Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter V

The Catholic Language of Flowers

Venus’s Looking-Glass,—Vanity

(Prismatocarpus speculum: Nat. Order, Campanulaceæ)

This plain little flower, though void of brilliancy or sweet perfume, raises aloft its tiny blossom, as if to seek our admiration, and thus resembles vanity.

Venus’s Fly-Trap,—Cruelty

(Dionæa muscipula: Nat. Order, Droseraceæ)

The Dionæa, whose leaves close upon and crush to death any hapless insect that alights upon them, inspires us with a horror of cruelty, that vice of depraved and wicked minds.

Verbena,—Good Humour

(Verbena: Nat. Order, Verbenaceæ)

With love and kind feelings, I look on all around me; and as my flowers cheer, with their gay colours, the dark aspect of the earth, men have made me the emblem of good-humour, which comes, like the harbinger of peace, to shed its sweet influence around, and to light up the darksome path of life.

Lemon Verbena,—Charity

(Aloysia: Nat. Order, Verbenaceæ)

The leaf of the Lemon Verbena, when broken, rewards its destroyer by giving forth a sweet odour. Is it not like charity, which endures all things patiently, and returns good for evil?

Veronica,—St. Veronica

(Veronica: Nat. Order, Scrophularineæ)

Little unpretending flower, you bear a name which the brightest ornaments of our gardens might well envy, the name of the generous and heroic woman who, when His friends fled from the Saviour of the world, and His Apostles denied Him, pressed closer to His sacred Person, to offer Him the tribute of her tears and faithful love, and to wipe His blood-stained face.

Vine,—Our Divine Lord

(Vitis: Nat. Order, Ampelideæ)

“I am the vine,” said our blessed Lord, “you are the branches: as the branches cannot bear fruit unless they abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” Happy the soul who, by love and conformity of will, unites herself as closely to you, dear Lord, as the branch to the vine; dwelling in you, and living by your life. Such souls shall indeed produce much fruit.


(Vitis: Nat. Order, Ampelideæ)

The Vine-leaves hide the clustering grapes beneath their broad palms, shading them from the scorching sun, as benevolence screens the unfortunate, with its mantle of consoling words and kinder actions, from the burning winds and the rude tempests of the world.


(Viola adorata: Nat. Order, Violaceæ)

Though the humble Violet hides itself from our view, beneath its tufts of green leaves, it nevertheless attracts our attention by the fragrance which it wafts to us from its retreat; like humility, which, while striving to conceal its graces, does but render them the more amiable.

White Violet,—Retirement

(Viola candida: Nat. Order, Violaceæ)

What more fitting emblem can be given to this sweet Violet, than retirement? It is one of the first spring-flowers, and it blooms all alone, choosing rather to be hidden and unknown, than to dwell among the beautiful but gaudy flowers that flourish far away from its home.

Virgin’s Bower,—The Annunciation of the B.V.

(Clematis: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

Evening was fast approaching, bringing with it calm, sweet thoughts; and as it shed its fading light around, the beauty so peculiarly its own, increased. Over a solitary dwelling, its twilight seemed to delight in resting; for nature loved the spot, and her flowers, as they opened their chalices to receive the dews of heaven, looked more lovely there than elsewhere. Hours passed; night was now casting her dark veil over the scene, and one plant alone slumbered not: its stems clung fondly round the lonely dwelling, and its silver flowers, wreathing the casement, peered into the chamber within, as if wishful to behold one who knelt there. It was a young maiden, beautiful and holy. She was absorbed in prayer; and as she knelt alone in the still midnight, with hands meekly joined and eyes upraised to heaven, an indescribable light of purity and holiness beamed from her countenance and shone around her. No wonder that the flowers loved to watch beside her, who was the fairest flower that earth had ever seen; or that nature delighted to adorn the home of her, who was so tenderly beloved by nature’s God.
    Meanwhile, the flowers still kept vigil, and, raising their heads, they beheld a bright spirit bending low before the holy maiden. Heavenly music greeted her, and the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” fell in soft, sweet tones upon her ear. With deepest humility, the fair Flower of Israel received the tidings of the high honour which Heaven had reserved for her, and humbly answered, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” Then the angel of God disappeared, leaving brilliant, supernatural rays of light around the spot which held earth’s richest treasure.
    Thus was it announced to Israel’s immaculate Daughter, that she was chosen from among thousands to be the Mother of that God of love and goodness, who was to redeem the world by the sacrifice of His own life.
    Midnight was past, and yet that favourite of heaven slept not; still engaged in prayer, she communed with her God, while the little flowers, bending towards her, wept tears of love and joy. Turning her meek head towards them, the Mother of God beheld their devotedness, and addressed them thus: “You alone, gentle flowers, have been the earthly witnesses of Heaven’s high dealings with its humble handmaid; in recompense of your love and fidelity, you shall henceforth be called the ‘Virgin’s Bower.’ As children learn your name, they shall lisp with it the name of a Mother who deeply loves them; and thus, in your mute language, you shall for ever speak of the Mother of God.”