Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Mary Garden

Flowers and Stones Mary's Garden
Basilica of the U. S. National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Washington DC

– John S. Stokes Jr.

On June 10, 2000 the new Mary's Garden at the Basilica of the U.S. National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington donated by the National Council of Catholic Women was dedicated in a Mass and blessing ceremony presided over by The Most Reverend Gabriel Montalvo, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and attended by an overflowing crowd including a thousand NCCW members on millennial pilgrimage to the Shrine from throughout the U.S.

Located on a three-quarter acre site on the Basilica's northwest grounds, Mary's Garden, designed by Brian Kane, ASLA, and Laura Canfield, ASLA, of the Kane Group, landscape architects in Alexandria, VA, is planted before a focal life-size image of the Virgin and Child, "Mary, Protector of Faith", by Washington sculptor Jon-Joseph Russ. The statue is located, in a flower bed setting with reflecting pool, at the terminus of a circular stone prayer terrace with central "Magnificat Fountain" and four large surrounding beds of flowers, shrubs and flowering trees - in turn bordered by a circular stone walkway, with prayer niches, within an outer enclosure of shrubs and small trees.

Full reports, with numerous photos, of the Mary's Garden dedication and blessing ceremony, following a Mass in the Basilica, are to be found on the NCCW and National Shrine Internet web sites, together with a Virtual Garden Tour, adapted from the "Garden Narrative" in a 28 page booklet distributed by the NCCW to all attending the Mass and Garden Blessing.

The National Shrine Mary's Garden is of special importance for the contemporary world wide Mary Garden restoration movement by virtue of its concept, design and blessing as a holy place of religious symbolism, veneration and prayer integral to the overall spirituality of the Shrine.

As expressed by Shrine Director, Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield, at the dedication and blessing ceremony,

"We are opening a new dimension to this shrine. . . . Coming out here to pray and rest...will be part of our pilgrimages and our everyday life. This will bring us into the garden to pray as well as in the church. . . . "

God's Original Garden Revelation

An opening reading from Genesis 2: 4,7-9, 15 at the blessing ceremony recalled that God's initial means of sharing the divine goodness, beauty and truth with humankind - the purpose of Creation - was through a garden, of which Mary's Garden serves as a reminder and symbol. Following the human fall from divine harmony and grace, Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross redeemed the world garden from evil, that Creation may be culminated in the building and coming of God's Peaceable Kingdom of truth, justice, love and freedom, "on earth as it is in heaven", that all may be transformed on the Last Day into the paradise and city of the eternal New Heaven and New Earth - symbolized together here by the Shrine Mary's Garden and the Basilica. The presence and proximity of Mary's Garden serves as a visual reminder of this as Masses are celebrated in the Basilica.

"Be it done to me according to your word"

The Garden, through stone-engraved words from the scriptures, proclaims the truth that humble and immaculate Mary, through her espousal union with God for the Divine Motherhood of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, was thereby brought into endowed participative union as well with all the divine creating, redeeming, sanctifing and kingdomal actions for souls and the world.

Mary's entry into this union is celebrated in the Garden by the stone-engraved words of her response to the Angel of the Annunciation,

"I am the Servant of the Lord; Be it done to me as you say." Luke 1:38

and her resulting divine maternity is symbolized in the Garden by the sculpture of the Virgin and Child - the image adopted by the Church to this end following the Council of Ephesus.

"God who is mighty has done great things to me"

The fullness of Mary's union with God is affirmed by the Church in the Marian dogmas and doctrines - from scripture and the deposit of faith - of her divinely endowed prerogatives as our spiritual Mother, Co-Redemptrix, Protectrix, Counselor, Advocate, Intercessor, Mediatrix and Distributrix of all grace, and Queen of Heaven and Earth, through her motherly union and unique cooperation, on earth and in heaven, with her Divine Son - her and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

United with God the Son, Mary is equally in union with overshadowing, indwelling, espousing God the Holy Spirit, in his world sanctification and renewal; and with God the Father, not only in her co-parenting with him of the Divine Word Incarnate, but also, as Queen of Angels, in his sustenance of the world; in his providential governance of it towards Kingdom; and - in eternity - in the very creation, of the world, in accordance with the application to her of the passage from from Proverbs 8:22-32,

"The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways . . . "I was the first, before the earth . . . "When he established the heavens I was there . . . "Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of the earth; and I found delight in the sons of men."

