Flowers and Apparitions

Flowers of Mary's Appearances

– John S. Stokes Jr.

In His providential governance of the world, God, throughout history has, in love, given inspiration and guidance - through angels, saints and chosen persons - for the furtherance of the revealed Divine Plan of Creation, Redemption, Sanctification, Resurrection and Kingdom.

Prominent in this inspiration and guidance have been apparitions, visions and locutions of the Blessed Virgin which, as approved for devotion by Holy Church, have served both to awaken the faith for "a wicked and faithless generation", and to inspire the fuller living of faith by the Faithful in the culmination of the Divine Plan.

In our undertaking of the work of Mary's Gardens in 1950 to research and spread knowledge of the medieval Flowers of Our Lady, and to propose their cultivation in Mary Gardens as a prayerful, devotional work, we conceived this initially as a restoration of earlier popular religious tradition and legends to daily life and work today - as they were present in medieval Christendom, with parallels in other traditional religious societies of the East today.

Then, in November of 1950, just as we were preparing for the public introduction of Mary's Gardens the coming Spring, Pope Pius XII proclaimed as dogma the ancient doctrine of Mary's Assumption body and soul into heaven. This corroboration in truth of the basis for Mary's earthly bodily appearances led us to reflect on the import of these appearances and their messages for devotion and prayerful recourse to her through her medieval flower symbols.

Examining Our Lady's major appearances, we noted the emphasis of each. At Guadalupe, Mary appeared as the Woman Clothed With the Sun, of Revelations, summoning the peoples of the "new world" to the Christian faith. At La Salette, as Sorrowful Queen of Heaven, she implored repentance for the sins of the old world. At Lourdes she sought prayers for her merciful intercession for divine healing. At Knock, as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, she silently showed herself as she receives and presents our prayers in advocacy at the Heavenly Altar of the Lamb. At Paris, as Our Lady of Grace, she extended her hands in distribution of her mediated graces. And at Fatima she called for the universal reparational consecration of our lives, through her Immaculate Heart, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus - for world peace.

From reflection in the Mary Garden on these appearances and their messages, we realized that Mary's glories, prerogatives, mercies and counsels mirrored by her flower symbols - which we had initially reflected on and venerated, in medieval fashion, as attributes of Worthy Mother of God, enthroned in heaven - took on new immediacy and specificity for the present day. Thus:

Mary's Gold - Mary's faith-inspiring glory, as at Guadalupe

Queen's Tears - Mary's repentance-inspiring sorrows, as at La Salette

Mary's Rose - Mary's call to pray the Rosary today, as at Knock

Eyes of Mary - Mary's mercies today, as at Lourdes

Herb of Grace - Mary's mediation of grace today, as at Paris

Mary's Heart - The efficacy of prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as at Fatima

In an immediate sense, the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption gave new warrant to the Assumption Lily - White Day Lily, Hosta plantaginea - named for its blooming in north temperate climates around August 15th, the date of the liturgical Feast of the Assumption; to the liturgical rite for the blessing of "Assumption bundles" of plants on the feast day, dating from the 9th century; and to the early Church legend of the finding by the Apostles of roses and lilies in Mary's opened tomb in place of her body, taken up to heaven.

Roses have been present at a number of Our Lady's appearances: the heavenly roses filling the cloak of Juan Diego at Guadalupe and impressing on it the miraculous image of Our Lady Clothed With The Sun; the three rose garlands of Our Sorrowful Lady of La Salette; and the Rose at the forehead of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, at Knock.

Of Lourdes, Pope Pius XII, speaking of the symbolism of the rose to a group of rose growers meeting in Rome, stated, "When Mary appeared to St. Bernadette on the rock at Masabielle, where the speckled rose bush grew, each of her feet was adorned with a blooming rose. She whom the Church had just proclaimed the Immaculate Conception manifested in this way, to a poor and artless child, the fullness of her perfections and the delicacy of her goodness."

In all this we came to see that, in the Mary Garden, the Flowers of Our Lady serve both for the general quickening of reflection and meditation on the Gospel story and on Mary's life, virtues, mysteries and endowed privileges and prerogatives; and also now for the quickening of our prayerful recourse to Mary in her motherly counsel, mercy and mediation of grace for the needs of our times - as beseeched by her in her appearances.

In our research we also came upon flowers which, in popular religious tradition, serve to recall Mary's appearances as such. Striking among these - with evident reference to the Woman Clothed with the Sun of Guadalupe - is Mary's radiant likeness in the markings of the tropical American flower, Painted Feather, known in some areas as "Mary": a symbolism preserved by botanists in the assignment of its scientific name, Vriesia mariae, "Mary's Vriesia". Similarly the zinnia - especially the yellow or golden zinnea, with it's initial single erect "haloed" bloom above its foliage "body" - was called "The Virgin" and "Little Mary" in some areas of Latin America.

