Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter S

The Catholic Language of Flowers

Mossy Saxifrage,—Rest

(Saxifraga muscoïdes: Nat. Order, Saxifragaceæ)

“Come,” this little flower whispers, “come and rest with me. Under the shade of these trees, I bloom; here, there is no scorching sun to burn me, nor does the rain ever reach me; for I droop my head among my foliage, and repose until the sun has risen, and the rain has passed away.”
    And shall we not accept this mystic invitation? Oh, yes; we will rest under the shadow of Jesus; and no storm, however great, shall trouble us; for if we love Him, in Him shall we find our sweet repose.

Sensitive Plant,—Seclusion

(Mimosa pudica: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

The Sensitive Plant, whose many-parted leaves shrink from the touch even of the wind that blows upon it, may be considered as a type of those whom God calls from the fatal impressions of the world. They keep their hearts closed to all except Jesus, who, finding them empty of all earthly affections, delights to dwell in them.

Shaking Grass,—Timidity

(Briza: Nat. Order, Gramineæ)

Emblem of those timid souls who imagine, at every fault which they commit, that God has abandoned them. “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” were the words of our Lord to His Apostles. Cast yourselves, then, with confidence at His feet; He will throw around you His kind protecting arms; in His loving embrace, you need fear no danger, and all your faults will be washed away in the ocean of tenderness contained in His sacred Heart.

Shamrock,—Faith and Ireland

(Trifolium: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

The Shamrock is an appropriate emblem of Faith; for, like Faith, it is ever fresh and unfaded, and though trodden under foot, it still lives on uninjured.
    Tradition tells us, that by means of the Shamrock, St. Patrick taught the pagan Irish the mystery of the Blessed Trinity; and, after their conversion to Christianity, the Irish, in grateful acknowledgment to the little plant, adopted it as their national emblem, and have ever since preserved it. Thus the Shamrock blends with the name of Faith, that of the land which, through dangers and persecutions, through threats and temptations, and amidst the infidelity and corruption of surrounding nations, has ever maintained intact the precious gift of Faith.

Shepherd’s Purse,—Economy

(Capsells bursa pastoris: Nat. Order, Cruciferæ)

The name of this humble little plant appears to suggest the emblem which we have assigned to it, and which is often but too lightly prized by the young and inconsiderate, because they confound it with avarice and penuriousness. But true economy is as far removed from those vices as from prodigality; it holds the middle, course, and preserves those who cherish it, from innumerable evils both to themselves and to others. In Nature, we behold a great example of a true and liberal economy; for though her generous hands have lavished myriad gifts upon our earth, and poured out countless riches on it, yet there is no wastefulness, nothing without a purpose, nothing but what has its own function to perform, its own duty to fulfil, in contributing to Nature’s stores, even while it seems to draw upon them.
    Such is one of the thousand lessons which the finger of God has traced in golden letters upon our beautiful earth.

Snowdrop,—Voluntary Poverty

(Galanthus: Nat. Order, Amaryllidaceæ)

Winter is the festive season of the little Snowdrop, emblem of voluntary poverty, which joyfully endures the biting frost and cold blast, seeming to gain new life in hardship.

Double Snowdrop,—Joys to Come

(Galanthus: Nat. Order, Amaryllidaceæ)

Many persons pass by me with a look of scorn; few eyes notice me; and yet, when I see sorrow or despair written on the face, I open wide my petals, which tell that the winter is past; and earnestly do I whisper hopes of joys to come.

Solomon’s Seal,—Wisdom

(Convallaria polygonatum: Nat. Order, Smilaceæ)

Vain is the wisdom of man, as the transitory beauty of this flower, which bears the name of the greatest and wisest monarch that earth has ever seen. Forgetful of Him by whose liberal hands these precious gifts are bestowed, man prides himself on his mental capacities, though they too gradually decay at the approach of age, like the frail blossoms which the frosts of winter blight.
    But there is a wisdom which perishes not; a wisdom which the Spirit of God teaches, but which, hidden from the great ones of the earth, is revealed only to the humble and the meek.


(Rumex acetosa: Nat. Order, Polygonaceæ)

Would that the pain sometimes inflicted on the heart by words of raillery, were as trivial and shortlived as the bitterness of the Sorrel! But, alas! what untold evils have thus been dealt to youthful hearts, and how often have the young and thoughtless suffered the breath of raillery to blight the fair flowers of piety, which God had planted in their souls!


(Ophrys araneifera: Nat. Order, Orchidaceæ)

The Scottish patriot, Bruce, having been twice defeated by the English, left his country in despair, and fled to Rathlin, an island off the north coast of Ireland. There he was followed by those agonising reflections which are ever the companions of the patriot, who, after vainly struggling to free his country, sees her sinking beneath a superior force. But that merciful Being who has, for all nations, a father’s tenderness and care, listened to the cry of the afflicted sons of Scotland.
    One day, while reflecting on his misfortunes and those of his country, Bruce chanced to see a spider at work on the wall of his room. Twice the little insect attempted to form a web, and twice it failed; but, apparently not discouraged, it tried once more, and success crowned its efforts.
    This incident gave new hope to the Scottish chief: he also had failed on two occasions, but perhaps the third trial would be successful. Cheered by this reflection, he returned to Scotland, unfurled again the flag of independence, drove out the English from his native land, and lived to wear the crown which he had wrested from the usurper’s grasp.
    We too have a crown to defend and win; and if despondency would make us relinquish the combat, let us follow the example of Bruce, and, calling on God for protection, boldly defy the treacherous foe who would snatch from us our eternal recompense.

