Two summers ago, I bought two copies of A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, by Margaret Rose Realy. One copy was for myself. The other copy was for my mother-in-law. It went with the handmade rosary Margaret crafted (I wish she sold them online!), and it was a pairing that I just knew was right for my mother-in-law.

outside shot garden of visible prayer

A few days ago, as the weather here in Ohio turned warmish, I finally found myself opening this lovely book. Yesterday, as the kids were running circles outside in the “hot” 70-plus sunshine, I had it in my hand. I looked around my yard and considered some of the things Realy mentions throughout the book.

From the introduction:

This book is a step-by-step approach to help guide you in creating a meaningful sacred space—a place you can step into, close at hand, matched to what brings you, personally, to inner quietness.

It’s not long. It’s not hard to read. If you’re a gardener who’s looking for a way to combine your prayer with plants, it may be just the thing for you.

It is in quieting ourselves that the seed of God can enter into our fertile soil and lead us to bear the fruit he has purposely planted within us. … This book does not consider the need to landscape your whole yard, but only a very small portion of it so as to be able to attend to the landscape of your soul.

This book is an opportunity for anyone who takes solace in the outdoors, who longs for dirt therapy, who finds peace in both the doing and the being of gardening. It is a book for those of us who like the work of gardening and seek a refuge outside in nature. It’s a handbook for making your prayer something you can see in the place and plants and setting of a garden area.

I love quite a bit about this book: the combination of motivation and ideas, the mixing of gardening with prayer, and the practical application and the food for thought. I feel, reading it, as though Realy is walking with me, looking over my shoulder, giving me pointers the way a good friend or even my mother-in-law would: gently, with a smile, firmly.

This is not a devotional book, don’t get me wrong. It’s a very process-oriented, here’s-how-you-put-it-all-together book. It’s just the kind of thing a busy mom-who-does-a-thousand-other-things needs to actually get rolling with making a prayer garden (or incorporating elements into an existing space). Unlike the beautiful pictures you’ll see online and in gardening books, A Garden of Visible Prayer is organized into three segments that are systematic and easy to understand.

You discern, design, and develop. Instead of leaving you hungry for something, you’re equipped to go outside and do it with however much or little you have access to. Realy acknowledges both your need for natural beauty and your longing for spiritual insight.

Realy knows what she’s talking about, too: she is an Advanced Master Gardener with 35 years of experience as a greenhouse grower and garden consultant. When asked why she wrote the book, she responded:

I saw a need for gardens at St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, MI. Specifically, prayer gardens where people could sit and draw closer to God who often speaks to us through nature. Retreatants would ask how I created these spaces and could I teach them to do the same in their own yards. Through this book I describe the step-by-step process of how to build personalized gardens that make prayer visible. In fact, that’s where the title comes from.

Buy a copy (or 3)!


Whether you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift or a way to support a Catholic writer, join those of us who are looking to support Margaret Realy by buying A Garden of Visible Prayer from Amazon on April 15.

From the back cover:

Long time gardener and author, Margaret Rose Realy believes that solace and the gentle voice of God can be heard in a garden. Take a walk with her within the pages of her beautifully crafted unique book, A Garden of Visible Prayer as she descriptively guides you every step of the way to create your own personal retreat space, incorporating a variety of elements, which will lead you to prayer. Even with meager means or a small space, by following the steps in this book, your end result will be a distinctive and beautiful setting in which you can bask in God’s creation and where you may very well hear His voice telling you to, “Be still and know that I am God.”

 – Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a Catholic speaker and author of numerous books and EWTN TV host

Many books can show you how to design a garden that pleases the eye and ensures good plant growth, but few books help you create a garden that promotes your spiritual growth.    Margaret begins by giving you tools to determine the spiritual aspects that you want in your garden as well as the sensual and physical characteristics that influence site, plant and accessory selection. She then provides practical design techniques, pointers on plant selection, soils and media, containers and tips on planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  This book is useful for anyone designing a new garden but invaluable for those of us looking to create a space for meditation, contemplation and prayer.

– Dean M. Krauskopf, Ph.D., Extension Education Emeritus, Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service