Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter P

The Catholic Language of Flowers


(Phænix dactylifera: Nat. Order, Palmæ)

The fruit of the Palm-tree is sweet, its shade protects us from the sun, and its branches serve as an ornament in our triumphs; but if we would obtain in heaven the palm of victory, we must live and die for Jesus Christ. This is the eternal triumph to which we must aspire.


(Pancratium: Nat. Order, Amaryllidæ)

As we gaze on thy fair petals, thoughts of the gentle child whose name thou bearest, softly steal over our souls, telling us how the martyr-boy despised the world’s false pleasures, and bravely giving his life for God, returned his soul pure and unspotted to its Creator.


(Viola tricolor: Nat. Order, Violaceæ)

The Pansy is the emblem of thought. Let it then bring to our mind thoughts of the great and bountiful Being to whom we are indebted for these fair flowers, as well as for all else that makes the earth so beautiful; and who, in the thousand eloquent tones which breathe through Nature, is continually recalling our minds and hearts to Himself.


(Papyrus: Nat. Order, Cyperaceæ)

The ancients used to write on scrolls made from the pith of a kind of reed called Papyrus; but in those days, learning and science were treasures locked up from all but a privileged few. Since the invention of printing, the stream of knowledge has been poured over the earth; the knowledge of good, and of evil too, for unfortunately, the latter is but too easily diffused; and countless proofs daily declare to us bow vain and shallow, without religion, is all the learning of men. This is a truth which the most illustrious men have readily acknowledged. Thus we hear a Sir Isaac Newton, after having spent a lifetime in the study of Nature, and having astonished the world by his discoveries, declaring sincerely that he knew nothing, and that he had scarcely read the first page of the great book which Nature presented to him. For, before the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Omnipotence, who can but feel that man, with all his boasted learning, is but as a reed; and that the science of the saints is a thousand times more precious than the learning of philosophers or the eloquence of schools?

Pasque-Flower,—The Resurrection of Our Lord

(Anemone pulsatilla: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

When the early spring has shed her treasures around, and Nature, with a smile, invites me to admire her beauties, the Pasque-flower, as it raises its head towards the skies, opens to me a field of thought of which its very name proclaims the subject.
    For then do I imagine myself hastening with Magdalen to my Saviour’s tomb; and, struck with surprise on finding Him not, love bids me seek Him elsewhere, when, behold! the angel’s voice proclaims that He is risen from the dead.
    Thus, dear Lord, may we also hope that, after the winter of death, we shall share the joys of your glorious Resurrection.


(Passiflora: Nat. Order, Passifloræ)

The voice of God speaks through His works, and as we gaze upon this flower, imagination insensibly leads us to Calvary, and thence, with shadowy finger pointing to Bethlehem, whispers, “For thy salvation, a God was born in a stable, and died in torture and ignominy upon a cross.”

Purple Passion-Flower,—The Sufferings of Our Lord

(Passiflora kermesina: Nat. Order, Passifloræ)

The Passion-flower is not gifted with the brilliant hues of the rose, nor the odour of the sweet violet. Its dark streaks appear to represent the drops which flowed from the Fount of Mercy. How strange are the types of torture which it wears! Still for us, there is no hue like its hues, for it breathes the odour of a name whose sweetness fills the soul. In its mystic lines of wo and suffering, we read a tale of love to which our hearts respond in voiceless sobbing. Death’s darkest agony and love’s last words of sorrow are written on its dyes.

Pear-Tree,—A Virtuous Soul

(Pyrus communis: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

A holy writer has well compared a tree laden with fruit to a virtuous soul. He has said that as the barren branches raise themselves on high, while those which are covered with fruit, bend towards the earth, so does the empty and barren soul seek to elevate itself in the esteem of men; while that which is rich in virtue is ever impressed with a sincere humility, and, lowly in its own eyes, cares not for the applause and approbation of the world.


(Persica vulgaris: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Submissively and willingly do thy branches yield to the training hand of him who tends thee; thou resemblest a soul which, indifferent to self, follows the guidance of obedience, and, like the Peach-tree, produces a delicious fruit.


(Pæonia: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

Well dost thou represent pride, gaudy Peony; and he who gazes thoughtfully upon thy glowing petals, will find a warning imprinted there.
    Bright and showy, yet unloved, thy short-lived flowers may adorn our gardens; but we cull them not for our bouquets, nor do we suffer them to bloom within our homes.
    Thus are the proud treated by Heaven, as well as by men; for the holy text declares, that “God resisteth the proud,” and that “He knoweth them afar off.”

