Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter C

The Catholic Language of Flowers


(Cereus speciosissimus: Nat. Order, Cactaceæ)

The prickly stem of the Cactus makes us fear to approach it; but like self-denial, it soon rewards him who cherishes it with its beautiful flowers, emblems of the virtues that spring from the denial of ourselves.


(Calceolaria: Nat. Order, Scrophularineæ)

Fair flower, how beautiful is the virtue of which thou art the emblem! For the veil of modesty, with which we should conceal our soul’s most precious gifts, adds new charms to its possessor, and attracts many hearts to virtue and to God.


(Camellia japonica: Nat. Order, Camelliaceæ)

Let not a finger approach the white Camellia’s fair petals; a touch may mar their beauty, as a breath suffices to tarnish the chastity of a soul, which they resemble by their dazzling whiteness.


(Iberis umbellata: Nat. Order, Cruciferæ)

The little flowers of the Candytuft are disposed close together, yet none encroach upon or injure their sister-flowers. Thus should we gladly yield to one another, and dwell in peace and harmony with all around.


(Campanula rotundifolia: Nat. Order, Campanulaceæ)

In thy silent, yet eloquent language, little flower, thou tellest of the heroic and holy Archbishop who durst defend the Church’s rights against a tyrant’s power, and who chose rather to shed his blood upon the altar steps of his cathedral, than to violate the trust committed to him by God, or to purchase life by a base compliance with the wishes of an unjust king.

Cardamine,—Gratitude for the Gifts of God

(Cardamine pratensis: Nat. Order, Cruciferæ)

Scattered over the bright emerald fields, flung in profusion along the hedge-rows and in the meadows, the pretty Cardamine, with its pale lilac cup, is seen in early April. It seems to say to the inhabitants of the earth, “The long, dreary winter has passed away, and beautiful spring has come, with her robe of green and her lap full of flowers. Go forth therefore, children, from the habitations of men; fly to the woods and glens, to gather the treasures which nature has showered upon you. And while you gaze with admiration upon the beautiful earth, forget not Him who clothed it with that beauty; let your hearts pay Him the grateful tribute of their love and praise.”

Cardinal-Flower,—The Priesthood

(Lobelia cardinalis: Nat. Order, Lobeliaceæ)

God’s ministers, like beautiful flowers, are seen every where, doing good, and shedding the odour of virtue around. We can say this more particularly of him whose name is whispered to us by this flower, and whose presence in our Islands has ever been a source of the choicest graces to his devoted and grateful children. Our gaze cannot fall on this fair plant without reminding us that he whose name it bears, blooms in virtue in the sight of his God.

Carnation,—Maternal Affection

(Dianthus caryophyllus: Nat. Order, Caryophyllaceæ)

In the fragrant Carnation, the heart of a child recognises an emblem of a mother’s love. Its sweet familiar flowers dwell meekly amid the plants which flourish near it; and while it bends towards them, and expands its beauteous petals in their sight, still from the depths of its heart, it wafts a grateful incense to the throne of God. Yet this fragrance passes not from them; for the soft winds bear it back, and it falls lovingly upon the little flowers around, gladdening them with its sweetness, like the prayer which, ascending from a mother’s heart to the Fount of Mercy, falls again in heavenly benedictions upon her children’s souls.
    And we, who have felt the depth and tenderness of a mother’s affection, will raise our humble tribute of gratitude to Him who has flung over our early years the full sunshine of a mother’s love and care.

Red Carnation,—Divine Love

(Dianthus caryophyllus: Nat. Order, Caryophyllaceæ)

The garden of our Lord is my home, and there have I learned that divine love which gives so deep a hue to my petals. Often am I placed at His feet; and from that dear dwelling-place, I call on men to love Him more and more, and to atone for the crimes that are committed against His sacred Heart.

Cedar of Lebanon,—Union with God

(Cedrus Libani: Nat. Order, Abietineæ)

The Cedar raises its lofty head above the earth, and seems desirous of uniting itself to heaven; so does the noble, generous heart deem all on earth too mean to love, but elevating itself to God, it beholds in Him its only treasure.