Other flowers of Our Lady's presence - named from her many private appearances of European legend - include "Our Lady by-the-gate" (Bouncing Bet, Saponaria officinalis), "Our Lady of the Meadow" (Queen of Meadow, Filipendula ulmaria), "Our Lady in the Corn" (Corn Poppy, Papaver rhoeas), and "Our Lady of the Lake" (Water Lily, Nymphaea alba).

In this tradition, Frances Crane Lillie, founder of the first U.S. Public Mary Garden at St. Joseph's Church, Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1932 entitled the introductory leaflet for visitors to the Garden, "Our Lady in Her Garden."

In his devotion to Mary's appearances, and from his annual pilgrimages to her appearance shrines, Irish Mary's Gardens Associate, Brother Sean MacNamara, C.F.C., has quickened his reflections on her appearance messages in his niche Mary Garden at the Christian Brothers monastery at Iona, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, by planting in it flowers "from within the radius of Our Lady's presence", as Pope John Paul II has expressed it - from Fatima, Lourdes, Knock and Medjugorje.

U.S. Mary Garden pioneer, Bonnie Roberson, dedicated "Our Lady's Solar Greenhouse" at her Hagerman, Idaho home and herb nursery to Our Lady both as "The Woman Clothed with the Sun" of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

Of deeper import to us from Mary's appearances was her summons at Paris for prayerful recourse to her as the Mediatrix of Grace, as symbolized by her appearance there as Our Lady of Grace with her hands extended in distribution of graces prayed for - an image reproduced in the widely worn Miraculous Medal, and in popular Marian statuary. While the doctrine of Mary's Mediation of All Graces was adjudged in 1950 by Pope Pius XII as "not yet sufficiently ripe in the mind of the Church" for dogmatic definition, the weight of this doctrine in Church teaching and practice is so well established, and the modern world's need for the guidance of grace is so evident, that we looked for Flowers of Our Lady which would recall and quicken reflection on, and prayerful recourse to, Mary as divinely ordained channel for the distribution of grace. In this we found initially:

Mother of Thousands (Strawberry Geranium) - recalling the universality of Our Lady's mediation - from the multitude of tiny new plants rooted where the many extending branches of the parent plant touch the soil.

Our Lady's Keys (Cowslip Primrose) - to the heavenly storehouses of graces, filled - as perceived by St. Louis de Montfort - with the graces meritoriously rising from Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and from the prayers, works and sacrifices of the Church, for distribution to souls.

In continued reflection, we became increasingly confirmed in our conviction of the need for prayerful recourse to Mary's mediation for the increased flow of divine grace to the modern world. From an examination of the world situation and the following of current events, it was evident that in the movement of the redeemed world towards the establishment of the Peaceable Kingdom, according to the purpose of Creation, successive critical junctures are encountered in which alienated, warring religions, cultures, nations, factions or groups - in balance or stand-off of power - enter into negotiations of the "peace process", in the course of which momentary openings are reached in which leaders, with the support of their peoples, may be able to achieve agreements of reconciliation, compromise and cooperation for the building the future. From the teaching that even in the Edenic world the inspiration and guidance of original grace was necessary to the building of God's Kingdom, we could see the even greater need of Christ's redemptive grace, through Mary's mediation, for peaceful reconciliation and cooperation today.

For further corroboration of the doctrine of Mary's universal mediation, we examined its origins and development in Church tradition and teaching. In this we found that it was held to be implicit in the scriptural stories of her intercession at the Marriage Feast of Cana and of her presence praying in the upper room with the Apostles for the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost; that it was explicitly celebrated in the Office and Mass for the liturgical feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, May 31st; and that it was supported in numerous approved theological works. In devotional practice, it was implicit in the praying of the Rosary, and explicitly affirmed in numerous novena and scapular prayers to Our Lady and in the daily prayers of the Legion of Mary.

Especially corroborative for us, from the Divine Office for the feast of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces were: Introit - "Christ, the Redeemer, who has willed that we receive all graces through Mary, Come let us adore." Readings - "In me is all grace of the way", Prayer to Mary - "We beseech this through your Divine Son, Jesus Christ who has been pleased to appoint you, his Mother, to be our Mother also and our mediatrix with him.

