Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter M

The Catholic Language of Flowers

Magnolia,—Lively Faith

(Magnolia: Nat. Order, Magnoliaceæ)

The large-flowered Magnolia is the pride of European gardens, and the glory of the woods of America; but it shrinks from the cold blasts of the northern climes.
    Jesus is the Flower of the universe. All who know Him, are charmed with His beauty, and the sweet odour of His sanctity. He loves to reside in hearts by which He knows Himself beloved; but He cannot make His dwelling where He meets with coldness or indifference.


(Mahonia: Nat. Order, Berberidæ)

Suspicious people imagine that fair words and kind actions are but like the Mahonia, which conceals sharp thorns beneath its leaves and flowers. But the heart which is itself guileless, will not easily suspect evil in others; nor will he to whom dissimulation is unknown, believe without cause that others seek to deceive.


(Malva sylvestris: Nat. Order, Malvaceæ)

The soothing and beneficial qualities of the Mallow render it emblematic of kindness. For how sweet, and yet how strong, is the influence of kindness! There is no heart that can resist its power. How often has the shaft of anger been turned aside, or the stubborn, hardened heart been softened, by the magic of a kind and gentle word!


(Bidens: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

Yellow is ever considered to be typical of jealousy; and the deep yellow hues of the Marigold make it an appropriate emblem of that passion. How strong is jealousy, when it has once taken possession of the mind! and how terribly does it corrupt the judgment and harden the soul! Strange perverseness of the human heart, which, of the happiness and prosperity of others, makes its own misery.

African Marigold,—Slavery

(Calendula: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

Beside a rustic cradle, a Negro mother toiled; and as she gazed from time to time upon her babe that lay there, smiling in its sleep, bitter tears fell down her cheeks: the look of joy a mother’s face should wear, faded, the words of tenderness died upon her lips, and she prayed that God would take her unconscious infant out of life, ere it could know the drear and terrible lot which awaits the child of a slave.
    O Slavery! can it be that men with Christian souls and hearts of flesh, can suffer thine odious presence on their soil! and that a country which prides itself on being free, can echo from its shores the groans and lamentations of many thousand slaves!


(Mezembryanthemum: Nat. Order, Ficoidæ)

Slowly this flower opens to the morning light. After every other flower is awake, when the sun has risen, and the blossoms have been freshened by his genial rays, the Mezembryanthemum begins to lift its sleepy head; and before the evening shadows fall around, it slowly closes its petals, and is already sunk in slumber before its sisters are preparing for their rest.


(Daphne mezereum: Nat. Order, Thymelææ)

Sweet flower, would that I could repose as calmly as thou reposest amid thy dark-green leaves! But, alas! that gentle rest is yet far from me. Not on earth will I seek it; in heaven alone, at Mary’s feet, shall I enjoy for ever a sweet and undisturbed repose.

Michaelmas Daisy,—Cheerfulness in Adversity

(Aster: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

The pretty, cheerful-looking flowers of the Michaelmas Daisy, which come forth when other flowers are fading, and the leaves fall thickly around, remind us that our happiness and our misery depend principally upon ourselves, and can be but little influenced by the smiles or the frowns of fortune.


(Reseda odorata: Nat. Order, Resedaceæ)

This sweet unassuming little plant, which graces alike the humble cottage and the gardens of the rich, and whose stems bend submissively to the summer breeze, is an emblem of contentment which though sometimes shaken by the winds of adversity, remains ever cheerful, and is the talisman that makes the cottager’s humble home happier than the gaudy palaces of kings.


(Mentha piperita: Nat. Order, Labiatæ)

Men love me for my simplicity and my innocent look, as well as for my fragrance; yet few there are who, as they pluck me, read on my petals my emblem “sincerity.”