This all-encompassing human union of Mary with God is proclaimed by her in the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, read next at the dedication ceremony, from which selections are prominently displayed in stone-engravings at the central Prayer Court of Mary's Garden:

on the red granite coping stone that borders the pool of the "Magnificat Fountain", "My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit finds joy in God my Savior." Luke 1:48

and, on an adjoining terrace flagstone, "God who is mighty has done great things to me; Holy is his name." Luke 1:49

"Fountain of Gardens"

In accordance with the scriptural image applied to Mary by the Church Fathers, the central Magnificat Fountain of the Garden symbolizes Mary as the "Fountain of Gardens" (Song of Songs 4:15); as the co-redemptive universal Mediatrix of the waters of grace pouring from the pierced side of her crucified Divine Son and Lord.

Beholding this fountain, we are moved to pray, as from the Introit of the Divine Office for the feast of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces:

"Christ, the Redeemer, who has willed that we receive all graces through Mary, Come let us adore,"

and to reflect, from the Readings for this office, on the words: "In me is all grace of the way"

We are inspired further to turn to Mary in meditation and prayer by her rich garden and flower symbolism from scripture and pious tradition, recalled by the Garden. As Msgr. Bransfield stated further in his remarks at the dedication:

"The Song of Songs speaks of 'An Enclosed Garden', 'A Fountain Sealed' - imagery referring to Mary's fidelity, her immaculate conception, her perpetual virginity. "May Mary's Garden, designed with these words in mind, be a constant source of inspiration and renewal to all who venture there to pray and rest."

Rosary Walk

For those thus inspired to meditation and prayer in the Garden, stone benches are provided on the Prayer Terrace, before the garden beds, and in prayer niches on the outer walkway. The outer walkway serves also as a Rosary Walk, on which, beginning with the opening prayers at the statue, one may pray the Paters and Aves for the five Rosary mystery meditations of the day as one proceeds on it around the Garden - circling back to the statue for the concluding prayers.

Garden Blessing as a Holy Place

While Mary's Garden's statue, pools, inscriptions and flowers thus serve to inspire reflection, meditation and prayer, the sense of the Garden as a holy place comes first of all from its sacramental blessing - by Archbishop Montalvo - in respect to which he stated, at the blessing ceremony,

"We shall invoke God's blessing on this Garden as a means of dedicating it to the great honor of the great glory of God.

"His presence at this shrine shall serve as a reminder to all who venerate the Mother of God here of the abundance of his grace and his material gifts, and to find refreshment in them."

Full Text of blessing homily

Through the effects of sacramental blessing, effects often not fully appreciated today, those who enter the Garden and behold it experience the "excitation of pious emotions and affections of the heart", and also "freedom from the power of evil spirits...(and) various other benefits, temporal or spiritual" (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Archbishop blessing the garden

The Archbishop's affirmation of Mary's Garden as a holy place was mirrored in the accompanying remarks of Rev. Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, in respect to its blessing:

"'I will fill this house with my glory and I will give my peace in this place'. I can think of no better words to describe what Mary's Garden will mean to all who visit and pray here."

Flowers of Our Lady

The sense, from its blessing, of Mary's Garden as a holy place also serves to quicken experience of the time-steeped spiritual unction of its "Flowers Our Lady" - of medieval rural tradition - as spiritually illuminating symbols of Mary's virtues, life, mysteries, privileges and prerogatives.

Increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with the "Flowers of Our Lady" from home and parish Mary Gardens; from the Mary's Gardens' Internet website at http//www.mgardens.org and from Vincenzina Krymow's book, "Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends and Meditations" - published last year by St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, and Novalis, Toronto, and given awards by the Catholic Press Association of first place for design and production and third place for "best spirituality book", for 1999.

The story of the Flowers of Our Lady is also told in chapters on Mary Gardens in the recent books: Maureen Gilmer's "Rooted In the Spirit", and Ann Ball's "Catholic Traditions in the Garden"; and also in the frequent articles on Mary Gardens and the Flowers of Our Lady in Catholic newspapers and magazines.

The three books are available from the Basilica bookshop, which sponsored a two hour book-signing by Vincenzina Krymow of "Mary's Flowers" before the Mary's Garden dedication Mass and blessing ceremony.

"Mary's Flowers" includes full-page colored woodcut illustrations, legends and meditations for 30 Flowers of Our Lady, and an appendix listing of some 300 such flowers, from the over 1,000 documented by research.

book signing

Also on exhibit at the book signing were a miniature indoor dish Mary Garden and a patio container Mary Garden, with figurines of Our Lady - crafted by home and parish Mary Gardener, Lisa Creamer, author of the teacher's guide, Mary's Gardens for Children.