Star of Bethlehem,—Guidance

(Ornithogalum: Nat. Order, Asphodelidæ)

This simple flower recalls to our minds the star which conducted the Wise Men to our infant Lord. It raises itself on its slender stem, as if trying to reach us, and silently whispers: “Give but one thought to Him who, clothed in human form, deigned to dwell in Bethlehem; let but one sigh of love for Him escape your lips, and I shall have fulfilled my task.”

Star-Flower,—St. Philomena

(Trientalis Americana: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

Fair and spotless flower, we will consecrate thee to the sweet saint whom Heaven delights to honour, and who is the object of Mary’s special love; the gentle patroness of our early years, whose tender care we have a thousand times experienced. For as the stars veil their splendours in the day, and reserve them to gild the dark nocturnal hours, so was the light of her holy and heroic life hidden during the happy ages when the beams of faith shone brightly over the world; and now, in these days of coldness and infidelity, Heaven has been pleased to make the glory of her spotless virginity and heroic martyrdom, shine like a star over the darkened earth.


(Fragaria vesca: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

Undazzled by gay appearances, or showy acquirements, let us reserve our esteem for what is truly great,— for those virtues, those noble qualities of the heart, which alone are worthy of our admiration. Without these, the greatest genius, the most brilliant talents, are gifts equally perilous to those who possess them, and to all who come within their influence.


(Stuartia: Nat. Order, Camelliaceæ)

How vividly does this flower bring before us the memory of Scotland’s unfortunate queen! We can almost fancy that we see Mary Stuart led to execution, amid the tears of her sorrowing attendants; and it seems as if the martyr’s crown already encircled her brow, as, calm and fearless, yet resigned, she stands before the angry ministers of Elizabeth’s jealousy. A few moments, and the fatal deed is done. The head on which a triple crown had rested, is severed from the body, and falls to the ground; the soul of Mary, purified by suffering, has joined the martyrs’ radiant band.
    But what is that flower which is clasped between her hands? Perhaps some memorial of her loved France, or a token of affection, from which she would not part even in that hour. No; it is the beautiful Stuartia, which she wishes should record the misfortunes of the Stuart line. Alas! all human greatness is but as the fleeting beauty of a flower!

St. John’s Bread,—Austerity

(Ceratonia siliqua: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

During the thirty years which preceded his preaching, St. John the Baptist dwelt in the wilderness, preparing himself, by a life of penitence anti prayer, for the great mission of announcing to the world the long-expected Messiah. Yet we do not find that his austere and secluded life rendered him unamiable or inaccessible; on the contrary, he was tenderly beloved by his disciples, and esteemed even by the monarch whose crimes he reproved. This is ever the case with the saints; and the world is mistaken in imagining that austerity and penitential works render those who practise them, severe to others. The severity of the saints is wholly for themselves; they are full of gentleness and sweetness to all around them.


(Drosera rotundifolia: Nat. Order, Droseraceæ)

Come, thou sad one, to seek consolation from this little flower. Like thee, it is bathed in tears; but though drooping, it is not faded, nor is it crushed; for hope sustains the tender blossom, and it patiently awaits the moment when the sun, breaking through the clouds which hide his splendour, will shine on the little weeper.
    Then dry thy tears, thou mourner, or, if thou wilt weep, be resigned; for Jesus, the bright Sun of thy soul, will soon shed on thee the warm light of His love, and He will transplant thee, His drooping flower, to the bright Land where they that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.

Sun-Rose,—Fidelity to God

(Helianthemum: Nat. Order, Cistineæ)

When we bask in the full sunshine of God’s favours our hearts turn, like the Sun-rose, to the Giver of light; but when He withdraws His warm invigorating rays, we too often imitate those flowers which fade at the approach of evening. Yet the Sun-rose gives us a lesson; for, heedless of its gay companions, it closes its fair petals when the sun sets, as if it lived but for the object of its affection.


(Helianthus annuus: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

The Sun-flower, which opens to the warm rays of the morning sun, seems to follow him with its gaze during the day, and at his setting, turns as faithfully towards his declining light as it did when he was at his noon-tide splendour, is emblematic of the constancy of Mary. Never for a moment, did she withdraw her attention from Him who was the light of her existence; and when, forsaken by His faithless friends, He hung in anguish upon the cross, she stood beneath it, casting on Him the same look of love, as on the day of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Sweet Briar,—Snare

(Rosa rubiginosa: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

My flowers and leaves are tempting; they send forth a perfume by which many persons are attracted. Yet beware! for danger lurks beneath them, and they conceal thorns which, like a snare, will entangle you, and difficult will it be to escape without a wound.

Sweet Pea,—Perfection

(Lathyrus adoratus: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

At its first appearance, the Sweet Pea, with its delicate flowers and slender stalk, looks so frail that it requires some care to cultivate it; but, like perfection, which, to the young beginner, seems so difficult to acquire, it rewards with its fragrant flowers those who labour perseveringly for its acquisition.

Sweet William,—Cheerfulness

(Dianthus barbatus: Nat. Order, Caryophyllaceæ)

The lively colours of this familiar plant please every eye, and make the flower-beds gay and bright. Thus does a cheerful disposition, when joined to a gentle heart, change the darkest scenes, gladdening hearts oppressed by sorrow, and making happy all who come within its influence. To such do the poet’s words apply, —they “make a sunshine in a shady place.”