(Viscum album: Nat. Order, Lorantheæ)

This plant reminds us of the custom which existed among the ancient Britons, who, looking on the Mistletoe as sacred to the gods, treated it with the greatest reverence, and even venerated it with religious ceremonies.
    Thanks be to God, Christianity presents us with far different objects for our love and veneration; but may we not learn, even from pagans, the profound respect which is due to holy things?

Mitre-Wort,—The Episcopacy

(Mitella: Nat. Order, Saxifragaceæ)

Little flower, thy name reminds us of those whom God has raised to the dignities of His Church. Yet here the resemblance ends; for thou hidest thyself in the depths of our valleys, and, bending thy fair but scentless flowers towards the earth, thou seemest to live only for thyself. But they whom thou recallest to our minds, are placed by God upon the summits of His holy places, to watch over and defend the flock that Heaven has intrusted to their care; while far around they diffuse Heaven’s richest graces, and embalm the garden of the Church with the sweet odour of their lives.

Mock Orange or Syringa,—Hypocrisy

(Philadelphus coronarius: Nat. Order, Philadelphiæ)

The flowers of the Syringa bear some resemblance to those of the orange, yet in vain do we look for the dark evergreen leaves of the orange, or its delicious and beautiful fruit.
    Vainly shall we wear the appearance of piety, unless the fair promise of its flowers be crowned with the fruit of good works.

Monkshood,—The Religious Life

(Aconitum: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

A solitary plant bloomed and flourished in the walks of an ancient abbey. Heaven showered its choicest blessings on the lonely flower, which, uncherished by mortal hand, and unseen by human eyes, lived but in the sight of God, seeming to typify in its secluded life those happy souls that, hidden in the cloister, devote themselves to prayer, and to the service of God.

Moss,—Filial Affection

(Musci: Nat. Order, Musci)

The Moss, which we see clinging lovingly to some ruin, clothing it with its fresh and verdant mantle at once receiving and lending new beauty, shall speak to us of filial affection. For thus do affectionate and devoted children cling round their aged parents, happy to support and console their declining years, and to repay, by a thousand gentle and duteous offices, the debts of love contracted during the long years of their own infancy and childhood. How agreeable in the sight of God are such children, and how great are the rewards which our Heavenly Father has prepared for filial piety!


(Morus: Nat. Order, Urticaceæ)

Upon the leaves of the Mulberry, are fed the silkworms which produce the finest silk. If the gay votaries of fashion reflected that they are indebted to a worm for the silken robes in which they take so much pride, would they not cease to value those empty distinctions, and seek for some higher pleasure than that of adorning themselves with the work of a worm?


(Agaricus campestre: Nat. Order, Fungi)

The Mushroom, which springs up quickly and almost as quickly fades away, is emblematic of those caprices in which young people sometimes think themselves at liberty to indulge, without regard to the inclinations or the desires of those around them. Surely this wayward conduct can proceed only from a very thoughtless or a very selfish mind.

Musk-Plant,—Hidden Kindness

(Mimulus moschatus: Nat. Order, Scrophularineæ)

Scarcely raised above the ground, and often hidden by the plants that grow near, the Musk seeks not to display its yellow flowers; but it is discovered by the sweet odour which it breathes around. How like unobtrusive kindness, which, void of ostentation, works in secret, and is known only by the sweet influence of its gentle deeds!


(Sinapis nigra: Nat. Order, Cruciferæ)

How many gentle hearts have been wounded by the sharp sting of ironical words! How often have the seeds of evil and bitter feelings, which have completely changed the heart, and cast a shadow over the whole life, been sown at random by satirical or cruel words!


(Myrtus: Nat. Order, Myrtaceæ)

Covered with blossoms, the Myrtle offers its silvery flowers to all who approach, and wafts its fragrance even to those who pass it by unnoticed. It recalls to our minds that our Blessed Lord has commanded us to communicate freely to others what we have freely received from His paternal bounty; and He further assures us, that by the measure which we use to others, shall be meted out the gifts and graces which He will bestow upon ourselves.