Prayers for Mary's Intercession and Mediation

With our thoughts and reflection raised to Mary by the Shrine Mary's Garden's statue, pools, inscriptions and flowers, we are moved to pray to her for her intercession and spiritual mediation with God.

Through loving reflection on Mary's utter humility before God - symbolized by violets and other lowly, hidden flowers - and through the illuminative quickening of our sense of her immaculate openness to total filling with God's grace, by the spotless purity of the white lilies and roses, we experience a tangible sense of her endowed sublime, universal sharing and magnification of God's action for Creation, Redemption and Kingdom.

We therefore make prayerful recourse to Mary's ordained unique intercession and mediation with God, with trust and confidence that it is through the fullness of her universal sharing in the interceding and mediating action of her Divine Son with God the Father, in the union of God the Holy Spirit, that our prayers for divine assistance and guidance in our work for God's Kingdom will most surely be answered, in accordance the words of the Memorare, of St. Bernard,

"Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your assistance was left unaided."

Mary, Model of Womanly Nurturing in Family and World

A bronze plaque at the Entry Court of Mary's Garden sets forth the general goal and program of the National Council of Catholic Women, to which end Mary's Garden has been donated and dedicated:

"The National Council of Catholic Women acts through its affiliated organizations to support, empower and educate Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service.

"NCCW programs respond with Gospel values to the needs of the Church and society in the modern world."

In announcements of the Garden, in the homily of the dedication Mass, and in the remarks at the Blessing Ceremony, the special intention of the National Shrine and NCCW for Mary's Garden is set forth as the inspiration of Shrine pilgrims to heightened commitment, prayers and action for fuller womanly nurturing in social, political and economic life, as well as in personal and family life - in emulation of Mary and with prayers for her mediation of the graces to this end.

As stated in the Dedication Brochure, "(The very Garden itself) represents characteristics of women: a garden is welcoming; it offers a place of welcome and refreshment; it provides quiet for prayer and reflection; it expresses nurture and care for creation."

In the Dedication Mass homily, Archbishop Montalvo, speaking of Mary's spiritual presence with us as mother, stated, "Her maternal quality, which sensitively and lovingly nurtures and supports human life, is a gift given by God to all women: to wives and mothers, and to religious sisters and single women, as well."

Consecration to Jesus through Mary for World Peace

It is clear that needed for the carrying forward of the "peace process" between the alienated nations, cultures, groups and individuals of the world is: the acknowledgement and forgiveness of past transgressions; the just addressing of wrongs; agreements through the compromise of differences; and mutual cooperation in the building of relationships and societies of truth, justice, love and freedom. There is endless media reporting, discussion and analysis of the strategies, tactics and timings of group conflicts, power struggles and negotiations; but the necessary compromises and cooperation can only come through changes of heart of leaders, and supportively, of their constituents.

The key to these needed changes or conversions is the nurturing of the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, in hearts through the infusion of and responsiveness to his graces. In accordance with God's will and plan for the fullest divine-human sharing and cooperation in the redemption of the world, the building of its Peaceable Kingdom in all its aspects is to be through utter fullness of immaculate Mary's participative endowed mediation.

It is thus that Mary, at Fatima, called for the consecration of the world, through her Immaculate Heart, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the building of Peace on Earth.

Nurturing, with Mary, the Birth of Christ in Hearts

In Mary's Garden, meditation and prayer to this end are quickened by reflection on the focal sculpture of the Virgin and Child, symbol of Mary's privileged Divine Maternity, and therefore of her other privileges - with recollection of St. Augustin's teaching, in the Second Reading in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Presentation of Mary, that: "The Virgin Mary...the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men...believed by faith and conceived by faith....

"Mary heard God's word and kept it, and so (was) blessed. She kept God's truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary's mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb."

It is the graces of belief in Christ - to which she opened herself as a maiden, prior to the Annunciation - that Mary, her soul pierced by a sword of sorrow at the foot of the Cross, nurturingly mediates, as Co-Redemptrix, to all hearts, "that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed" (Luke 2:35). Indeed, it is in the nurturing of the birth of Christ in hearts, minds and souls, that Mary is Mother of the Church, of the Mystical Body of Christ - as proclaimed by Jesus to her and to the disciple John from the Cross (John 19:26,27) - as well as of her Divine Son in the flesh.

