We all know that, “April showers bring May flowers” . . . but that isn’t all May brings. For Catholics, May is also the Month of Mary. Pope Paul VI wrote a beautiful encyclical on the Month of May in which he describes how the faithful reserve this month to honor Mary in a special way:
“For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.”
Pope Paul VI goes on to say that May is an opportune time to let our petitions fly to Our Lady—especially for the needs of the Church and the whole human race—that most urgently require our Blessed Mother’s intercession.
One of the traditional ways the faithful have venerated the Virgin Mary, which became popular during Medieval times, was with a family Mary Garden. Marian Gardens were small plots of ground dedicated to growing shrubs, herbs, and flowers that were representative of Mary and various events from her life. This was quite easy to do, as literally hundreds of plants were given Marian names in remembrance of Mary’s saintly life and glorious virtues.
Here are a few interesting stories about Marian plants:
- Columbines were originally called ‘Our Lady’s Shoes’. These flowers are said to have sprung up along Mary’s path on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth following the Annunciation.
- Bluebells were originally called ‘Our Lady’s Thimbles’ to honor Mary’s motherly housework as she made the clothes Jesus wore.
- Hostas were originally called ‘Assumption Lilies’. In late summer a tall, thin stalk emerges from the leaves eventually unfolding as a beautiful and intricate flower, a reminder of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.
Today many of these Marian plant names have been replaced with other popular names, but some Marian names, like Rosemary and Marigolds, have remained. Naming plants after the faith and cultivating them in home gardens was a tangible way for Christians of days past to cultivate faith and virtue in the heart.
Fortunately, it is very easy to bring this classic Marian Garden tradition to your window sill, garden, flowerbed, or yard during this Month of Mary. Your Mary Garden can be large or small, fancy or simple. All you need is a Mary garden statue and a few plants that remind you of her. Choose from a list of Marian plants, or pick others that have special significance for you. Place a seat next to your garden and you instantly have a beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing place to pray and reflect with our Blessed Mother.
Copyright 2012 Kathleen Wellman