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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 May 30, 2020

I would rather die than do a thing which I know to be a sin....

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May 30

 

I would rather die
than do a thing
which I know to be a sin.

St. Joan of Arc


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Joan of Arc

When Joan was thirteen she began to receive visions of St. M...

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St. Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc’s story is nothing but extraordinary. Born in Domremy, Champagne, in 1412, she was a peasant girl who received from on high the mission of leading France militarily against the invading English.

Joan’s father was Jacques D’Arc, a farmer of some means, and her mother a kind, caring woman. One of five children, Joan was a pious, prayerful and charitable girl.

In 1415, when Joan was three, the English king, Henry V, taking advantage of a civil war between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy, invaded Normandy and claimed several cities. Things were going from bad to worse for France when, in the village of Domremy, God began to put in motion a most unexpected solution.

At age thirteen, Joan began to receive visions of St. Michael and Sts. Catherine and Margaret who gently prepared her for her mission.

By 1428, when she was about sixteen, the saints insisted that Joan go to Charles VII, the ineffectual heir to the throne and offer him to lead an army with the objective of repelling the English, and crowning him king. The frightened girl resisted but finally took action on being assured that her extraordinary calling “was God’s will”.

Joan persuaded an uncle to take her to the nearby town of Vaucouleurs to the commander, Robert de Baudricourt. At first Baudricourt and his entourage laughed at the maiden, but when Joan announced that the city of Orleans had just fallen to the English, and the fact was later verified, hilarity turned to respect.

Accompanied by respectful soldiers, and dressed in a man’s clothing for her personal protection, Joan traveled to the court of Charles VII who, wishing to test the visionary maiden, hid himself among his courtiers. But Joan promptly picked him out, and set at rest for him an intimate doubt he had secretly prayed about as to his legitimacy as true son of the king of France, Charles VI.

Ultimately, after extensive debriefing and debate, Joan was outfitted with armor, sword and a white-gold standard bearing the names of Jesus and Mary, and an image of God the Father and angels offering Him a Fleur-des-Lys, the symbol of France.

In the company of the Duke of Orleans, other French nobles, and their armies she freed the besieged city of Orleans. To everyone’s amazement, Joan proved an effective general and strategist, though she never personally killed a man.

After other victories, she and her army accompanied the reluctant prince to Rheims where he was triumphantly crowned. But after his coronation the weak king began to haggle with Joan, and ultimately failed and abandoned her.

In a skirmish outside the city of Compiegne, she was taken prisoner and led to Rouen where she underwent an infamous “trial” conducted by a bishop, Pierre Cauchon, who courted English favor. She suffered a long, painful imprisonment, was finally branded a heretic and a sorceress and condemned to burned at the stake. She was nineteen years old.

To the very end she sustained that her “voices” had not deceived her. Her last gasping word was “Jesus!” Although the flames consumed her virginal body, her heart never burned.

What Joan had begun others picked up and France was ultimately freed.

Twenty-three years after her death, Joan’s mother and brothers appealed to Pope Callistus III for a re-trial. This new trial completely vindicated the “Maid of Orleans”on July 7, 1456.

Joan was canonized on May 16, 1920.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

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

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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