Through the special endowment of women by the Creator as mothers and nurturers - so that a blessed virgin might conceive the Redeemer in her heart, mind and soul; might give him birth in the flesh; might nurture his growth in wisdom, grace and strength; and might nurture his birth and growth in the members of his Mystical Body - all women are likewise called to the womanly fulfillment of their varied nurturing potentials for restoring Christ, giving birth to Christ, in every area of human activity: personal, familial, religious, social, economic, vocational and professional . . .

Or, stated in another way, God, having created women with the capability of motherhood and of motherly nurturing, in preparation for the giving of birth by a divinely conceiving blessed virgin to the Divine Word Incarnate, thus endowed all women with the special potential and dignity of emulating, participating in and extending Mary's divine motherhood in hearts.

In medieval times, when the world view of many extended little beyond the local village where one lived one's life, and the coming of God's Kingdom was viewed transcendently, Mary's virtues of profound humility, lively faith, total obedience, divine purity, ardent charity, heroic patience, angelic sweetness and divine wisdom were viewed, for emulation, largely as a "Ladder to Heaven".

For our day, when travel, communications, technology and trade present the concrete possibility of, and the imperative for, the building and coming of God's Peaceable Kingdom of truth, justice, love and freedom "on earth as it is in heaven", as a prelude for the transformation of Creation on the Last Day into the eternal new heaven and new earth, Mary is to be emulated also as our universal Mediatrix of the graces needed for the building of this Kingdom, and the Nurturer, as our Spiritual Mother, to whom we are to make recourse in prayers for the opening of hearts for the seeking, reception and action upon these graces.

The great things done by God to Mary - as she proclaims in the Magnificat - in her privileged and ordained universal sharing in and mediation of the divine action in and for Creation are to be seen as including her universal mediation of God's providence - showing the might of God's hand in scattering the proud in the conceit of their hearts, in putting down the mighty from their seat, and in exalting the humble, the meek who shall inherit the earth.

Spiritual Quickening Through The Flowers of Our Lady

While we are thus inspired to Marian meditation and prayer by the statue, fountains, scriptural inscriptions and basic garden and floral symbolism of Mary's Garden, there is an opportunity for still further future affective and illuminative quickening in this through the possible future planting in the Garden of additional symbolic Flowers of Our Lady from medieval popular devotional tradition.

In this there would be an emulation of the devotion and prayer to the Blessed Virgin of the medieval faithful who augmented their basic faith in Mary by discovering means of heightening their sense of her constant motherly presence with them through the symbolism of everyday objects such as flowers.

In an early article on the Flowers of Our Lady ("Mary's Gardens", Irish Ecclesiastical Record, February, 1953), Robert Ostermann wrote, "Now we can only have an idea of what we lost, when Christian unity was destroyed, through knowing how spontaneous and common was formerly the expression of it in human affairs. It is always in the trivial, the common-place, that our habits and convictions can best be measured, as in the flowers once called 'Our Lady's Keys', 'Our Lady's' Thimble', 'Mary's Candle', 'Our Lady's Pin Cushion'.

"Suddenly, like a dream ending, we begin to appreciate how terrible, how unbridged, is the distance separating us from medieval piety. We are complex and muddled, uncertain of our postulates or allegiance. It takes an entirely different view of things to see in the shape of a leaf a mirror wherein Our Lady may have gazed."

Thus, flower symbols of Mary's everyday Nazareth life, such as those mentioned above, convey a sense of her intimacy and approachability, and others such as 'Mary's Eyes', 'Mary's Hand' and 'Sweet Mary', a sense of her ever-attentive motherly mercy.

Today such Flowers of Our Lady beautifully supplement and vivify the words of scripture and the imagery of religious art.

These and other forms of nature which can be discerned as mirroring and thus showing forth revealed truths are integral to God's plan for Creation. "As above, so below." In the primordial language of Eden, as in Hebrew, and as in the Christian saints' names given at Christening, many names given to creatures enable recognition of their spiritual meanings. This is in accordance with God's instruction to Adam to name all the creatures - as he learned their meanings. In general, the spiritual correspondences of creatures provides the basis for the use of nature figures in poetic imagery.

The discovery of the wealth of the "Flowers of Our Lady" named in the medieval countrysides for their discerned Marian symbolism and associations - as documented from the research of botanists, folklorists and lexicographers - has led to the planting of such flowers in contemporary "Mary Gardens" - modeled after medieval illustrations and paintings of the Virgin and Child in enclosed gardens of symbolic plants. A number of such flowers have accordingly been included in the National Shrine Mary's Garden.