Red Peony,—Anger

(Pæonia: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

The red Peony may well be our emblem of anger, since pride and anger are so near akin. Its colour, too, represents the blood which that dread passion drew from the thorn-crowned head of our meek Saviour; and, reminding us of the terrible atonement which He deigned to make for our transgressions, it seems to exhort us not to suffer that sacred Blood to be shed for us in vain.

Periwinkle,—Interior Peace

(Vinca major: Nat. Order, Apocyneæ)

My evergreen leaves resist all storms, and the calm hues of my flowers speak to pious hearts of a peace which to the world is unknown, but which is the happy lot of those within whose bosoms dwells the Prince of Peace. Chosen souls, who have left all to follow Jesus, often look on me, and meditate those words so full of meaning,—Interior Peace.


(Petunia: Nat. Order, Solanaceæ)

Unable to support itself on its weak stem, the Petunia droops, and would wither, did not some friendly hand raise it up, and assist it to lift once more its head to heaven.
    So it is with us. How often do we fall beneath the weight of our own weakness, or wounded by the poisonous shafts of sin! But the Good Shepherd is near; He approaches, binds up our wounds, and revives us with the sweet influence of His presence and His grace.

White Phlox,—Candour

(Phlox candidum: Nat. Order, Polemoniaceæ)

This attractive little flower, with its white petals and gay appearance, is an emblem of candour which gives to its possessor those many charms that win all hearts to admire and love her.


(Anagallis: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

Little flower, that, opening wide thy red corolla in the sunshine, closest again at the first passing shower, dost thou not resemble those persons who seem full of courage when danger is remote, but who tremble and faint at its near approach?


(Pinus: Nat. Order, Abietineæ)

The Pine-tree fears not the cold blasts of the Northern climes, nor does it seek its home in vales and smiling plains; it can live amid snow-capped mountains, clothing them with its dark verdure as well in the brief, hot summer as in the winter’s long and sombre reign. It is emblematic of patience, which enables us to stand unmoved as well in the winter of adversity, as when the sun of prosperity shines upon us. For patience renders us strong and courageous, gives that firmness which fears no obstacles, nor dangers; and, inspiring us with a holy resignation to God’s will, turns aside the arrows of misfortune, or makes them fall harmlessly at our feet.


(Sarracenia purpurea: Nat. Order, Sarraceneæ)

Amid the wilds of America, the Pitcher-plant extends its broad, boat-shaped leaves, to receive the rains and dews of heaven. Its flowers can boast but little beauty, yet it is unspeakably precious to the wanderer; for in its’ hollowed leaves, he finds the cooling draught that will refresh him, and give him strength to pursue his toilsome way.

Polygala,—A Contented Heart

(Polygala vulgaris: Nat. Order, >Polygaleæ)

On the wild heath or sunny knoll, the little Polygala lifts its tiny blossoms, and, though unseen and neglected, it appears not less happy than the most showy flowers that adorn our gardens. Thus even from the smallest flower, we may learn a lesson; it seems to tell us that if God has not bestowed upon us wealth or rank, He has blessed us with numberless graces far more precious, and that the lowly paths of life may be much happier, as they are much safer, than those of the rich and great.


(Populus: Nat. Order, Salicaceæ)

Many trees bend their branches to the earth; but the Poplar seems to rise with all its strength towards heaven, emblem of those true and noble hearts, which no evil influence nor example can seduce from their allegiance to their God.

Prickly Pear,—Satire

(Opuntia communis: Nat. Order, Cactaceæ)

Well does thy fruit resemble satirical persons; for as thy thorns wound our hands, so does satire wound the heart, and too often its impression is so deep that it can never be effaced. Yet satire may be used beneficially, and many vices and follies which had resisted all other attacks, have fled beneath its lash.


(Papaver: Nat. Order, Papaveraceæ)

Vain of its bright robes, the Poppy lifts its head above the flowers around it; but a blast of wind comes, and its petals strew the ground.


(Primula: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

From the hedge-row, the Primrose looks out joyously to hail the arrival of spring, and is emblematic of the welcome with which Nature greets her favourite season, when, arraying herself in her most pleasing garb, she needs no artificial means to make her an object of attraction.