But even with this extensive body of traditional support in Church teaching and practice for the doctrine of Mary's Mediation of All Graces, we felt the further need for an explanation in simple reason for its place in the Divine Plan. In this we turned to "Creation Theology", as expressed in the teaching of Thomas Aquinas and others, which teaches that God created the world to show forth and share his life, goodness, truth, attributes and action with human persons, created to this end in the divine image and likeness, male and female.

Reflecting on this, we saw that if the purpose for Creation was the sharing of the divine goodness and action with human persons, our infinite God would wish to accomplish this to the fullest, and that the fullest sharing of Christ's mediation of grace to the world with a human person would be accomplished through the calling of a person, perfectly conformed to the divine image and likeness, and filled with grace, into intimate union and unique cooperation with Christ as co-Mediatrix of all graces. It was clear that immaculately conceived and sinless Mary - temple and spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Mother of the Divine Word Incarnate - was that person.

Years later we noted in the Vatican II Constitution on the Church (par. 60) the corroboration of the establisment of Mary's prerogatives as having their origin in God's will or pleasure: "The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. For all the saving influences of the Blessed Virgin on men originate not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. "They flow forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rest on his mediation, depend entirely on it, and draw all their power from it. In no way do they impede the immediate union of the faithful with Christ."

As set forth here it is not from some "inner necessity" that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces - to affirm which would be idolatry or Mariolotry and would presume the usurpation of the mediation of the divine person of Christ by the human person of Mary - but rather from the "divine pleasure", which shows forth and shares the divine mediation of Christ, to the fullest, through the bestowal on immaculately pure, utterly humble, fully assenting, loving, and obediently cooperating Mary of the prerogative of co-mediation with him of all grace.

We subsequently came to see that the "intimate union and singular cooperation" of Mary with Christ (Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, par. 4) - the basis for her sharing in the Mediation of All Graces - served also to enable her union and spiritual communion with Christ's immolation, as she stood at the foot of the Cross - with accompanying co-redemptive generation in her soul, by the action of the Holy Spirit, of the graces of imitation of Christ and union with his Redemptive sacrifice, for mediation to the human family.

This in turn provided insight into Mary's call at Fatima for the universal reparational consecration of our lives, through her Immaculate Heart, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the peace of the world. From St. Louis de Montfort, we understand consecration to Jesus through Mary as the act of conferring for their use all our goods, interior and exterior - including the material and spiritual fruits of all our good actions, past, present and future. In our reparational consecration to Jesus through Mary - requested by her at Fatima - we thus offer all our aggravations, diminishments, sorrows and sufferings as a joining and sharing in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, who has already taken them and those of all the world upon himself in his suffering and death on the Cross. In this, as expressed by St. Paul, we "make up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ"; namely, their fullest taking up and sharing by the human family, as his members - in a sharing of the divine goodness and action, according to the purpose of Creation.

In this we came to see that in the spiritual communion of our consecration to Jesus through Mary, our own sufferings also are co-redemptive, and our works of mercy, in spiritual communion with those to whom these works are extended, are also mediative of grace - in emulation of Mary.

In our further consideration of the union and communion of Mary with Jesus, in love, in the spiritual interpenetration and communion of their hearts, we came better to understand also Mary's prerogatived endowment as universal Advocate to the Father, in union with Christ, for the mediative distribution to all persons of the graces for their sanctification and for their individual works and prayers for the coming of God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven - as sharing, cooperating, adopted children of God and Members of Christ, rather than as dependent petitioners of God's favors through Mary's intercession.

We saw, then, that this intimate union and singular cooperation of Mary with Christ was symbolized visually by the interpenetrative joining in love of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts - as revealed at Paris and then reproduced on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal - showing the basis of Mary's mediation of all graces, represented by her image with outstretched hands on the face of the medal.

With the recent granting of his nihil obstat on May 31, 1996 by His Excellency Hendrik Bomers, Bishop of Haarlem, approving devotion to Mary as "The Lady of All Nations", as she presented herself in series of messages at Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959, we can consider that her calling in these messages for the proclamation of the "final dogma" of Mary Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate serves as a further warrant for our prayerful recourse to her as Mediatrix of all Graces.

After coming, through Mary's appearances, to see the loving spiritual communion of the hearts of Jesus and Mary as the source and font of all graces distributed to the world, we found that the consecration of our Mary Garden work and prayers to them was continuously quickened by all the flower symbols of Mary virtues, excellences, gifts and prerogatives - and explicitly by the many flowers named as symbols of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts, including Bleeding Hearts, Caladium (leaves), Tuberus Geraniums, Quaking Grass (seed heads), Shepherd's Purse, Carduus Thistle, Cuckoo Flower, Florist's Geranium, London Pride, and Pansy (petals).

Copyright Mary's Gardens 1999


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 early 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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