Mary, the "Blossoming Rod of Jesse"

In the tradition of medieval cloister gardens the circular, "O", form of the central pools - replicated in Mary's Garden's "Magnificat Fountain" and repeated in the overall circular form of the garden and in the form of the statue's reflecting pool - was seen to recall the great "O Antiphon" of the December 19th Advent liturgy, intoned in choir by the gardening monk: "O, Rod of Jesse, come!"

referring to the prophecy by Isaiah of the Virgin Birth of the Redeemer under the imagery of the miraculously blossoming Rod of Jesse (Isaiah 2:11).

This scriptural symbol of the Blessed Virgin was seen by the Church Fathers as the revealed basis for the reference of all flowers to Mary, the "Flower of flowers" (Chaucer), as her symbols and signatures - as with the "Rose of Sharon" and "Lily of the Valleys", from the Song of Songs.

The blossoming rod (or root, shoot or stem, depending on the translation of the Bible) of Jesse was envisaged as a miracle in nature, appropriately adopted as a symbol of the prophesied miraculous virginal conception and birth of the Messiah - in the line of Jesse and David - because in nature the new blooms of plants, such as the grapevine, normally come from the upper branches, or from the point of pruning, rather than from a stem emerging from the root.

Drawing on this basic scriptural attribution of flowers to Mary, numerous further flower images were then employed by the Church Fathers and the saints in their praise and veneration of Mary - with consequent adoption in the liturgy. Thus, St. Bernard spoke of Mary as,
"The rose of charity, the lily of chastity, the violet of humility. . . and the golden gillyflower of heaven"

In medieval times the basic symbol adopted for the Rod of Jesse was the rose, as in the central rose windows of cathedrals - in accordance with the lines from Dante, "Behold the Rose, wherein the Divine Word was made incarnate"

and also as in the Christmas carol, "Lo, How a Rose 'ere Blooming".

Thus the Rod of Jesse "O" Antiphon central pools of medieval cloister gardens can be said to have been the architectural equivalent of the rose windows of the cathedrals.

Mary's Flowers of the Medieval Countrysides

Then, in the popular religious traditions of the medieval countrysides a "galaxy" of flowers were seen and named as symbolic of Mary, and of her life, virtues, mysteries, priveleges and prerogatives - often with accompanying enriching legends. Thus, it was in nature itself that was discovered the full spiritual unction of flowers and their symbolism for the intuitive, luminous, affective quickening of the faithful to Marian reflection, meditation and prayer. "The Mary Garden is the only place where the Gospel story is told in nature."

According to the "Garden Narrative" of the Mary's Garden dedication booklet, the initial planting of Mary's Garden includes a number of Flowers of Our Lady of medieval symbolism: "The sculpture is enframed by . . . white flowering roses and hydrangea. . . . All major plantings in the garden are selected for their white blossoms, representing Mary's purity Perennials, ground covers, and spring flowering bulbs occur at intervals, and include anemone, aster, coneflower, cranesbill...and hosta.

"The many plantings in the garden provide flowers throughout the growing seasons, and many species have been selected for their connotations with Mary."

The above-mentioned plants bore old symbolism or names, respectively, (among others) of: Mary's joyful mysteries, "Ave Maria", "Rose of Sharon", "Mary's Star", "Golden Jerusalem", "Mary's Pins" and "Assumption Lily". Spring flowering bulbs would include snowdrop ("Candlemas Bells"), crocus ("Penitent's Rose"), daffodil (Mary looking down from heaven), cilla ("Angel Eyes") and hyacinth ("Easter Flower").

It is to be hoped that as the planting for Mary's Garden is perfected through the years (the planting plan of the first U. S. public Mary Garden at St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, was developed by its landscape architect, Dorothea K. Harrison, over a six year period from 1932 to 1937) the somewhat random symbolism of this initial selection will be evolved into an integral symbolic mosaic of flowers which, as well as being attractive and horticulturally viable, will be, together with the overall Garden symbolism, symbolically inclusive of Mary's basic privileges and prerogatives.

A few, each, of such symbolic plants could be placed in niche areas in the flower bed setting of the sculpture of "Mary, Protector of Faith" - as a more intimate "Mary Garden" within Mary's Garden.

