Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter R

The Catholic Language of Flowers


(Ranunculus: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

In thy rich beauty, flower, thou art like glittering wealth, which, enticing men to forget their God, bids them worship Mammon, and think only how to preserve and increase their gains.


(Phragmites communis: Nat. Order, Gramineæ)

Reeds have ever been the emblem of Music, from the fable of the ancients, who believed that when the god Apollo first taught mortals the art of music, his instrument was formed of reeds.
    And surely they do well who say that music is a heaven-taught science; for its ever-varying strains exert a strange, mysterious power over the soul,—changing us from sadness to gaiety, calming the restless spirit, awakening the yearning love of country in the heart of the exile, and breathing ardour and martial fire into the soldier’s breast. Beneath the influence of religion, how powerful is music to melt the soul into tears of compunction, or to raise it on wings of love to Heaven! When, kneeling in humble adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, we hear the solemn tones of the “Tantum ergo,” do we not feel that our hidden God is truly there? and when the glad notes of the “Gloria in excelsis” strike our ear, who would not echo with grateful heart the angels’ joyous song?


(Rhododendron: Nat. Order, Ericaceæ)

In the depths of the wilderness, or on the craggy sides of steep mountains, the Rhododendron gladdens the eye of the weary traveller, and encourages him to pursue his journey.
    Thus, in our path through life, God faithfully supports us, and breathes into our souls new strength to avoid the dangers in our way, and to walk courageously on towards heaven, the happy end of our pilgrimage.


(Phalaris: Nat. Order, Gramineæ)

Phalaris, the botanic name of this plant, reminds us of the tyrant of Agrigentum, of whom the following story is related.
    One Perillus, an Athenian, had invented a terrible instrument of torture; and knowing the cruel disposition of Phalaris, thought to ingratiate himself with the tyrant by presenting it to him. This instrument was a brazen bull. It was intended that a criminal should be enclosed within it, and a fire kindled beneath the image, so that the groans and cries of the unhappy victim might represent the roaring of the bull. Phalaris accepted this gift, and then commanded that the first trial of this dreadful invention, should be made upon the inventor himself.
    Thus, by a kind of terrible justice, did Heaven permit the wicked ingenuity of Perilius to become his own punishment.

Rock-Rose,—St. Rose of Lima

(Cistus: Nat. Order, Cistineæ)

Beautiful flower, in thy silent language thou tellest us of the sweet saint whose name thou bearest, and whose history seems written on thy hues. For like her spotless life is the purity of thy snowy petals; and the crimson spot in the depths of thy chalice, tells us at once of the ardent love for Jesus which inflamed her heart, and of the heroic life of penitence and prayer to which that love impelled her.

Rose,—The Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Beautiful above all other flowers is the Rose; rich in its fragrance, in its deep green leaves, in its varied and softly blended hues. Nature has centred in this her favourite flower those graces which she has distributed to others with a more sparing hand; and now in its loveliness, she presents it to us, as a faint image of that most Sacred Heart wherein are centred the perfections of the Godhead, the Heart of our beloved Redeemer.

Blush-Rose,—The Sacred Heart of Mary

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

The Blush-rose, whose beautiful and spotless petals tinged with pink, reflect the colours of the damask-rose, shall remind us of the immaculate heart of our Blessed Lady, inflamed with love for her divine Son, and reflecting a faithful image of His virtues.


(Rosa damascena: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Like the rose, beneficence sheds a universal sweetness around. Thanks to its power, what bitter tears have been dried, what deep wounds healed, how many sad hearts consoled, and how many wretched beings have been restored to hope, by mortal angels, whose charity works in silence, with no other witness than God!


(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Gentle Moss-rose, you are the emblem of God’s chosen ones, who, shining in their holiness, and spreading a sacred influence around, strive to conceal their virtues from this frivolous world, with the green scarf of humility.

York and Lancaster Rose,—War

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

It was a bright summer afternoon during the troubled reign of the sixth Henry, when the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Warwick stood in the Temple gardens. Their discourse ran upon the factions which rent the heart of England and shook her throne; and as their ancient hate revived within them, their words grew loud and fierce, angry passions flushed their cheeks and sparkled in their eyes, until at length, breaking the feeble bonds which had till then restrained them, they declared aloud their inextinguishable animosity, and each avowed his determination to oppose with all his strength, that party which should rank the other among its adherents. Then turning to the bystanders, the two nobles appealed to them for their suffrages. Warwick plucked a white rose, Somerset took a red one; and they bade every man present cull a rose the colour of his whose cause he favoured. The Roses afterwards became the badges of the rival candidates for the English throne; and thus were the innocent flowers made emblematic of those deadly wars in which sons stood against their fathers, and brothers aimed the fatal stroke at one another’s breasts; and which, for thirty long years, desolated the homes of England, and deluged her in the blood of her best and noblest children.

Wild Rose,—Innocence

(Rosa canina: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

The young child, in her playful hours, is often seen weaving garlands of Wild Roses, emblems of innocence. These gifts of nature are in reality images of her own soul.