(Cerasus: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

The Double-cherry-tree, covered with its white flowers, is the pride of our gardens in the spring-time; but in the autumn, when the other trees yield the harvest of their fruit, it remains dry and barren.
    If in the spring-time of youth, we cherish only the flowers of pleasure, we cannot hope that the autumn of our lives will be crowned with the fruit of good works.

Chestnut-Blossom,—Fraternal Affection

(Æsculus hippocastanum: Nat. Order, Hippocastaneæ)

The Chestnut-tree, whose fair blossoms clustering round the stem, and adding to one another’s beauty, seem happy in their unity, speaks to our minds of that sweet affection which blesses a happy home.

China Aster,—St. Margaret of Scotland

(Aster sinesis: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

In France, they call me “Reine Marguerite,” and that is the name I love best; for it tells of one, gentle and good, on whose brow, many hundred years ago, sparkled the Scottish crown, and whose sweet and holy influence softened alike the king and his rough people.

Chinese Pitcher-Plant,—Assistance

(Nepenthes distillatoria: Nat. Order, Cytineæ)

O flower, what an emblem thou bearest! if we afforded more assistance to those around us, how happy should we be, and how happy might we often render others!

Christmas Rose,—The Nativity of Our Lord

(Helleborus niger: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

In the drear time of winter, when the earth seems dead, and nature, bereft of her fairest children, appears to mourn their loss, the Christmas Rose comes forth to cheer the gloomy scene. Should it not remind us of that Celestial Flower, who, leaving the bright gardens of heaven, came to bloom upon our earth, to cheer our hearts with His sweet presence, and to bring us new life and hope?

Christ’s Thorn,—The Passion of Our Lord

(Paliurus aculeatus: Nat. Order, Rhamnaceæ)

Simple flower, on thee do I love to meditate; for as I gaze on thee, the thorns that mingle with thy leaves attract my attention, and lead me to think of Him whose sacred head was crowned with thorns, and whose blood trickled in large crimson drops down His cheeks, each drop effacing as it fell, those dark sins which had shut us out of heaven, and which themselves drew those red streams from the Saviour’s loving heart.


(Chrysanthemum: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

When the summer’s brief reign is nearly over, and the cold blast strews the ground with the spoils of the woods and groves, I come with the few flowers that deck the robe of autumn,—farewell gifts which the departing summer leaves to earth.
    O you, from whom the hand of death has torn your fairest flowers, you in whose hearts still echo the last farewells of those you loved, raise your thoughts to heaven! there, you will find again your cherished flowers; in that bright land, the bitter word “farewell” is never spoken.


(Potentilla reptans: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Little flower, that, bending downwards, spreadest thy golden blossoms on the ground, and seemest to fear no danger from the passing tread, in thy confidence I behold an emblem of sweet childhood’s years.


(Clematis: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

I have met with many difficulties, yet my stem continues to climb, surmounting all obstacles, and putting forth beautiful leaves and silvery flowers to adorn your homes. Would you learn the secret of my success? Gaze upon my petals; you will behold inscribed thereon the simple word “Perseverance.”


(Dianthus caryophyllus: Nat. Order, Caryophyllaceæ)

Unlike the lowly violet, or the drooping snowdrop, the Clove-Pink raises itself high upon its stem, as if confident that its beauteous tints and sweet-scented flowers make it welcome to all around it.
    A certain amount of confidence is necessary to ensure success in our undertakings; yet this confidence should be placed in God, not in ourselves; lest we fall into the error of those who, full of self-conceit, imagine that they are never mistaken in what they say or do, and will not be guided by others.


(Celosia cristata: Nat. Order, Amaranthaceæ)

The Cock’s-comb reminds us of vain-glory, for it stands with its head erect, and its leaves proudly displayed; and though possessing neither sweetness nor useful qualities, it appears to challenge our admiration, and to claim for itself the honours of our gardens.


