In this week’s blog reflects on the passing of Amy Winehouse and the need to nurture and protect the gifts that are given to us.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 10 August 2011.

There is something very fulfilling eating fresh vegetables that you have nurtured and cultivated with your own hands. As we celebrate the beginning of August, once again we are reminded of God’s bounty, when it comes the harvest. In Celtic times, this season of Lunasa was an occasion of thanksgiving. The Celtic people burnt huge fires, danced and celebrated many rituals, as they thanked God, for the food and sustenance that nourished them as they faced the darker and more vulnerable months of the year. Harvest time is indeed a time of rich blessing, a time to gather all that has been planted and cared for since the early spring. There can be no harvest without all the necessary tilling, planting, pruning, weeding and nourishing that accompany any fruit that ripens into something good and nourishing.

Perhaps this harvest time is an opportunity for us all, to acknowledge the fruits that we all have in the depth of our being. Fruits that take a lot of time to grow and mature into the beautiful personality and unique qualities that are particular to all our stories. The gift of Grand-parents who embody the story of every harvest. Parents who respond so generously to the needs of their children. Parenting I’m sure in many ways could be likened to tending the needs of the vineyard, it is constant, demanding, most challenging and in many ways totally dependent on the unconditional generosity and reservoir of love, that provides for the needs of family life. I am often truly inspired by the time and indeed sacrifices that so many wonderful parents, so often make for their children, in order to allow them to grow and realize the best possible harvest for their family. No fruit or talent can realize it is potential without effort and work.

The recent tragic death of Amy Winehouse reminds us all of how great talent can be destroyed by vulnerability and addiction. There was something very distressing in her fathers’ acknowledgement that he had written Amy’s Eulogy some years previous. Winehouse was a remarkably talented and beautiful woman. Her best selling album ‘Back to Black’ shared her honest, unique tone and the fragile story of her addiction and love- hate relationship with ‘rehab’. There is a deep responsibility when blessed with talent that we nurture and protect it.

Parents have to nurture their talented and gifted children. In the very small minority, where this is not happening we see the effects on our streets, where anti- social behavior is causing chaos in many communities. Hard work and genuine effort will always produce a good result and this is true in all our life experience, from our gardens to our souls.

St Paul puts this very well when he speaks

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith and now there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness and the gift of everlasting life”.

Our God invites us to persevere and continue to nurture all the many good gifts and talents that we all possess. Perhaps in the coming week, when we walk or drive by a field of crops being harvested, or simply walk by an apple tree, we may look and marvel upon the living gift that is the harvest. May our good God nourish and protect all parents.