Included could be plants such as those symbolic of Mary's Divine Maternity ("Lady-Lords"), Perpetual Virginity (Strawberry - continuing in flower while in fruit), Co-Redemption ("Mary's Tears", and "Mary's Sword of Sorrow"), Assumption (late summer blooming "Assumption Lily"), Spiritual Motherhood ("Mother Love"), Intercession ("Mary's Heart"), Protection from evil ("Our Lady's Mantle"), Mediation and Distribution of All Graces ("Mary's Keys"), and Queenship of Heaven and Earth ("Mary's Crown").

The special attention required for the procurement, planting and care for these beloved plants would await the initiative of a committed Mary's Garden Auxiliary, Society, Solidarity or Guild of devoted gardeners who, under the auspices of the Shrine, would supplement the basic maintenance of the Garden by the Shrine horticulturalist and groundskeepers. Such an Auxiliary would provide an opportunity for continued participation in Mary's Garden by NCCW gardening members from the Washington area.

statue of Mary

In the overall Garden, while retaining the prominence of white flowers symbolic of Mary's immaculate purity, and of her joys, smaller areas could be planted with red and purple flowers, symbolizing her sorrows; and gold flowers, her glories. Those familiar with Rosary Gardens will be drawn intuitively to the Garden's circular outer walkway as a Rosary walk, as mentioned above.

Mary, Model of Divine Sharing

Through the richness of Marian reflection and meditation quickened by the many Flowers of Our Lady there comes a heightened appreciation of the unique fullness - to the capacity of human nature, created in the divine image and likeness - of Mary's immaculate, holy sharing in the divine goodness, beauty, truth and action.

In this it is seen that since Christ's Redemptive Sacrifice and Ascension and Mary's Assumption into heaven, Mary's human sharing is in the divine action for Redemption and Kingdom, as well as in the showing forth of the divine goodness in Creation. Each time we make recourse to Mary in prayer, her responsive motherly exercise of her divine privileges and prerogatives of universal mediation, with Christ, accomplishes a further sharing by her, and through her by us, in the divine action, and thus an ever fuller accomplishment of the purpose of Creation. In this Mary is the model and channel for all the intercessions and mediations within the Communion of Saints.

As stated above, it is through Mary's fidelity, in faith, to the purity of her Immaculate Conception - to which the Shrine is dedicated; through her utter humility of assent to her call by God to the Divine Maternity; and through her hearing the word of God and keeping it, that she was raised to total union with God and therefore to the fullest human sharing, showing forth and magnification of the divine action for Creation, Redemption and Kingdom.

Thence followed Mary's further specifically bestowed privileges and prerogatives of co-redemption, spiritual motherhood, counsel, help, protection, advocacy, intercession, mediation and distribution of all grace, and Queenship of Heaven and Earth - through her intimate union and singular cooperation with her Divine Son and Lord, Jesus Christ, in the loving spiritually interpenetrative bond of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts.

Thus heightened in our understanding of God's will that we act in Creation through Mary's example, guidance, intercession and mediation, we turn to her in prayer, and await her graces with ever-increasing zeal and confidence.

procession

Flowers and Stones

A characterization of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church from medieval times was that of "Flowers and Stones". In this, "Flowers" were seen to represent the interior devotional/ascetic/mystical religious life of the Church, of the People of God; and "Stones" the visible Church ("upon this rock I will build my Church") of the secular priesthood, sacraments, heirarchy, magesterium, parish organization, catechisms, schools and social and political ministry, which protect and teach the inner religious life, while they are at the same time sustained by it. Today his Holiness Pope John Paul II speaks, similarly, of the "Church of Mary" and the "Church of Peter".

As symbols of the spiritual unity and complementarity of these two aspects of the Church, flowers are brought into churches; and stones are incorporated in "Gardens Enclosed" - magnificently so in the U.S. National Shrine's Basilica and Mary's Garden.

The "stones" enclosing the National Shrine Mary's Garden flower beds are also most important for the permanence they will give the garden.

Happily, the stone Angelus Tower of St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, beside which was planted the "Garden of Our Lady", the first U. S. public Mary Garden, in 1932, and the stone borders of the garden beds, have, together with the perpetual trust fund bequeathed for tower and garden maintenance, served to ensure the permanence of this garden - restored two times after almost complete destruction by hurricanes.

Hopefully the stones and flowers of the U. S. National Shrines Mary's Garden will endure, inspiring meditation on Mary and prayerful recourse to her divinely endowed prerogatives, until the culmination of the world - and eternally, in the Book of Life.

crowd gathered by the statue and garden

Photos: Vincenzina Krymow and Lisa Creamer


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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