Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter B

The Catholic Language of Flowers

Balm of Gilead,—The Heavenly Consoler

(Balsamodendrom: Nat. Order, Terebinthaceæ)

The Balm is the faithful figure of Him whose delight it is to be with the children of men, ever healing the wounds made by the darts of Satan, and soothing with His soft influence, the pains inflicted by the false and cruel world.

Baptisia,—The Grace of Baptism

(Baptisia: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

Beautiful are thy deep-blue flowers, Baptisia; but how much more beautiful are the flowers which the sacrament whose name thou bearest, produces in our souls! when the dark robe of sin is cast aside, the chain of Satan broken, and the soul, clothed in shining garments and honoured as the child of God, is encompassed by thousands of angelic spirits, who bid her be true to the vows which she has made to her Heavenly Father, and speak to her of the rewards that await her fidelity.


(Berberis vulgaris: Nat. Order, Berberidæ)

The Barberry charms us in Summer by the drooping clusters of its golden flowers, and in the Autumn, by the rich profusion of its scarlet fruit; but he who would pluck them, must not fear the thorns by which they are surrounded. Does not nature here teach us the oft-repeated lesson, that on earth, nothing great or good can be achieved without patient endurance and courageous resolution?


(Ocymum basilicum: Nat. Order, Labiatæ)

What flower could be a better emblem of friendship than the sweet Basil, with whose name are associated records of one of the holiest and most faithful of friendships,— that which existed between St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzen. Begun while students in the school at Athens, this tender affection lasted all their lives; and though candidates for the same honours, they had no rivalry but to excel one another in virtue, and in the gentle acts which each sought to exercise towards his beloved friend.


(Laurus nobilis: Nat. Order, Laurineæ)

The Bay, whose leaves the ancients wreathed to adorn the brows of their victorious heroes, speaks to us of that immortal glory with which the Christian hero shall be crowned when, having fought the good fight, he shall be called to celebrate an eternal triumph.


(Fagus: Nat. Order, Cupuliferæ)

Thou art a worthy emblem of time, noble tree, and the different states through which thou passest, are like the changes that are brought upon the wings of time. Oh! may we pass, as thou dost, unharmed through all these changes; and whether the Almighty’s gifts be lavishly bestowed on us, as on thee in thy summer’s beauty, or whether our Heavenly Father permit the chill blast of misfortune to strip us of what we hold most dear, may we still raise our heads, as thou dost, to the bright heaven above us, awaiting in patient hopefulness, the happy hour in which time shall waft us to the shores of our eternal home!

Bee Orchis,—Industry

(Ophrys apifera: Nat. Order, Orchidaceæ)

Since the fall of Adam, man has been condemned to labour; yet this sentence, far from being a curse, is a blessing to our race. Do we not find that the hours spent in works of industry, are the happiest? and that idleness fills our hearts with disquietude, and makes the time hang heavily upon our hands?


(Calystegia sepium: Nat. Order, Convolvulaceæ)

The Bindweed twines itself closely around the plants that grow near it, and appears to make them necessary to its existence; but if separated, it does not fade nor die. Does it not teach us how we ought to live in this world,—not indeed coldly, or without affection; but with our hearts so well regulated, that if God demands of us the sacrifice of some loved object, we may make it with resignation, and even with cheerfulness?

Bitter-Sweet Nightshade,—Disappointment

(Solanum dulcamara: Nat. Order, Solanaceæ)

My fruit is red and beautiful, and at first it tastes sweet; but this sweetness is quickly changed into a lasting bitterness. O ye mortals! Nature has planted me around your dwellings that you may learn from me, that disappointment ever waits on earthly pleasures, and that the guilty delights which please you for a moment, will be followed by the bitterness of an eternal regret.


(Prunus spinosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

How often does ambition lead men, by its fair promises, to encounter a thousand dangers in pursuit of some fancied good, which, when attained, they find to be but like the scentless flowers and worthless fruit of the Blackthorn! Let us remember that it was the thorn of ambition which pierced the Saviour’s brow; let us picture to ourselves the closing eyes, the parched lips, the meekly bowed head of our Redeemer, and ask ourselves if we will renew those torments. Surely our only ambition thenceforward will be to obtain an honourable place in the court of the thorn-crowned King, the meek and lowly Jesus.

Blue Bells,—Aspirations Towards God

(Campanula rotundifolia: Nat. Order, Campanulaceæ)

Bells summon us to prayer; and these bright flower-bells with which God has decked our glades and woodlands, tell us that not within our churches only must we adore our great Creator, but that the whole earth is His temple, and that our hearts should continually waft upwards to Him the incense of their love and praise.


(Lyttæa geminiflora: Nat. Order, Bromeliaceæ)

In homage to the great conqueror who shook the thrones of Europe, I was called Bonapartea. How little did those who bestowed that name upon me, deem that they were prefiguring the fate of him whom they admired! For like the transient beauty of my blossoms, is all earthly glory; and all honours here below will scarce outlive a flower.


(Borago: Nat. Order, Boragineæ)

At first sight, the rough appearance of the Borage would deter us from touching it; but if we have courage to examine it further, we find that its rough hairy coat hides no sting. In this, it resembles those blunt persons who, at first sight, appear harsh and severe, but whom, if we have courage to seek their acquaintance, we finally learn to esteem and love.
    It also conveys a warning to those who, though their hearts are good, yet, by their want of consideration, inflict much pain on their fellow creatures, forgetting that few have courage to gather the Borage, and that many imagine it to be as formidable as it appears.


(Buxus: Nat. Order, Euphorbiaceæ)

The Box shares with the holly the honours of our homes at the happy season of Christmas, when gaiety fills all hearts, and when, as if in homage to our Saviour’s infancy, we all become as little children, and join in childhood’s mirthful sports.

Buttercup,—Recollections of Childhood

(Ranunculus acris: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

The Buttercup carries our thoughts to days gone by, when, as merry, innocent children, we sported in the meadows, and made our playmates of the birds and flowers. Happy days! you pass too swiftly; but your happiness passes not from those whose hearts are innocent and pure.