Posted July 01, 2008 in My Dear Family:
Making the Desert Bloom

by Catherine Doherty.

Wild flowers, garden flowers—look at each one separately. If you do, you will lose yourself in its infinite perfection. Behold its colors, its form, the shape of its petals.

Poets and writers of prose have tried to express the beauty of one flower and transmit it to others. Musicians have attempted to reproduce in song the silent song of the flowers.

Painters have modeled the paints they use to produce their masterpieces on flower and leaf colorings. Yet few have succeeded in reproducing the deep purple of a violet hidden in the woods.

Geniuses of the brush have struggled to capture the perfection of the lily’s chalice or the yellow–orange of the marigold. And pictures of the rose fill our art galleries, our books, and our greeting cards.

Each flower, tree, or bush, wild or tame, is a love letter, a love poem of God to man.

Alas, we have eyes but see not and ears but hear not. Otherwise we would, over a lifetime, behold a reflection of God. True, only a partial reflection of God’s beauty, but nevertheless a reflection so overwhelming, so joyous, so fulfilling that our life would be one song of gladness, gratitude, and love for the Lord.

God so loved us that he sent his only Son to redeem us, and in his immense tenderness he keeps on expressing himself to us in a thousand ways. Flowers are just one example of his pouring out his beauty to us.

Flowers give hope, returning each spring as they do. Flowers give courage. Flowers heal. Flowers are harbingers of joy.

Long before the gentle Christ came to earth, flowers were part of every religion, used as symbols to express faith. And when he came, he referred to them to teach us about poverty, love, and trust in Divine Providence.

Flowers speak the silent language of lovers. Strangers are welcomed in Hawaii by a garland of leis. In May, Catholic children crown Our Lady with flowers. Isn’t she herself like a flower?

In the old days, processions of the Blessed Sacrament were accompanied by flower girls who strew petals of freshly picked flowers before the Eucharist, just as palm branches were strewn under the feet of a donkey when children cried "Hosanna" to their King on the first Palm Sunday.

Yes, for those who have eyes to see, the beauty of God is revealed by flowers. How gently, how tenderly, how compassionately he must have fashioned flowers if through them he reveals so much of his love for us!

Flowers are the love poems of God to man. But they are more. As man discovered, they can be his food, and their beauty contains healing powers which to this day are used as medicine.

Strange, is it not, that a sick room can be brightened by a bouquet of flowers, and at the same time a doctor can inject into the body the hidden, healing properties of perhaps the same kind of flower.

Hermits and saints have spent some of their love life for God planting and tending flowers—making the desert bloom.

A house without flowers is a dead house. A hermitage without flowers is not the dwelling of God. Wherever the Benedictines and Franciscans walked, they left a heritage of flowers behind them.

And wherever we live, the members of Madonna House, too, spend time growing beauty, which the Lord can then use to heal people and bring them closer to him.

To state it simply: where there is a loving heart in a home, there is someone who devotes himself or herself to flower gardens.

Who is a gardener? He is a person who prays to God in the beauty of flowers. He is a painter of the Lord, a musician of God, a poet of the Almighty. He is a writer of music in the colors and plants called flowers.

No one, be he saint or sinner, atheist or agnostic, can pass a flower garden without stopping.

A man’s soul, a whole nation’s soul, is expressed in its gardens. In India and Japan, the raising of flowers has reached the proportions of an art beyond our western understanding.

Who is a flower gardener? He is an utterly dedicated person. Flowers are his life. He knows each one tenderly—its ways and habits, its likes and dislikes.

But he is more. He is someone who gives beauty to others—not just ordinary beauty, but God’s beauty. And if he did not know God before he became interested in flowers, he will come to know him very soon if he perseveres in his growing and tending of flowers.

Who is a flower gardener? He is a person who sooner or later falls utterly in love with God. No one can approach flowers reverently (you must, you know, otherwise they will not grow for you!) without silently shouting his love for God. He who grows flowers gives God to man and by God is possessed.

The Lord has made a variety of climates. There are places on the earth where people can enjoy extraordinary flowers all year long, flowers which are seldom seen in other places.

In other parts of the earth, the Lord has arranged changing seasons where flowers die and where seeds and roots sleep under white blankets of snow.

Yet, everywhere, there is a season for each flower. Even in tropical or desert climates of the world, certain cacti only flower during certain weeks or months. In the American South, for example, the magnolia and the wisteria flower in the spring, then vanish and are replaced by other kinds of flowers.

From time immemorial, people have wanted to keep the beauty of flowers before their eyes all year long. This is how house plants were born.

Just stop for a moment and think what a house plant means to a woman who lives on a lonely farm, lost in the Canadian forests, surrounded by the beauty of a snow that never changes coloring.

Perhaps at times, to someone somewhere, a house plant may mean the difference between sanity and insanity.

But not all flowers can be grown indoors. Thus people have sought other ways to capture the beauty of flowers when the beauty of nature seemed dead. One thing they have done is dry flowers.

Pictures have been made with these dry flowers. Framed and hung on walls, they bring summer into winter and into sick rooms, and they teach children to read those love letters of God on the nursery wall over their beds.

In days past, chapels that previously saw no flowers for months on end blossomed with the beauty of dry bouquets of flowers.

How restoring it is to work with flowers, to grow them, to gather them in the wild and secret places, and to arrange them!

God is a good teacher, and he teaches us many virtues through working with flowers: patience, delicacy of touch, depths of concentration. All these are part of charity, and so we grow in charity. What a wonderful thing it is to work with flowers!

—Adapted from The People of the Towel and Water (1991), pp. 160-165, Madonna House Publications


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