pick mulberries while he climbed his ladder and tossed the berries down from the highest branches to us.


Now it was this very thing that caused all the contention in my grandparents’ home so many years ago… You see, mulberries are deliciously tart black-mauve berries that grow on enormous trees. There is really nothing in the world that is more delicious than a mulberry picked straight from the tree and popped directly into the mouth... There is only one problem with mulberries, and that is that their juice leaves dreadful stains on skin, nails, hair and clothes!


So, you can imagine my grandmother’s consternation in knowing that we would be trudging around under the tree shaking millions of mulberries loose onto our beautiful Sunday-clothes and then trudge back into the house with mulberry juice all over the soles of our shoes…


When I was a new bride on my honeymoon in Lebanon, my mother-in-law would go out each morning as the sun was rising and pick mulberries from the tree in the backyard for the whole household to eat… She would come back into the house covered with black juice and laden with buckets of berries and run straight into the shower to scrub the stains from her skin and nails, hair and clothes while we gorged ourselves on berries…


These days, we have a large mulberry tree that we planted outside the front of our home. We positioned it there so that we could control when our children got into it – because it really does bring a lot of mess into the house! During the spring, every afternoon my husband (and usually the children too) go outside to pick the berries and bring them inside in buckets for our family to share.

I have been thinking about these mulberries as I have been reflecting on the sacrifices that we must make in praying for the salvation of many souls…

You see in collecting those mulberries for others to enjoy, my husband – like his mother and my later maternal grandfather – makes a sacrifice for the benefit of others.


The stains caused by the berries and the inconvenience of the scrubbing and shower that follows their harvest is surely like the efforts of sacrifice that we must make for the salvation of souls from sin… Some months ago now, when a young mother very suddenly and unexpected lost her young teenage son she wrote that his family “prayed him into the loving arms of God”. Her words at the time were heartbreaking and yet so very profound. You see, she understood the sacrifice of the mulberry-picker far better than I did…


For the berries are a deliciously sweet reward and I enjoy them during the spring days even though I myself have not picked any of the fruit. It is my husband who is inconvenienced by this effort and yet – through this act of love – it is I who reap the rewards. For just as my husband picks that fruit for me – despite some inconvenience to himself – so too can my sacrifices redeem souls and atone for sin.


You see, as my husband (and his mother and my grandfather) picked the fruit, they also tasted of its sweetness. In fact – though it was messy work – they had in front of them on the branches of the tree, the choicest berries and most delicious fruit! And though they always returned to the house with skin, hair, hands and clothes covered in mulberry juice, their lips were also stained with the juice of the fruit… And this is the true glory of sacrifice for souls… Because as the pick the fruit for others, they eat as many berries themselves as they pick for all the rest of us…


And when I think of that – the benefits to be had through a little sacrifice, a mere temporal inconvenience – I am struck with wonder and with awe…


Because the greatest paradox of Our Living God is that in praying for the salvation of others, it is my own soul that will be saved…


It is truly my own soul that will be saved…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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