(Aquilegia: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

This pretty little flower, which bears the name as well as the form of a dove, is an appropriate emblem of gentleness, that amiable quality which contributes so much to the peace and happiness of home.

White Convolvulus,—Truth

(Convolvulus arvensis: Nat. Order, Convolvulaceæ)

Pure and beautiful as truth, is the White Convolvulus, and like truth, its greatest beauty is its simplicity. But alas! the Convolvulus fades when rudely touched; and thus is truth too oft obscured, and its beauty veiled, by the rude hand of falsehood.

Blue Convolvulus,—Recollection

(Convolvulus major: Nat. Order, Convolvulaceæ)

Frail and delicate, yet beautiful, the Blue Convolvulus raises its head above its native soil, and clinging round some friendly trellis to support its fragile form, turns its fair face towards the heavens, and reflects their colour in its azure hues. O little flower, thou wouldst teach us also thus ever to turn our hearts to heaven, and to reflect upon the mirror of our souls the sweet image of heavenly things.


(Triticum vulgare: Nat. Order, Gramineæ)

How much are those mistaken who measure a country’s glory by her conquests, and deem her great, only when she is victorious. It is in gentler arts that a nation’s true wealth and happiness are found;—when peace smiles upon the land, and the golden corn yields its rich harvest.

Cowslip,—Simple Pleasures

(Primula veris: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

Those who love Nature’s simple pleasures, must also love the little lowly Cowslip, which, while it shuns our gardens, adorns our banks and meadows with its pale yellow flowers. In the early spring, the merry children, amid songs and laughter, wander through the fields to search for these sweet flowers, from which the thrifty housewife obtains a pleasant though homely wine.


(Crocus vernus: Nat. Order, Iridaceæ)

Often before the keen blasts of winter have ceased to blow, and before the earth has put off her snowy mantle, the Crocus ventures from its safe retreat, exposing its delicate form to the ruthless frost. Thus do rashness and youthful indiscretion hasten into perils, and learn too late the truth of those words of Scripture, that “he who loves the danger shall perish in it.”

Cross of Jerusalem,—Thoughts of the Holy Land

(Lychnis chalcedonica: Nat. Order, Caryophyllaceæ)

Cross of Jerusalem! many are the recollections that crowd to my mind as I pronounce those words; a thrill of sadness passes through me, as I meditate upon thy name. For memory leads me back through many distant years, and I behold a God made man, for love of me, and dwelling on this base earth to gain our rebel hearts; and, as a last, greatest proof of that undying love, He expires upon a cross.
    Oh! thou Holy Land, how I envy thee in having been witness of all my dear Redeemer’s sufferings! Thou hast been sanctified by the prints of His sacred feet, and watered with the streams of his most precious blood. Yet how little art thou loved! How few, as they tread thy soil, think of thy claims upon the love of Christians! or, if moved to tears of sorrow by the thousand recollections that cling around thee, how transient and purposeless are too often those emotions!

Crown Imperial,—Sovereignty

(Fritillaria imperialis: Nat. Order, Tulipaceæ)

Beautiful but fragile flower, would that all earthly crowns were pure and unsullied as are thy petals! But, alas! the diadem which tempts the ambition, and awakens the passions of the great, has too often been stained with blood, or purchased at the cost of innocence and virtue. And too often does its wearer experience, that the flowers which appeared to wreathe the golden circlet, fade and wither in his grasp.

Cyclamen,—Confidence in Mary

(Cyclamen: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

In the early spring, the season of hope, the Cyclamen, with the modest beauty of its spotless flowers, comes to remind us that there is in heaven, One who is our Hope, and who is ever praying to her divine Son for her children.


(Cupressus sempervirens: Nat. Order, Cupressineæ)

I love the waving Cypress, as I fancy I hear its leaves rustling mournfully over some lonely grave; thus awakening many sad remembrances, and seeming to echo through its dark branches, the prayers and the sorrow of hearts which still fondly love those from whom death has separated them.