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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.

 

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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.  

 


  

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for October 1, 2020

The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a tas...

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October 1

 

The goal of all our undertakings should be

not so much a task perfectly completed

as the accomplishment of the will of God.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemne...

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Marie-Françoise Thérèse Martin was born on January 2, 1873 in the town of Alençon in French Normandy. Her parents were Louis Martin, a watch maker, and Zélie Guerin, both beatified by the Church. Called Thérèse, she was the last of nine children, five of which survived to adulthood.

Growing up in a deeply Catholic family, Thérèse’s life was filled with love, consideration and kindness. A pretty, blond and blue-eyed girl, hers was a precocious mind, and passionate, willful, sensitive nature, a nature made yet more sensitive by her mother’s death of breast cancer when Thérèse was four.

After his wife’s death, M. Martin moved his family to the town of Lisieux, and rented a charming home, “Les Buissonnets”, where he raised his five girls in bourgeois comfort. Thérèse was his “Benjamin” for whom he had a special affection and whom he called “my little queen”.

For her mothering needs, the little girl turned to her favorite sister, Pauline, who took the rearing of her “child” seriously looking after her needs of body, mind and soul.

When Pauline decided to enter Carmel in 1882, the shock made Thérèse seriously ill. As the illness progressed, and as her family prepared for the worst, on May 13, the sick girl appealed to a statue of Our Lady by her bed. “Suddenly,” Thérèse writes, “Mary’s face radiated kindness and love…” and she was healed. To the family the statue became “The Virgin of the Smile”.

On Christmas Eve in 1886 at the age of fourteen Thérèse received a great grace. In one moment, she was cured of her hyper-sensitivity, and went through what she calls “her conversion”. From then on she decided to live no longer to please herself but for love. She felt her heart burn with the wish to help Jesus save souls.

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemned to death, but remained unrepentant, she set out to pray and offer small sacrifices for his conversion, and trusted that God would hear her against all appearances. She was elated when she read that though refusing a priest to the last, at the scaffold Pranzini suddenly turned and, snatching a crucifix from the attending priest’s hands, kissed it repeatedly. Thereafter, Thérèse always called Pranzini her “first son”– her course was set.

She entered Carmel at age sixteen, and though only living as a Carmelite for nine years, she rose to the heights of sanctity through her “little way” of serving God and others in everyday life, and doing everything, even the smallest things, with great love and child-like trust in her God’s paternal love, and mercy.  At the request of her sister Pauline who glimpsed her sanctity, she penned her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

Struck with tuberculosis, Thérèse suffered greatly. Knowing she was dying she promised, “I shall spend my heaven doing good on earth … I shall let fall a shower of roses”.  Thérèse died on September 30, 1897, after a brief ecstasy. Her last gasping words were, “My God! ... I love Thee!”

She was canonized by Pius XI in 1925 and devotion to her quickly spread throughout the world. For her doctrine of “The Little Way” Thérèse was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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