Rose de Peronne,—Envy

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Near a myrtle-bower, grew a Rose-tree covered with lovely blossoms, while at its feet, lay a bed of modest Forget-me-nots. And though many paused before the beautiful rose-bush to cull its treasures, the flowers were soon abandoned when the perfume had fled and the beauty faded. Not so with the Forget-me-nots: some gentle child would take one of its pretty flowers, gaze upon it with tearful eyes, and then with a sigh, hide it in her bosom.
    Thus the Rose could delight but for a moment, while the sweet Forget-me-not had a magic power to call forth the tear of affection, and bring before the mind fond remembrances of loved though absent friends. At length the Roses grew jealous, and robbed the simple flower of its tint of heavenly blue. “Ah!” cried they, “we are now like you, Forget-me-not.”
    But a punishment waited on the theft. No longer recognised in their strange, new colour, the envious flowers were driven from the society of their sister Roses, and condemned to pine imprisoned within a garden’s narrow walls; while, free as ever, the little Forget-me-not charms all hearts, and still conveys to distant friends the tender words of the loved ones whom they have left.

Moss-Rosebud,—Mary’s Childhood

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

How eloquently does this flower speak to us of Mary as a child! We seem to behold the Mystical Rose when, but a fair and tender blossom, she was presented in the Temple, and consecrated to her God. We see this beauteous flower expanding its fair petals beneath the genial rays of the Sun of Justice, increasing daily in beauty and sweetness, until at length, God Himself declares it “full of grace,” and coming with loving hands to cull it, transplants it to heaven, to bloom in the eternal bowers. Happy are the flowers that grow beside this Mystic Rose; her shade shall protect and her fragrance delight them.

Rose-Tree,—Vain Pleasure

(Rosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

When the young votary of pleasure first views the world, nothing appears but its roses, and inexperienced youth little dreams of the thorns which lie concealed. But, alas! a few days of enjoyment, and the roses wither: a thorny stem is all that remains of the once bright flowers. Thus we should learn that true pleasure is found only in that Land where the sun ever shines, where thorns are unknown, and flowers are immortal.

White Rose,—A Holy Death

(Rosa alba: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

“Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints,” exclaims the inspired writer. Beautiful indeed, in the sight of God and of man, is the death of the innocent and holy. The features, lighted with a calm smile, seem to reflect the soul’s felicity; the paleness is but the whiteness of the rose, which does not render it less lovely than its blushing sister flowers.

Red Rose,—England

(Rosa rubra: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

One evening, the Genius of Britain sat and wept on the shores of her island. The country that she loved, was in the grasp of the stranger; his foot trod her soil; her rich harvests were now no more; for the land had become the scene of violence and bloodshed, and fierce, contending armies stood where once had waved her golden corn.
    Sadly the pitying Genius mourned over the lot of Britain’s children; their homes were desolate, their churches ruined, for the northern barbarians held the land; and those among her sons who still loved freedom, sought it in the woods and caves.
    The tears of the kind Genius fell fast, and her sighs, mingled with the lamentations of her children, were wafted towards heaven.
    Night had fallen around; but its shades seemed to her less dark than the sorrow which lay over her cherished isle; and in her deep sadness, she marked not the passing hours. At length, raising her head, she perceived that the first ray of morn had broken in the east; soon the rising sun tinged the clouds with roseate colours, then the heavens and the earth were steeped in floods of golden light. And a soft voice near her whispered, “Fear not, kind Genius that weepest over Britain; even thus shall the clouds of her misfortunes pass away, and the day shall come when the sun of her glory shall shine over the world.”
    The Genius looked around hastily; no one was visible; but near her grew a rose-tree on which a lovely flower, bathed in dew, lifted its fair head, as she approached, and wafted its fragrant breath towards her. “Sweet flower,” said the Genius of Britain, “’tis from thee came the voice of the spirit who but now spoke to me. And since thou hast cheered my sorrow, and whispered hope to my soul, thou shalt henceforth be the emblem of the land I love; thy flowers shall bloom beside the thrones of her kings; they shall twine around their diadems; and the nations of the earth shall yet bless and love the English Rose.”

Rose-Laurel,—Divine Love overcomes all Difficulties

(Nerium: Nat. Order, Apocyneæ)

The soul that truly loves God, will overcome the dangers and temptations which beset the path of life; and, intent only on her beloved, she will behold with contempt or indifference, all that would allure her from the narrow path in which He trod. Smiling at danger, and courageously surmounting all obstacles, she patiently toils up the steep ascent that leads to Him, and receives from His hand the double crown of love and victory.


(Rosmarinus: Nat. Order, Labiatæ)

The Rosemary, which will live for ever in the pages of our immortal Shakespeare, shall be our emblem of poetry; its fragrant leaves and flowers are like the sweet influence which poetry exerts over our minds, refreshing the heart grown dry by contact with the rough cold world, and teaching the prisoned soul to seek for higher joys, and purer, holier things, than those which its house of clay affords it.
    Such is the mission of true poets, and wo to those who have betrayed their trust; who, veiling the hideousness of evil, have presented it to men as good; or, gilding with their magic art the base things of earth, have taught men to believe them priceless treasures.