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 Header-The Marvelous World of Our Lady's Flowers

 

While modern men look for happiness in instant gratification, there was once a time in Christendom when men believed happiness came from a true understanding of the order of the universe. They saw the universe as a great lesson book which, through symbols, one could come to know, love and serve God. One beautiful and touching page in this book was their perception of flowers.

Painting of a flower marketWith great practical sense born of observation, people of those distant times believed flowers to be symbolic of virtues and qualities that ultimately reflected the perfections of God, but which could be seen more directly in that most perfect of all God’s creatures – the Blessed Virgin.

Flowers belonged to Mary, the Mother of God.  In those times when spiritual life and daily life were so intertwined, flowers were a veritable catechism for the faithful.  Flowers transformed abstract virtues into easily understood symbols found in daily life and linked them to Our Lady, the perfect human model of Christian virtue.

Thus, there were at least a thousand flowers and herbs named after Our Lady, her qualities, and episodes in her life. In medieval times, each country circulated its own names and legends adapting to the local culture and flora.  Art, poetry and literature celebrated this intimate link between flowers and the Blessed Mother. To better contemplate these marvels, there were enclosed “Mary Gardens” with those flowers and herbs that spoke of her to the faithful.

Flower image 1Some of the flower names make this link easy to trace. The marigold comes from the idea that this bright yellow flower is “Mary’s gold.”  Carnation is a corruption of the word “coronation” since the flower was often used to crown statues of Our Lady.  The herb Rosemary is said to honor Mary, the Mystical Rose. “Lady’s Slipper,” like many other flowers that now begin with the word “lady,” was originally “Our Lady’s Slipper.”

However, other flower names have not survived to our times. The lily of the valley was called "Our Lady’s Tears"; since from afar the white flowers seemed like tear drops falling. The humble sweet violet used to be known as “Our Lady’s Modesty.” The enchanting forget-me-nots were reminders of the “Eyes of Mary.”  Even the lowly dandelion with its bitter tasting greens came to be called “Mary’s Bitter Sorrow.”  And the names go on and on, since nearly every familiar flower or herb known today had its equivalent Marian name.

Some flowers gained their name because they bloomed close to feast days. The snowdrop, for example, was called “Candlemas Bells” since it often bloomed early on Candlemas – the feast of the Purification. The Assumption lily bloomed near the feast of the Assumption.  It represented her immaculate purity, virginity and innocence that were rewarded by her assumption into heaven.

Of course, the rose came to symbolize Mary from the earliest times of the Church since it is a flower so rich in expression that it encompassed her purity, sorrow and glory. Numerous varieties of roses are associated with the Blessed Mother: the Rose of Sharon, Christmas Rose, or Scotch Rose. A collection of roses in a garden was called a rosarium. Later, a collection of Hail Mary prayers became known as a Rosary.

From this vision of flowers came lore and pious legend full of innocence and wonder. Legend has it, for example, that the tiny flower columbine sprang up wherever Our Lady’s foot touched the ground when on her way to visit her cousin Saint Elizabeth and was thus called “Our Lady’s Shoes.”  It was said the carnation (also called “Mary’s Love of God”) first appeared when it sprang from the tears of the Blessed Mother that fell upon the ground upon seeing her Son carry the Cross.  The lily, it was said, was originally yellow and came from the sorrowful tears of Eve upon being expelled from paradise. When Our Lady stooped to pick a lily, the lily became white and fragrant.  It is told that the stars of the heavens came down to earth in their desire to glorify the Christ Child in Bethlehem and planted themselves around the manger as radiant buttercups.

Flower image 2While such stories were but mere legend, they spoke of great truths. They served to enchant, instruct and inspire the faithful to greater devotion and love of God. They made more human that tender connection between the Blessed Mother and fallen humanity.  In this way, common flowers united all in virtue, speaking through poetry and song to saint and sinner, rich and poor, old and young, learned and ignorant.

Such was the marvelous world of Our Lady’s flowers that we have lost.  It is but one of many pages of that great lesson book where even the most common things in Creation were a source of simple joys accessible to all.  Indeed, even sorrow in this vale of tears was made meaningful and beautiful.

For our sad days, it is a lesson for us.  If we are to return to some kind of order, it must not have as its basis the sterile statistics of a society where money alone rules.  It cannot have as its foundation the frenetic intemperance of rushed lifestyles.  Such things lead to frustration not happiness.

Doubtless we must provide amply for material needs.  However, this order should have as its aim the desire to understand the meaning of things by seeking out their final and highest causes, which is called wisdom.  In an order based on wisdom, men derive great happiness in naturally seeking God or the likeness of God in all things – even in common flowers.  

 


   

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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